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(CARICOM Secretariat, Turkeyen, Greater Georgetown, Guyana) End violence against women was the clear message that resonated with speakers at the opening ceremony of the Caribbean artistes UNITE-ing against Gender Based Violence workshop in Paramaribo, Suriname on Monday, 18 July, 2011.

The workshop was organized in tandem with UN Women to train Caribbean artistes to raise awareness on gender based violence and promote positive attitudes and behaviour towards a more gender sensitive community through the use of edutainment.

Suriname’s Minister of Home Affairs His Excellency Drs. Soewarto Moestadja who gave the main address, stressed that “ raising awareness alone is not sufficient to combat this type of violence.” He called for an adoption of administrative and legal measures and the provision of specialized services – including shelter – for victims of Gender Based Violence.

He added that it was also important to examine the root causes, consequences and frequency of violence against women in order to assess the effectiveness of measures implemented to prevent and eradicate violence.

Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Secretariat Deputy Programme Manager for Culture, Ms Riane de Haas Bledoeg in welcoming the participants on behalf of the Secretariat stated that CARICOM was fully supportive of the United Nations campaign and had also launched its own initiatives to address “this serious threat to the stability and security of the Community.”

Last year March, on International Women’s Day, the Community appointed Dr. Rosina Wiltshire, former UNDP Resident Representative to Barbados and the OECS, as the CARICOM Advocate for Gender Justice.

Ms de Haas Bledoeg announced that Dr. Wiltshire had conducted research in six Member States – including Suriname, Belize and Guyana – and was now preparing what was expected to be a groundbreaking report on “Youth, Masculinities and Violence” in CARICOM.

The report, which will be completed by the end of this year, will help to guide the regional strategy to reduce the high incidence of violence against women and girls in the Community.

In endorsing the efforts of CARICOM, Ms Sharon Carter-Burke, UN Women Communication Specialist noted that notwithstanding the gains made to reduce GBV, the problem persisted. She called for increased collaboration and more creative methods to support legislation and other measures which had already been implemented.

“We therefore need to find tools of analysis and language to make crystal clear the connection between societal violence, unequal gender relations and harmful stereotypes that put women and men in harm’s way and undermine the possibilities for security and the flourishing of life for the many,” she charged.

Fifteen artistes drawn from mainland countries of Belize, Guyana and Suriname are participating in the three day workshop which should produce campaign tools of jingles, PSAs and songs to build awareness on Gender Based Violence.

In a message to the participants, read by CARICOM Secretariat Communications Officer, Dorrett Campbell, Dr. Rosina Wiltshire, CARICOM Advocate for Gender Justice, revealed some frightening statistics on rape, noting that all countries in the Caribbean for which data were available experienced rape rates that were among the highest in the world.

She pointed out that there was a “culture of normalcy” within the Caribbean and no outrage in communities against offenders. This, she opined, had resulted in failure of victims to report the crime, fearing that they would be making themselves even more vulnerable to ridicule and hostility.

Adding that the culture of normalcy had been reinforced by the lyrics of some artistes, she challenged the 15 artistes present to use their talents to make a positive difference in the lives of women and children in their communities.

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