Actions to prevent and eliminate violence against women are being strengthened by the Caribbean Community and partners with a newly launched programme called the Spotlight Initiative Regional Programme Caribbean.
The programme is so named as it is intended to bring focused attention to this issue, moving it into the spotlight and placing it at the centre of efforts to achieve gender equality and women’s empowerment, in keeping with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. It is being implemented in partnership with the European Union (EU), the United Nations (UN) and other partners and was launched in a virtual signing ceremony on Tuesday, 22 September.
The project aims to enhance existing policies and programmes, replicate and share good practices, in an effort to sustainably address the challenges women and girls encounter in navigating national systems. The current public health crisis as a result of COVID-19, with attendant socio economic impact, disproportionately affects women. These adverse effects include gender-based violence, undue burden of care, increased poverty, unemployment, underemployment and food insecurity.
It is anticipated that the CARICOM Secretariat and other regional organizations will play a significant role in the implementation of the regional Spotlight programme and as such the CARICOM Secretariat, represented by Deputy Secretary General Dr Manorma Soeknandan, has been named to co-chair the regional programme, with Mr. Didier Trebucq, UN Resident Coordinator, Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean.
Speaking on behalf of the CARICOM Secretary General Ambassador Irwin LaRocque at the signing ceremony, Dr Soeknandan said the Spotlight Programme was an exceptional, ground-breaking initiative, and a comprehensive programme that should positively impact the lives of thousands of Caribbean families. She said it would complement the investments of regional Institutions and contribute to the scale, sustainability, visibility and lessons learned, since it addresses specific regional challenges that inhibit progress, including the prevention of and response to violence against women and girls. She also pointed out that the initiative related to four pillars that have been agreed on by CARICOM, including establishing comprehensive and evidence-based prevention programmes aimed at changing social norms and gender stereotypes; and promoting the collection and use of quality, comparable data to inform public policy, advocacy and delivery of complimentary services to improve violence prevention.
Dr Soeknandan further stated that violence against women and girls is one of the most widespread, persistent and devastating human rights violations. She noted that it was a major obstacle to the fulfilment of women’s and girls’ human rights, and to the achievement of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
“The global average indicates that one in three women is affected by some form of gender-based violence perpetuated by an intimate partner” she said.
Speaking further on the statistics, she stated that while Grenada, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, and Suriname were in line with the global average, in Guyana one in every two women between the ages of 15-64 years has been abused by an intimate partner and 50% of those women have never reported the matter to the police or told anyone.
“We anticipate a major step towards filling these gaps and accelerating progress, through the Spotlight Initiative as a new, global, multi-year Programme focused on eliminating all forms of violence against women and girls” the CARICOM Secretariat Deputy Secretary General said.
The global Spotlight initiative is supported by an initial investment of Euros $500 million, with the European Union as the main contributor. Other UN agencies and partners have been invited to contribute to the Trust fund. With $50 million of the 500 million Euros to be spent in the Caribbean to eradicate family violence, six countries have already received Spotlight funding to carry out national programmes and projects over the next three years namely, Belize, Grenada, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago. Complementing the Spotlight country programmes in these Member States, the regional Spotlight initiative titled “Strengthening Regional Cooperation to Prevent and Respond to Family Violence in the Caribbean” has a budget of US$11,360,711.
The Spotlight Initiative is expected to equip government and civil society to deliver comprehensive data to inform evidence-based planning and policies that would reach both victims and survivors in especially under-served communities. It is hoped that it will also promote gender sensitive masculinity as a means of ending violence in communities and institutions while providing feminist movements and women’s organisations with skills to advocate for and shape policy.
The Initiative is aligned with the Caribbean Community’s Strategic Plan 2015-2019 as it seeks to ensure economic and social resilience in a unified Community where all people, especially women and girls with particular attention to the most vulnerable, can live lives free of violence to not only harness their full potential, but also enjoy the full complement of their human rights.