Ladies and Gentlemen, good afternoon: Let me on behalf of the UN Women Regional Programme Director (RPD) Ms. Roberta Clarke, extend our sincere appreciation to the Government of Suriname, to the Representatives of the Ministry of Home Affairs and the Ministry of Culture present today for your partnering with UN Women and CARICOM Secretariat for the hosting of this workshop, which we expect will be a very engaging and significant stimulus in our efforts to end gender based violence.
Our appreciation is also extended to the Ministries of Culture of Suriname, Belize, Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago for ensuring the participation of a valuable cohort of talented artists.
We must say thank you as well to Mrs. Riane De Haas-Bledoeg, Ms. Anthonette July, and Ms. Hazel Brown and Ms. Dorrett Campbell – the team at CARICOM for your very efficient management of this process which has led to us all gathered here today.
To the facilitators – Carla Bakboord and Vaisil Yard, thank you for making your expertise available to us.
To the participants – advocates of our proud heritage and culture – I look forward to getting to know all of you better and thank you for committing to partner with us to reach our Caribbean people through the significant conduit that your talent offers. I could think of a no more special event to occasion my first visit to Suriname.
As a region with barriers of language, we take heart that that which unifies us is much greater than that which divides us: – that is, the geographic space we occupy, the oceans that wash our shores, our common heritage and expressions of culture which are manifested in the various art forms across our region and indeed that which speaks to the core of us perhaps more than mere words could ever articulate.
And it is this capacity to engage our attention, at times forcing us to re-examine ourselves to assess exactly how far we have come as a people, bringing comfort to us through wonderful weaving of musical notes, lyrical mastery or through visual interpretations of all the blessings of nature before us. It is this special way in which, through the arts, you are able to connect us as one people that we turn to find new means to reduce and eventually eliminate what is, sadly, also a common feature across our beautiful landscape – violence against women and girls and increasing violence in our societies.
We know now that the Caribbean is very dangerous for women. A recent study shows that all Caribbean countries have higher than the global averages for rape and that on average 1 in 3 women experience domestic violence.
There is now a growing awareness, and a growing rejection of these terrible acts, beyond those persons who have worked long and hard to call attention to the unacceptably high rates of violence against women. These persons have unrelentingly advocated for an end to impunity for the perpetrators and have been at the forefront of putting support systems in place for victims and survivors.
At UN Women, we have been joined in our efforts by men led by the Caribbean Male Action Network (CariMAN), by faith based leaders and institutions and by soca and reggae artists from Barbados, the Eastern Caribbean and Trinidad and Tobago and Jamaica who have committed their talent and their voices to the campaign. Indeed these and other partners were identified at a Caribbean Consultation held to define our response to the UN Secretary General’s call for us all to participate in the campaign to end violence against women.
The Campaign calls for us to UNiTE, to work in solidarity, to speak in one voice, to carry one consistent message and that message is zero tolerance.
By 2015 the UNiTE to End Violence Against Women Campaign aims to achieve the following five goals in all countries:
• Adopt and enforce national laws to address and punish all forms of violence against women and girls
• Adopt and implement multi-sectoral national action plans
• Strengthen data collection on the prevalence of violence against women and girls
• Increase public awareness and social mobilisation
• Address sexual violence in conflict
Already, there has been a heartening response, whereby in Antigua and Barbuda, the Directorate of Gender Affairs worked with young people, supported by UN Women and private sector partners for the to design and produce a mural at the main sporting centre – the Antigua Recreational Ground – calling for an end to violence against women. In Jamaica, the Bureau of Women’s Affairs has produced a striking banner with all the artistes committed to the campaign, along with TV PSAs jointly produced with UN Women which are aired regularly. In Barbados the artistes supporting the campaign visit schools in outreach initiatives with UN Women promoting peaceful and respectful relations between male and female students. UNiTE PSAs are also aired often in Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean and Trinidad and Tobago.
While we can affirm the gains that have been made in terms of bringing what was seen as a private matter to the proper recognition of a public concern and while there has been a body of legislation across the region, the high incidences of gender based violence continue. To quote the UN Women RPD, how can we shift the arc of history so that it bends more surely and quickly in the direction of gender equality and an end to gender based violence?
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.
It is to that special language of the arts referred to earlier that we look now, through your many and varied expressions, to shine a light on the hope and promise for a peaceful and thriving environment which allows all of our people – men, women, boys and girls to realise their fullest potential.
We look forward with eager anticipation to the new ideas and initiatives that will come out of this consultation but more importantly to the long term fruitful results of your helping us to extend the voices that say unequivocally “No! to gender-based violence” and the reach of the actions that will culminate in eliminating this scourge from our landscape. We thank you for your commitment.
I thank you.