DEPUTY SECRETARY-GENERAL ASHA-ROSE MIGIRO
The Caribbean component of UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s UNiTE to End Violence against Women campaign was launched today in Barbados, during a conference coordinated by UN resident coordinators from across the region.
A multi-year campaign, UNiTE Caribbean is intended to raise public awareness and to increase political will and resources for preventing and responding to violence against women and girls living in the Caribbean region of the world.
Participants in Monday’s conference – themed “Strengthening Accountability and Changing Culture to End Violence against Women in the Caribbean” – discussed the reforms to the administration of justice needed to prevent, protect and punish violence against women and girls.
The launch was attended by the Attorney General, members of the judiciary, senior representatives of regional police forces, as well as representatives of the civil society.
“Not only is ensuring women’s safety a basic human right, but it is important to the economic and social development of our regions,” stated Michelle Gyles-McDonnough, UN Resident Coordinator for Barbados and the eastern Caribbean, ahead of today’s launch.
Violence is on the increase in the Caribbean region. A 2007 report from the World Bank estimated that the overall murder rate in the Caribbean is four times that of North America. In addition, all of the Caribbean islands have higher rates of sexual violence than the world average.
Although the situation is severe, UNIFEM (part of UN Women) Regional Programme Director, Ms. Roberta Clarke, has pointed out that all across the Caribbean significant legal advances have been made, with all countries in the region having adopted domestic violence legislation. Additionally, over the last 30 years women’s organisations have been working in this area, setting up of crisis centres and shelters.
The UNiTE Caribbean launch is the first significant step in a multi-year campaign to eradicate violence against women in the region once and for all. Gender Justice Advocate, Dr. Rosin Wiltshire, in response to today’s launch, she explained that the campaign will need everyone’s support in order to be an absolute success.
“Yes it takes one step at a time, but I want to see everyone taking the step because women alone can’t do it, a few enlightened men alone can’t do it, a few enlightened judges, policemen, teachers, social workers, can’t do it. It has to be that we all wake up so that we can start taking some giant steps towards healing our society and healing our world”.