"A woman was made from the rib of man.?? She was not created from his head to top him, nor from his feet to be stepped upon.?? She was made from his side to be close to him, from beneath his arm to be protected by him,??near his heart to be loved by him."???? Bint Muhammed

Bearing this in mind, men from across Barbados came together last Thursday evening as partners and agents of change to UNiTE to End Violence against Women.

Unifying under the umbrella of two international anti-violence campaigns – the United Nations UNiTE to End Violence against Women and the White Ribbon Campaign (WRC), the Ministry of Health’s Men’s Health Groups and the Barbados Professional Women’s Club (BPW) staged a rally and panel discussion at the Bagnall’s Point Gallery, Pelican Craft Centre in Bridgetown.

Panelists included: Senior Superintendant of the Royal Barbados Police Force (RBPF), Erwin Boyce; President of the Winston Scott Polyclinic’s Men’s Health Group, Wayne Greaves; Director of Security Services at the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus, Oral Reid; and Youth Member of the Business and Professional Women’s Club, Marianne Burnham.?? Bringing a Jamaican perspective, was a representative from Woman Inc., a safe haven for ‘survivors’ of physical, sexual and/or psychological abuse, Joyce Hewitt.

While delivering remarks at the rally, Health Minister, Donville Inniss, commended the efforts to eradicate violence of all forms against women and urged men of all ages to speak out about violence perpetrated against women.

"Usually, when you hear about domestic violence it is women battling for women.?? Men are usually the ones out there who are being bastardised and vilified as the culprits and the ones who inflict such grievous bodily harm and mental abuse.?? So, it is really heartwarming to know that today, Barbados can be part of a movement that recognises the importance of men talking with men about the issue of domestic violence," he said.??

According to the United Nations Development Fund For Women (UNIFEM), sexual violence against women is high across the Caribbean, with all CARICOM countries showing higher than the global average per capita rates.?? To this end, Programme Specialist at UNIFEM, Tonni-Ann Brodber, noted every tool should be utilised to make the region safer for women and girls.????

"To do this we need to dig down and really confront what lies at the root of violence in the region…gender based violence is driven by gender roles and stereotypes.?? One such sterotype being that men are powerful, and must seek power, at any and all costs. It often follows that one must attack when this power is threatened in any way, whether it is by another man, young or old, or your wife or girlfriend not having your dinner on the table on time, or perhaps making more money than you," Ms. Brodber said.

The UNIFEM Representative also highlighted the work of the organisation in the area, including Partnership for Peace:?? a court-based violence intervention programme which has been introduced in Belize, the British Virgin Islands, Grenada, St. Lucia, Trinidad and Tobago and Jamaica.?? She revealed that the programme, in which men are led to confront negative gender stereotypes of masculinity and the unequal gender power relations that violence expresses and reinforces, would soon be introduced to Barbados.??

Joyce Hewitt of Woman Inc. in Jamaica, encouraged the BPW and the Men’s Health Groups to begin this very important intervention and awareness work.?? She pointed out that the rally was just the start of men actively taking part in changing a societal, and not a women’s issue.

?? "The scourge of violence against women is really a part of the disintegration of what we know as family life.?? It also had a negative impact on the overall development not only of women, but by extension their families, including men, and by further extension, on the development of the nation as a whole," she emphasised.??

In agreeing with this wider view of the problem, former member of the RBPF and current Director of Security at the Cave Hill Campus, Oral Reid, also outlined that violence against women was part of a larger problem being perpetuated in families and in society.?? He added that too often "young men and women seek to resolve conflict by resorting to what they saw happening in the home", and, therefore, this necessitated a multi- faceted approach to achieve a change in behaviours.

Drawing from experience gained while in the Royal Barbados Police Force, Mr. Reid pointed out that research obtained from the District ???A’ police station showed that 87 per cent of the times that police officers were deployed in a community, they would be dealing with matters of conflict within families.??

"What it speaks to is something very fundamental in our society… it tells us that policymakers, the majority of whom are men, need to focus on how do we resolve issues of conflict at the level of the community and what mechanisms must be set in place in order to address the issue of violence," he opined.

The United Nations Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women (1993) defines violence against women as "any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life."?? lbayley@barbados.gov.bb

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