Feature Address by Hon Volda Lawrence, M.P., Minister of Social Protection For International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women

Embargoed up to MIDNIGHT, Thursday, November 24, 2016

Feature Address by Hon Volda Lawrence, M.P., Minister of Social Protection

For International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women


Today Friday November 25, 2016, Guyana joins with the rest of the world in observance of International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women under the theme “Orange the World: Promoting Equality; Ending Gender-Based Violence and I would like to exhort you to be an active participant in this global movement, this national call for the Elimination of Violence against Women,

Minister of Social Protection, Hon. Volda Lawrence

Minister of Social Protection, Hon. Volda Lawrence

So, can you stop, press pause and listen for a while? I imagine you are already asking why. Well, I want us all to break that silence, to lend all our voices throughout all the Regions of our country in unison against Domestic and Intimate Violence, to become involved and demonstrate our commitment to the elimination of this social ill which is so rife in our society. Today, I want us all to make it our business, make it our responsibility to shatter the glass and speak out loudly and strongly against the high incidence of violence that prevails in our villages and communities.

We cannot remain silent, aloof, stating that it doesn’t concern us and it’s the business of the relevant Ministries to address the issues and find solutions. I am afraid that this approach would not impact significantly to remove the thorny buttress roots of violence; we need a collective voice – all the Ministries, all the NGOs, the Police, the Legal Practitioners, the Community Leaders, the victims, women and men- to sound the clarion for collaborative action and fight against this societal scourge.

But even as we break the silence, we ourselves have to free ourselves from the violent acts that are etched in our minds. Violence has become embedded in our daily routine. We are no longer willing to resolve matters amicably; a dispute is settled with a blow or the flash of a weapon, domestic matters escalate into violence in the presence of children, children resolve conflicts by hitting out violently at each other, by bullying; even on our roads we manifest intolerance and impatience to the extent where we put at risk our fellow motorists and pedestrians, within our offices we want to elbow and jostle our workmate at the door; our women and men folk are sexually harassed; we intimidate and harass those with alternative lifestyles; we are all exhibiting some form of violent action. Yes, in our psyche, violence has become an acceptable way of life and this is perhaps the reason why our responses are not vocal, appear luke-warm, and are sometimes indifferent to the extreme forms of violence that are being perpetrated. We need to initiate the change from within us and then set about eradicating the prevalence of violence in our society.

My message to our women-folk is not to allow abuse and violence to control your lives. Speak out against what is happening in the domestic arena, seek support and guidance from the Agencies at your disposal and empower yourself through education and training. You have the potential to become less susceptible to dependency and violence. Help stop the perpetration of violence by arming yourself with the requisite skills and knowledge which are available in your community, Do not believe that you have to remain in that abusive situation; try to acquire leadership skills, entrepreneurial skills, digital skills because in this era of globalization and technological advancement, you need to be au fait with all the best practices, With the acquisition of these skills, you can begin to shape and fashion your world; you can build bridges and realize your vision for transforming your lives. So put an end to your victimization, share your story, connect and engage in empowerment training and let your ingenuity and expertise move you out of the vicious claws of violence.

I wish to turn my attention to the men, because they need to be addressed as they are part and parcel of this syndrome of violence. At creation, God created man and assigned him a variety of roles, protector, lover and companion, father-figure, bread-winner and we can extend the list. He also fashioned woman to complement man and endowed her with the gift of motherhood so that life could perpetuate for generations. He blessed the family and imparted wisdom so that together they could lead meaningful lives.

Alas, why then has man become the aggressor, the perpetrator of violence? Why the degrading, the dehumanizing of woman, when it’s the same women who are responsible for life, for providing you with the opportunity to build your future and establish your niche in society?  Surely you need to stop and examine the situation to ascertain where things have spun out of control. Men, you’re not in competition with woman; you are two halves that make a whole, you are a union, a family, a partnership. When the woman sets out to improve her well-being through education and training, it’s not to become the boss, but to add to the economic soundness so that the benefits can filter through to the children, to the community and to the society in general. Woman is there to complement not control. So why do you attempt to destroy lives, to perpetrate acts of violence that leave the family traumatized?

We recognize therefore that the elimination of violence is equally a men’s issue. We need our men to also break the silence, we need our bystanders to talk to our perpetrators; the women have been talking, have identified ways of intervention, but we have to engage the men on methods of prevention. More men’s’ voices have to resonate, for men have a tendency to listen to other men. It is envisioned therefore that once this dialogue begins, this should be the catalyst that should stimulate action and result in a change of attitude where men begin to consider resolving conflicts of interest through less violent or rather peaceful means. This will set the tone for our young men and boys who will have role models demonstrating appropriate behaviors. At the moment, if our men were to take one look in the mirror, I am sure they will be dissatisfied with the image they see. So men, the time is opportune, we have to portray an image that our young men and boys can emulate.

Our boys and young men are sadly traumatized. They are in single parent households, homes where abuse and violence abound, where there are no family members worthy of emulation. Some are left to their own devices and indulge in unbecoming practices. Why? There is no symbol of authority, no one to guide them. Their lives are so messed up that they accomplish little academically, drop out of school and end up oft times in a life of drugs and crime.  Those who spend some time at school are such a nuisance to the girls- they use derogatory language, try to abuse them and belittle them. We need to change the socialization of boys;  we need to make them aware that girls are to be revered ,treated with dignity and respect, Their rights are not to be trampled on. As the cycle of life moves on, and women try to shatter the glass ceilings, the behaviors that young men displayed may in later days come back to haunt them for the girl may become the doctor in an emergency, the lawyer to defend, the teacher or the priest to teach or advise.

The elimination of violence against women speaks to all of us in the society. As was evidenced in my discourse, it filters through every echelon of society; the Government has a crucial role to play in increasing funding to spearhead programmes and policies in all relevant areas in support of women’s movement and civil society. The NGOs have to intensify their outreach programmes to reach victims, to remove trauma and make provisions for the enhancement of the victims’ life. The perpetrators have to be sanctioned severely, they cannot be allowed to operate with impunity and even more importantly, the men in civil society need to raise their voices and speak to the young adults and boys and the perpetrators themselves. This is an intensive work in progress which needs our collective efforts. let us put aside the rhetoric and mobilize our society. It is in our interest to eradicate this scourge from our society and to create an ambience and climate where good life can be engendered. We must remove the obstacles. So as we don our orange jerseys today, let us shout a loud no to violence let the orange symbolize a future of hope for all of us especially the women and girls. Let us invest our efforts and strive towards achievement of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development with the elimination of violence in all aspects of our society.