Gov’t continues to heavily invest in programmes to counter violence against women, girls

Violence against women and girls remains a prevalent and pervasive human rights violation in the world.

In response, the Government of Guyana continues to heavily invest in the implementation of programmes, facilities and services to mitigate this growing scourge.

This is displayed through the establishment of women’s organisations, improved legislation, prosecution of perpetrators, services for survivors and training for law enforcement officials.

One particular initiative that stands out in the elimination of violence against women and girls is the Women Innovative and Investment Network (WIIN), an initiative that has successfully empowered over 4,000 women across the ten administrative regions through its comprehensive skills training programmes and abundant business opportunities.

Upon graduating from the programme, women are directed into entrepreneurship, and are provided with funding and other support services to propel them to independence and empowerment.

In line with its mission, the government is curating a new bill and policies to further address violence in a comprehensive manner thereby leading to its reduction in society. The current Domestic Violence Act will soon be replaced by the Family Violence Act.

The drafting of crucial pieces of legislation will update the existing Domestic Violence Act of 1997 and the Sexual Harassment Act to encompass measures to combat trafficking in persons and protect children.

To provide a safe space for victims, the domestic violence shelter was upgraded and expanded during the first half of 2023. The expansion allows the shelter to accommodate more women seeking refuge from abusive relationships.

Guyanese, especially vulnerable citizens, will soon have access to additional support to combat gender-based violence with the construction of the new Hope and Justice Centre.

The Ministry of Human Services and Social Security and the Ministry of Legal Affairs collaborated to construct the Hope and Justice Centre under the Impact Justice programme.

In addition, Minister, Dr Vindhya Persaud said the ministry through the Spotlight initiative was able to develop the centre’s operational model, dubbed the ‘one-stop’ model. This concept of the Hope and Justice Centre will see all services that counter gender-based violence being provided under one roof.

Hope and Justice Centres will also be constructed in Regions Three and Four.

Added to this, citizens can now easily report cases of violence by utilising the government’s 914 toll-free emergency hotline number.

To further ensure victims who come forward are safe, the ministry has trained and employed survivor advocates to provide victims with support to overcome their experiences.

Survivor advocates are accessible to persons through the 914 hotline and have the responsibility of informing victims of their rights and the services available to them.

In recognising that domestic violence not only affects individuals but the entire community, the government initiated training and sensitisation programmes in Regions One, Two, Seven, Eight, and Nine. With the overarching aim of equipping them with the knowledge and skills necessary to recognise and respond to cases of domestic violence.

Additionally, members of the Guyana Police Force (GPF) are being trained through a collaboration between the Human Services and Home Affairs ministries, to address issues of domestic violence under the COPSQUAD2000 initiative. The initiative seeks to ensure that once a domestic violence matter is brought to a police station, it will be handled in a manner in keeping with international best practices.

The country’s media operatives are also being trained to report on cases of Gender-Based Violence and other sexual offences with the necessary care and sensitivity.

Meanwhile, the government is collaborating with Caribbean countries regionally through the first and recently concluded Inaugural Ministerial Forum on Gender Equality and Empowerment focused heavily on the impact of the Spotlight Initiative on Guyana’s efforts to eradicate gender-based violence.

These efforts have proven fruitful with Guyana being able to maintain its Tier One status in the US Department of State 2022 Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report.