The observance of International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, presents the world with an opportunity to underscore the importance of ending violence against women and girls not only because it is a matter of justice and fundamental human rights, but because it helps us to recognise that preventing such violence requires positive changes in attitudes, beliefs and behaviours. It involves raising awareness at both the community and national levels as well as open and honest discussions with the aim of educating our society.
When I became Prime Minister, I recognised that there was still significant work to be done in the sphere of women’s issues.
As such I established the Ministry of Gender, Youth and Child Development with the aim of giving specialised attention to gender-related issues including educating public officers on gender responsive budgeting; and ensuring that our children are nurtured and protected. I again entreat the government to reconsider re-establishing this very essential Ministry to give some much-needed attention to urgent issues including the tragic suicides of children.
I had also designated two champions for the welfare of women, Ms Hazel Brown and Ms Brenda Gopeesingh as Special Envoys on Women and Gender Equality and I proposed the new category of the Medal for the Development of Women to be included in our National Awards to recognise the outstanding work done by individuals and organisations throughout the years for their work with women and girls.
As a Parliamentarian, I will continue to champion and promote policies and positioned targeted to eliminate violence and discrimination against women.
I reiterate what I have stated on many previous occasions; that violence against women is unacceptable, cannot be tolerated and every effort ought to be made to bring the perpetrators of these acts against the human rights and dignity of women to justice.
My thoughts are with the families who have lost a mother, wife, daughter, sister, aunt, grandmother, niece or cousin over the past year through violence and also to the women and girls who are currently in violent relationships or have survived violent encounters.
I encourage all those who are trapped in abusive conditions to seek help, and anyone who has knowledge of such situations to stand up and speak out on behalf of the victims.
On this day, let us also pray for the safe return of all the missing women and girls who have been kidnapped or have disappeared from their homes, schools and communities. It is an untenable situation for any family to have to live with the constant anguish and agony of not knowing what has happened to their loved ones.
As long as young women cannot safely walk down the Brian Lara Promenade without being followed and harassed; we know we still have work to do. While comments that a woman’s attire is an invitation to violence still abound in our society, including from those in leadership positions, we know that there is still some way to go in changing the attitudes and behaviours that facilitate violence against women. But I have no doubt that together as a nation, we can one day eliminate violence against women.