“When the UNC had said during the election campaign that the PNM had no plan, we had hit the ‘bulls-eye’ of truth”– Kamla Persad Bissessar
November 25th 2015; At the time of announcing his Cabinet after the September polls, Prime Minister Keith Rowley, in seeking to score political currency by reducing the number of Governmental portfolios, succeeded only in leaving a nation stunned by discarding some key Ministries. Chief amongst these was the Ministry of Gender and Child Development which the People’s Partnership had invested heavily in, as a means of dealing with some of the societal evils which confront our nation’s women and children. Only after the UNC Opposition raised this matter as one of national concern during the Budget debate, did the Prime Minister adopt an approach of wanting to “reconsider” its relevance.
So as we commemorate International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, the PNM must ponder upon its deliberate move to abandon a crucial Ministry which impacted on the lives of thousands of women in our country.
It is a fact that gender-based violence is a severe violation of the human rights and self-esteem of women across the globe. Statistics from the United Nations suggest that half of today’s 60 million forcibly displaced people are women living in conditions of armed conflict and who suffer numerous forms of violence, sexual assault, sexual slavery and trafficking. This is why in 1995, 189 governments came together in Beijing. They adopted a Platform for Action to encourage strategies to end violence against women, empower them, and achieve gender equality. This is what promoted the need to engage a Ministry of Gender Affairs under the People’s Partnership Government.
The Partnership had recognized that with one in three women having faced some form of physical or sexual violence in their lifetime that it could not afford to turn a blind eye to their plight. Our goals towards sustainable development must recognize the importance of eliminating violence against women.
Today and until 10 December, Human Rights Day, the global community is observing 16 days of activism against gender-based violence. I urge the national community to participate in various activities to draw attention to violence against women and to lobby our government to become more aware of the need to deal with this national problem.
It is only through civic activism that we can highlight this problem that at times seems invisible even in a civilized and modern society such as ours where human trafficking and sexual slavery are very real problems.
Let each of us pledge today to make every effort – collectively and individually – to end violence against women. It is the right thing to do because every women is a mother, a daughter, a sister, a grandmother and a friend and it is our duty to protect them every moment from predators and others who violate their rights.
Violence against women is a human rights violation and is not restricted to any race or religion. We can prevent it but only when we accept its existence and when we stand up and do something about it.
We therefore issue this national call for each and every member of our society to play its role in this effort; from politicians to religious groups, from schools to law enforcement, from men to boys. Today we reflect on an opportunity to galvanize and stimulate action towards meaningful solutions to this unacceptable scourge.
When the UNC had said during the election campaign that the PNM had no plan, we had hit the “bulls-eye” of truth. The well-being of our women and girls depends on our compassion and commitment. There must be a will, before there is a way; a will that is glaringly missing from this two-month old government.
The Office of The Leader of the Opposition