Murder, domestic  violence driving women to take up self-defence
Woman practicing her boxing technique with on of the instructors
Front Page
August 18, 2023
Murder, domestic violence driving women to take up self-defence

Incidents of femicide, rape and domestic violence occurring in St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) are seeing women equip themselves with the tools and techniques to stand-up to potential attackers.

Within the last 18 months, the country has seen a handful of women being killed including Precious Williams whose body was dumped in a gutter at Richmond Hill; Veronica ‘Keisha’ Small who was found dead on the runway of the decommissioned ET Joshua airport; as well as two women from Dorsetshire Hill, Pearl ‘Sunshine’ Greaves who was shot in the head and Sherol Knights who was chopped to death. A Chester Cottage woman, Althea Billingy also fell victim to intimate partner violence and was stabbed to death in view of her young son during a visit to Kingstown.

Participants in the Red Roots SVG Women and Girls Self-Defence classes told SEARCHLIGHT these killings are at the forefront of their minds and they have joined the class to learn how to handle physical threats from partners and or strangers.

One of the students firing a punch at a padded glove while training

One woman, who spoke under anonymity, disclosed how she was attacked by her ex-boyfriend while returning home one night. She admits it was a traumatic experience made even worse by what she described as the lack of support by law enforcement after she made a report.

“Don’t be afraid to come out and participate because it (classes) actually helps you, ” she encouraged other women.

Another participant said she is pleased to see Vincentian women taking a stand for their safety as threats are frequent whether at home or in public.

“A lot of people have this thing that St Vincent has a rape culture and it is making me believe it more and more with the kinds of crime against women – stabbings, killing your baby mother in front of the children. These things are happening too much and we (women) have to face it everyday.”

The six-week program is being funded by the Canada Fund for Local Initiatives (CLFI) to the tune of CAD$18,000 and women are flocking in droves to take advantage.

Founder and director of Red Roots SVG, Phylicia Alexander-Lavia disclosed that some of the participants are attending the classes “in secret” without disclosing the information to their relatives or partners. She said this proves that many are seeing the program as necessary to overcome their current situations.

She explained the requirement for the grant proposal to include data on gender-based violence almost sabotaged their goal of submitting.

“In St Vincent it is very difficult to get data when it comes to gender-based violence. We wrote letters to certain departments and we were told that there was no data. So we had to use the data from our organization.”

Alexander said the anecdotal evidence showed that the women and girls in the country are grappling with domestic and sexual violence frequently.

The Director emphasized the goal of the program. “We don’t intend to break up homes, our organization is family-oriented… women look at their children being abused, sexually, physically and they are afraid to defend themselves.”

During the programme, the women will be educated on techniques of situational awareness, making smart choices when in a threatening environment and also how to escape dangerous situations with an aggressor.