An international organisation founded for global peace and the cessation of war recently hosted a live working session for Caribbean legislators working to combat gender based violence. Entitled Peace and Equality: Gender-Based Violence Legislation Planning.
The organisation, Heavenly Culture World Peace Restoration of Light (HWPL) said in a release that the February 25 event gave legislators and policy decision makers a platform to discuss cross-regional patterns of gender based violence and examined actionable ways to fix existing policy issues.
Panellists at this event included: Dr. Calae D. Philippe, Director of Gender and Family Affairs of the Ministry of Social Services and Urban Development in the Bahamas; Sandra Dean-Patterson, Director of the Bahamas Crisis Centre; Alexandrina Wong, President of Women Against Rape in Antigua and Barbuda; Erica Martin, Specialist for Labour Law and International Labour Standards at the International Labour Organization in Trinidad and Tobago and Marcia Brandon, Managing Director and Co- Founder of COESL at the Caribbean Centre of Excellence for Sustainable Livelihood.
During the event, participants worked to be united with the efforts of the UNHRC (United Nations Human Rights Council), UN Spotlight Initiative, and other existing programs. All HWPL representatives, government attendees, and participating VIPs were committed to this event not being just another meeting where stakeholders simply discuss ways to move forward. Instead, each participant left the session with specific policy language they could utilise in their individual countries to create substantive legislation for change, the release said.
Topics of note included: the need for the economic empowerment of women; the lacking capacity in the Caribbean to process assault forensics; the importance of involving men in discussions about reform; labour protections against GBV, and the importance of educating the public to help find solutions for GBV.
An HWPL representative said, “This is why we, as HWPL, are gathering here today: so that all of these different implementing partners can come together and find where these gaps are and how we can even help fix them.”
Erica Martin further explained, “It’s about the power [for change] that comes from implementing partners, working with civil society, organisations, trade unions, employees, organisations, and so forth. And I think that’s really where the strength is, rather it’s not by design, top down.”
All panellists agreed that it comes down to implementation mechanics: “We have quite a number of laws. We have quite a number of policies. The challenge lies at the implementation level, why aren’t they being implemented? And so we have to look at due diligence, we have to look at areas like democracy. See, we also have to look at what the bottlenecks in our systems are that are causing the implementation to be at the level where it is now – and how do we get past that,” said Alexandrina Wong.
Heavenly Culture World Peace Restoration of Light (HWPL) has been hosting events and convening discussions like this with Caribbean government and civil society leaders, educators and youth to collaborate on solutions that empower all sectors of society to eliminate gender based violence.