The Abaconian | PADF Launches Women's Non-Violence Initiative in Bahamas

The Pan American Development Foundation (PADF) launched a program to raise awareness regarding gender-based violence in The Bahamas on Nov. 29 through Dec. 2.

The program is called the Women’s Initiative for Non-Violence and Development (WIND).

Funded by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement (INL), WIND “seeks to improve the capacity of law enforcement, the justice sector and communities to respond to and prevent gender based violence in The Bahamas.” WIND also raises awareness and shares information and best practices among agencies to best address the issue.

WIND conferences took place free of charge on New Providence, Grand Bahama, Cat Island, and at the Anglican Parish Hall on Abaco in observance of the United Nations’ International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women (IDEVAW), which takes place on Nov. 25.

Valerie Dean, president of the Rotary Club of Abaco, was the moderator. The Rotary Club partnered with PADF for the event.

According to Maria Elena Nazar, PADF’s program manager, there was a great amount of engagement and participation from everyone attending the conferences.

“It’s amazing that this is a topic that is currently being discussed in The Bahamas, and everybody wants to talk about it, share their perspective and definitely break the silence,” Nazar said. “We are very happy to be here; this initiative will take 14 months to implement.

“Our program consists of different components – one large component is grants that will be awarded to different organizations that will participate in a formal proposal process. We look forward to all of the great results that we are going to have here in The Bahamas.”

She said that gender-based violence appears to be a major issue based on the perspectives of those who spoke during the conference, and agreed that it is an issue that affects men as well as women.

“It’s about finding a common ground where both actors can come together – not as male or female – but as individuals, as humans.”

A 2015 report published by the Ministry of Social Services and Community Development, confirmed that gender-based violence is a major public health issue, and that The Bahamas is the leading Caribbean country with the highest recorded occurrences of rape in the world.

The keynote speaker was Miriam Roache, principal expert on gender-based violence from Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. During her remarks, Roache shared some of her perspectives on gender-based violence.

“The main causes of gender-based violence are rooted in discrimination and gender inequalities based on gender roles. It is one of the most pervasive human rights violations of the world and has enormous physical and emotional consequences for its victims,” Roache stated.

Although she mentioned that there are numerous obstacles faced by The Bahamas, she outlined a list of resources that are available in terms of legislation and significant advances made to prevent violence against women.

“Thus we must continue to be determined to make a difference; we have a civil and moral responsibility to end violence against women. We must continue to pledge the use of our good offices to remove this scourge. It is incumbent on all of us to put our hearts and heads together to effect – change – to end violence against women,” she challenged.

Opening remarks were also made by Pastor Silbert Mills, CEO of the Bahamas Christian Network (BCN); Charo Morley, PADF country coordinator; John Bush, political officer of the U.S. Department of State; and Island Administrator Charles Moss.

Panelists included: Supt. Hilton Cash of the Royal Bahamas Police Force (RBPF); Ettamae Jones, senior welfare officer of the Dept. of Social Services; Devina Leach, counselor; and Valerie Pratt, clinic administrator of the Marsh Harbour Government Clinic.

Each of the panelists presented their gender-based violence concerns within their areas of work, and later carried out a question and answer session with the participantsrepresenting various government agencies. They were separated into five groups and given a list of guiding questions to discuss.

The questions addressed challenges faced by the community regarding gender-based violence, perceptions and stereotypes, who is most affected by it, a list of organizations that provide support, any affected groups not attended to, areas that needed strengthening, and the main message of raising awareness about gender-based violence.