Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda, Hon. Gaston Browne, told the Forum of CARICOM First Ladies and Spouses of Heads of State and Government that legal sanctions and mandates by themselves would not yield lasting results, but must be reinforced by other factors. These included reliable data; coordinated policies and programmes; men and boys in the response; and promoting evidenced-based solutions.
The Prime Minister’s statement was made in reference to the Every Caribbean Woman, Every Caribbean Child (ECWECC) initiative, which was the focus of the Forum hosted by Guyana’s First Lady, Sandra Granger, on 16th February 2016. The ECWECC initiative identifies four issues for priority intervention: teenage pregnancy; violence against women and children (including trafficking in persons); cervical cancer and mother to child transmission of HIV (MTCT)in the Caribbean.
In his remarks, the Prime Minister pointed out that reliable data was necessary to inform and mobilise government leaders, civil society and the private sector on the magnitude, nature and impact of physical, emotional and sexual violence against women, girls and children.
So too were coordinated policies and programmes “to ensure that there is access by victims to the appropriate, legal, health and social protection services, [including] access to affordable medicines and services”.
He singled out the Jamaica HE4She campaign, championed by that country’s Prime Minister, Hon. Andrew Holness and its Olympic Great, Usain Bolt, as a useful model for involving men and boys as part of the solution. He called also for the promotion of regional advocacy and public awareness of evidenced-based solutions to foster prevention.
Citing the state of play in the Caribbean which he described as “unflattering”, he pointed to the high rates of reported violence and abuse of women and girls; equally high levels of rape and incest and teenage pregnancy; rates of cervical cancer related deaths which were vaccine preventable; and the rise in trafficking in persons, especially young girls.
Prime Minister Browne emphasized that “remedial action” was urgently required and called on the “leaders of the Region” to accelerate the response “to meaningfully tackle the problems that severely threaten to undermine the human development and contribution of women, girls and children”.
The Forum, held on the margins of the Twenty-Eighth Inter-Sessional Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government, was attended by First Ladies/Spouses of Heads of Government from Belize, Guyana, Haiti and Trinidad and Tobago, Ministers of Foreign Affairs in the case of Jamaica and Suriname, Guyana’s Minister of Social Protection, CARICOM Secretariat Assistant Secretary-General for Human and Social Development, Dr. Douglas Slater, UN Special Envoy for HIV and AIDS in the Caribbean, Dr. Edward Greene, Deputy Director, UNFPA Regional Office, Latin America and the Caribbean, Ms. Sheila Roseau, representatives of other UN agencies, the Gilead Sciences Inc. – the main sponsor of the Forum – and other regional and national agencies and bodies.
The Forum’s recommendations were presented to the Heads of Government, who “agreed to champion the initiative and other activities focussed on addressing violence against women and women’s and children’s health”.