The Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Secretary General, Dr Carla Barnett, is calling on regional countries to invest in preventing violence against women and girls and the empowerment of vulnerable groups through access to education and quality healthcare services.
In a statement, marking the launch of the CARICOM Secretariat’s annual 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence campaign, which ends on December, 19, Barnett said the campaign incorporates four important observances, namely the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, Human Rights Defenders’ Day on November 29, World AIDS Day on December 1 and Human Rights Day on 10 December.
She said these observances highlight that violence prevents women and girls from enjoying the full complement of their human rights.
The campaign was started by activists over three decades ago at the inauguration of the Women’s Global Leadership Institute in 1991. In support of this civil society-led initiative, in 2008, the United Nations Secretary-General launched the campaign “UNITE by 2030” to End Violence against Women, which runs parallel to the 16 Days of Activism.
Barnett said that this year’s theme for the UNITE Campaign, “UNITE! Invest to prevent violence against women and girls”, brings into sharp focus the importance of financing different strategies to prevent violence against women and girls (VAWG).
She said the theme is also aligned to the 2024 priority theme of the Commission on the Status of Women, focused on “Accelerating the Achievement of Gender Equality and the Empowerment of all Women and Girls by Addressing Poverty and Strengthening Institutions and Financing with a Gender Perspective”.
It will also accelerate the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals, especially Goal 5.
“The campaign calls on everyone, including development partners, civil society organisations, women’s organisations, youth, the private sector, and the media, to join forces to address VAWG. It also calls on governments worldwide to share how they are investing in gender-based violence prevention.
“VAWG remains one of the most pervasive forms of human rights violations in the world and cuts across all races, cultures, genders and educational backgrounds. Despite the existence of regional and global policies and legislation to combat VAWG, weak enforcement and discriminatory practices remain significant barriers to ending VAWG,” Barnett said.
She said globally, an estimated 736 million women – almost one in three – have been subjected to physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence, non-partner sexual violence, or both, at least once in their lives.
“In the Caribbean, prevalence surveys conducted between 2016 and 2019 show that one in two women is affected by intimate partner violence, even higher than the global average.”
The CARICOM Secretary General said that violence against women and girls has intensified over time and across various settings, such as during the COVID-19 pandemic when women were forced to shelter in place with their abusers.
“Several member states reported exponential rates of increased cases. These reports were corroborated by Rapid Gender Assessments Surveys on the impact of COVID-19 on VAW conducted by UN Women in 13 countries,” Barnett said, noting that violence against women also has broader social and economic consequences for families, communities, and societies.
“Everyone must continue to invest in preventing violence against our women and girls. It is an investment in our shared future. Allocating resources to prevention programmes, education and support services, is an essential step toward creating sustainable change.
“By prioritising prevention, we empower communities to break the cycle of violence and build societies that uphold the rights and well-being of every individual, especially our women and girls.”
Barnett is urging people to wear the colour orange throughout the 16 Days of Activism, “and on the 25th of each month, as a symbol of hope for a brighter future where women and girls live free from violence”.