Too many girls are at risk of sexual victimisation by someone they know.
But what is important, said head of the National Task Force on Crime Prevention, Cheryl Willoughby, is the education of these girls about matters of gender.
“It is very important because the gender issue is now on the agenda all across the region. We are looking at relationships among males and females and how we can have some kind of synergy as it relates to people who work together, who go to school together and the type of things they might encounter in terms of violence.
“If you look at the home, and I want to bring some research here into perspective, I did some research on … sexual violence against women and what I recognise is that young women are at serious risk of being sexually victimised and … their aggressor or perpetrator is someone known to the female.
“So it is important that young girls understand that this gender issue is about respect, knowing your rights, protecting yourself, it is about empowering yourself to do better. These are the things we want to get across to these young ladies. It is about the way you carry yourself, it is about your dress, about how you interact with each other, so it is quite wide what we are trying to do,” said the Task Force director.
She was speaking during the annual Girl Talk discussion at Amaryllis Beach Resort, which brought together about 60 participants, mostly girls from most of the island’s secondary schools to explore topics like gender, socialisation, women as perpetrators of crime, impact of crime, health and entrpreneurship.
Willoughby explained that the workshop is usually held around the UN International Day for Women, but this year was held later, to examine the role of gender in terms of the violence that is perpetrated against women, not just here, but across the Caribbean.
“The emphasis is on empowering women to recognise that they have rights, to recognise they have an agenda in terms of taking care of themselves as well as their families, as well as sensitising them on some of the things they go through with relation to relationships, not only with male counterparts but relationships in general.”
She added that with the more than 60 women and girls present, they were hoping that the workshop would be spread even further.
“I am hoping that when these young ladies go back that they can spread the message and maybe we can see some programmes coming out of the schools as it relates to gender issues. We do have programmes within the schools, so we are hoping that this issue here that we are trying to sensitize these young ladies to, is one of these things that they actually seek to put projects in place within their schools systems.
“So we are hoping the message doesn’t die here but certainly that it goes a lot further and it is important that we focus on our young women because Barbados has always been a patriarchal society where most of the emphasis is placed on the males and on male self-actualisation. So it is important that women understand that they too can achieve what they want to achieve in terms of an education, in terms of achieving their goals in terms of that best job that they want.” (LB)