With the recent spike in killings resulting from domestic violence, the Business & Professional Women’s Club (BPWC) is reporting that there has been an increase in women and children seeing refuge at its shelter.
BPW’s Crisis Centre coordinator Marlene Hewitt told Barbados TODAY that there had been a noticeable increase in young women between the ages of 18 and 30 coming forward for help.
She reported that as of October, 45 women and just over 70 children had sought refuge at the shelter.
Hewitt was speaking earlier today at the Baobab Towers in Warrens, St Michael, where the Bureau of Gender Affairs hosted a display on gender-based violence to mark its 16 Days Of Activism.
“Last year, after the 16 days of activism, we started to see women coming in; and then we had one or two deaths earlier this year, and that would have kept the interest very high where people would have remembered that there is a Crisis Centre hotline and that there is BPW shelter. At one time we were so full, and we accommodated everyone because we don’t turn them back,” she said.
Since the start of 2013, the deaths of six women have been blamed on domestic violence.
Hewitt said that apart from the expected public outcry, she strongly believed there was need for a national response, not only involving non-governmental organizations and the police, but the schools as well. She explained that the effort needed to involve schools at all levels –– primary, secondary and tertiary –– whose focus should be on changing behaviour patterns.
“I think that whenever you want to change any kind of behaviour, you definitely have to start with children. Yes, you also have to deal with the pubic and mature adults. You can look at a programme which involves topics like human rights and women in society, the whole policy of men being in charge.
“We have to redress religious ideas that men are in charge and that men are at the head of the household. We have to let our boys know that you don’t have to be tough and beat a woman to be a man. What it means to be a man, not in terms of sexuality, but also how you conduct your affairs and how you think about women,” said a passionate Hewitt. However, she noted that while
BPW saw the need for such a programme to be introduced in the island’s schools, “we can’t just go and put a programme in schools” until it was initiated by Government.
“We would have to ask for a programme in schools, and the Government would have to decide that the issue had reached a crisis level. But the fact is that we need to start educating our children about domestic violence from an early age,” she said.
The coordinator also called for financial assistance for the BPW, which she said was forced to operate on limited resources, which included a small grant from Government every year.
“[The shelter] is a home and the women and the children come in for at least three months. When a woman and her children turn up with only the clothes on their back, we have to get almost everything for them, including uniforms and school supplies. We provide food, and there are washing machines and other necessities.
“Right now, we could do with upgrading [our] security system in some areas, because we have to be able to see around the facility and know who is coming and who is leaving.
“A high cost to us is also transportation because we have to actually transport the client there [to the centre] and back if we think the perpetrator is going to be on the lookout for that person. We have to go and pick up the children from school. So as you can see, help is always welcome and needed,” she said.
William Warner, research officer at the bureau explained that the display, which included literature and documentaries on domestic violence, was held to sensitize workers in the tower and visitors to the location about the issue, which was currently on the lips of many Barbadians. [email protected]