More needs to be done to educate Barbadians during the ‘16 Days of Activism’ to change the culture of gender-based violence, a top official of the National Organisation of Women has suggested.
The 16 Days for Activism started on November 25 to mark International Day of the Elimination of Violence against Women and ended today, International Human Rights Day.
National Organization of Women spokeswoman Marsha Hinds said that the celebrations which seek to increase public awareness about domestic violence have been muted because the non-governmental organizations are cash-strapped.
“Regrettably, I think the Government has left the responsibility to the NGO community. NGO’s do not have a lot of funds due to the economic climate. We do not have a lot of hands because Barbadians are not widely invested in voluntarism so basically what few activities that are coordinated come from within the NGO community,” she said, adding that there needs to be a “cultural change” in Barbados in how young girls are viewed and treated.
“A cultural change is not done at one time and not even during the 16 days; it needs to be a continuous process. The 16 days offer a good launch pad to [raise] some of the issues we have but outside of the 16 days, we need to ensure that we tap into captive audiences. We need to sensitize persons about the gender-related issues and how they cross-cut everything that we do in this country,” Hinds told Barbados TODAY.
She said that although Government has passed the sexual harassment bill, much still needs to change.
“ After all of these years of talking it is finally good to see it has happened [but] without the cultural change people are not willing to say that this has happened to me because there is a social ramification. If we do not believe victims they will not come forward and the legislation is an important component, but it is not the only component,” she said.
The women’s rights activist noted that it is especially around seasons such as Christmas there is a rise in reported cases of domestic violence.
“Most of the time that we have deaths or serious injuries there are certain volatile periods of the year, coming across Valentine’s Day, Crop Over and again at Christmas time. Those are the times’ emotions run high, there are a lot of things going on with people and we usually find that yes, we have a bump up in terms of the numbers around these periods,” she said. And as violence tends to increase with any job-cutting exercise – a general trend in many societies – she predicts this, too, will visit Barbados with the current retrenchment exercise in the public sector.
“Anytime there is a recession or a loss of work . . . for both men and women . . . generally we see that there is an increase in the amount of cases of domestic violence. Our challenge with picking it up in Barbados is that our reporting mechanism still needs a lot of work and we find that there are some increases around this time and due to the economic climate as well,” Hinds said.