KINGSTON – Nicole Fogo was among the protesters who walked from Half-Way-Tree to Emancipation Park yesterday as Jamaica joined the world in observing International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women (IDEVAW).
Fogo, who last Saturday escaped from her third violent relationship that lasted over eight years, told the Jamaica Observer that she decided to join the silent protest against gender-based violence to celebrate her freedom.
“My friend told me about the protest and I said alright, since it’s about violence against women mi a come, because mi nearly dead last week. A mi friend haffi come save mi from him — she, her mother, her little brother, and people from the community,” said the woman who is originally from Montego Bay.
Fogo raised the sleeve of her purple shirt to reveal a severely crooked humerus that will forever remind her of the pain she suffered at the hands of abusive men. Her face is marred by scars, welts and bruises, which she said continue onto her scalp and on other parts of her body. Still, she wore a large green butterfly pendant to the protest — a glamorous symbol of change, hope and a beautiful life after a period of darkness.
“Him beat mi bad and mi lock him up for it in 2017, and him get bail and come a road last year October, and everywhere mi go, him find mi,” she shared of the last man with whom she had a relationship. “Mi all go stay up a mi family dem, and him go up deh and tell dem say mi a take [cocaine], and dem put mi out and say mi fi gwaan with him. Mi own family dem put mi out…,” she lamented.
Now residing with a female good Samaritan, Fogo is trying to put the pieces of her life back together. The higgler is worried that her abuser will find her if she ventures into the streets of Kingston to sell her goods, so she is considering her career options carefully while laying low.
“When him find mi him beat mi and tek weh mi money,” she said, shaking her head. “So mi fraid fi go downtown because him always down there.”
She reflected on the relationship as a cruel twist of fate, as that man had rescued her from the second abusive relationship, only to turn around and batter her further.
“The youth weh mi used to talk to before this one used to beat mi too,” she divulged, lamenting that she also had to run away from her life in Montego Bay because of intimate partner violence.
“The man beat mi and broke my hand and I locked him up for it. This one weh mi did a talk to now, a him help mi lock him up,” she said.
“When mi did just come up [to Kingston] which part him deh come live, mi did fat and look good. A him mek mi look like mi a mawga dog. Him make all mi own family them turn them mind ‘gainst mi, because him tell a whole heap a lie pon mi.”
Hundreds of survivors and supporters of women who have been abused participated in yesterday’s silent protest. The exodus from Holy Cross Church on Half-Way-Tree Road, to the Half-Way-Tree Transport Centre, and then to Emancipation Park was anything but silent as the marchers, wearing purple T-shirts, were led by a blaring marching band and escorted by the police through the busy streets. At each stop, the group observed 15 minutes of silence for women who have lost their lives to gender-based violence.
Patrick Lalor, policy officer at Jamaica AIDS Support for Life (JASL), chairs the board of organisers for the annual silent protest, which is held in collaboration with groups such as Jamaican Network of Seropositives, Eve for Life, Caribbean Vulnerable Communities, Children First, Equality for All Foundation, Women’s Media Watch, Jamaica Community of Positive Women, and the National Family Planning Board.
“We have done this every year on this day since 2014, and it is getting bigger and bigger every year,” Lalor told the Observer. “We keep doing this because the different groups that are here, in one way or another, have among their membership women who are survivors of violence. For example, at JASL we have clients in our care who have become HIV positive as a result of violence. All the entities present today serve women who have experienced violence.”
For this year’s IDEVAW and the next, the UN Secretary General’s UNiTE to End Violence against Women campaign will focus on the issue of rape as a specific form of harm committed against women and girls in times of peace or war.
Eve for Life, which provides support to women and children living with or affected by HIV and AIDS, had participants from St Ann, Westmoreland, St James, and Kingston at the march. The group was particularly pleased with the focus of this year’s IDEVAW — ‘Generation Equality Stands Against Rape’.
“This event is extremely important for Eve for Life, and five years ago we were a part of the ideation of bringing the silent protest to Jamaica,” Joy Crawford, the group’s co-founder, said. “For us, it is about standing [up] against rape, which is very important, because there is a lot of rape that goes on in our country. Any girl under 16 who has had a sexual experience, whether she thinks it is by force or not, was raped, by definition of law.”
The protest culminated with a concert at Emancipation Park featuring Wayne Marshall, Ikaya, Jermaine Edwards and the ASHE performing arts group. (Jamaica Observer)