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Hon. Hazel Brandy-Williams Delivers Address to Mark UN’s “16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence”

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NIA CHARLESTOWN NEVIS  — The following is an address by Hon. Hazel Brandy-Williams, Junior Minister of Health and Gender Affairs in the Nevis Island Administration (NIA), to mark the United Nation’s campaign “16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence.”

The sixteen days from Wednesday, 25th November to Thursday, 10th December, 2020 are significant days on the calendar. This period, around the world is recognized as the United Nations “16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence.” The campaign spans two important days: International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women on November 25th and International Human Rights Day on December 10th.

The 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence was first initiated some 29 years ago in New Jersey, in the year 1991. Since then, it has become a global phenomenon with individuals of purpose, compassion, love, justice, and integrity – men and women alike – standing together in some 187 countries worldwide to say, “NO!” to all forms of Gender-Based Violence.

We, in this Federation wholeheartedly and enthusiastically join this global campaign as we endeavour to eradicate every instance of violence, especially gender-based violence from our society.

The Covid-19 Pandemic took the world by storm in 2020. It is the most talked about issue, the highest rated news item and is the hardest hitting disaster our region has ever encountered. However, the Covid-19 pandemic brought with it a threat that is also deadly and equally as real. Gender-Based Violence has been recognized as the hidden pandemic within this Pandemic.

With over half the world going on lockdown, millions suffering from the virus and millions more losing their jobs, more individuals in 2020 have found themselves trapped at home with their abusers, suffering the loss of economic independence and so finding themselves more vulnerable to violence.

The Special Victims Unit in the [Royal St. Christopher] St. Kitts and Nevis Police Force has indicated that since our days of lockdown, there has been a marked increase in the number of domestic violence cases reported. We cannot afford for one viral pandemic to leave us overwhelmed by the effects of a social and hidden pandemic – the symptoms of which our society would suffer from for years to come.

This is all the more reason why we must stand with one voice, with great passion and conviction as we participate in this year’s 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence. The colour for the fight against Gender-Based Violence is orange, so the theme for this year’s campaign is, “Orange the World: Fund, Respond, Prevent, Collect!”

We commit wholeheartedly to responding to this charge because we are committed to developing a society where each person can live in safety. We want individuals to not only survive but thrive, becoming the best that they can be. Indeed, this is the only way St. Kitts and Nevis will become the best it can be.

To ‘Prevent,’ Gender-Based Violence we are required to create a room for community dialog so that everyone in our society can have productive discussions that will foster mutual respect and understanding of the causes of Gender-Based Violence.

We must have discussions on dating – how do you know if this person is right for you? How do you recognize the red flags that tell you this person is likely to be violent? Financial problems are the number one cause of disputes among couples, so discussions on financial responsibility such as budgeting are necessary if we are to nip the problem of intimate partner violence in the bud.

As we ‘Respond’ to the challenge of Gender-Based Violence, we realize we must go in the direction of constructing systems of resolution. This includes the construction of halfway houses for battered women and men so they can safely and comfortably emerge from the painful depts of their struggles, and the implementation of programmes to foster the economic independence of victims like the Business Boot Camps that are successfully hosted by the Department of Gender Affairs.

Likewise, ‘Funding’ means that monies must be allocated to help those who are at risk of Gender-Based Violence, and to support those who are already victims by making resources and personnel such as counsellors available.

We cannot tackle an issue that we do not understand, nor can we adequately make provision for victims of Gender-Based Violence of whom we are unaware. This is where we can appreciate the charge to ‘Collect’.

In response to this year’s pandemic the Department of Gender Affairs embarked on an assessment of the impact Covid-19 on the men and women of Nevis. This is in an effort to discover precisely how our men and women have been affected, in what ways they have been made vulnerable and how we can precisely address their urgent needs.

In addition to research, it is important that we all do our part in reporting incidences of Gender-Based Violence. Whether you are the victim or someone you know speak up! Think of your safety or the safety of that friend, family member, friend, or neighbour. Be assured that your information will be kept in the strictest confidence in order to protect you or any other victim.

As we embark on these 16 Days of Activism, be sure to join with us to show your support for those victims of violence and to make your voice heard. In solidarity, decorate your offices and places of work in orange beginning from November 25th and join us in wearing orange on our Orange Day, November 27th, as we make the collective statement that we stand against Gender Based Violence!

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