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Exposing violence against women and children: A priority area for national action — Part 2

Adella Campbell, PhD

Sunday, May 14, 2017

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Having last week looked into the various manifestations of gender-based violence, let's explore possible solutions to eliminate this scourge.Admittedly, I do not possess all the answers to stem violence against the nation's women and children. I, however, posit that the following strategies, if adopted, may be useful in making a dent in this rather pervasive phenomenon. These strategies include examining the role of parenting, the education system, the legislative machinery, collaboration, and research.

Strategies should include social and economic empowerment of women and children; involving men and boys in promoting non-violent acts against women; building coalition with government and corporate bodies to implement policies and programmes to end violence against women and children; and engage the media to raise awareness, mobilise communities, carry out public education/advocacy campaigns to achieve social change, and reorient the criminal and legislative framework for better efficiency, inter alia.

Parenting

It is frequently argued that to address a nation's social ills we need to start with parenting. Effective parenting has been shown to be a protective factor for violence against women and children. This is as a result of the effective attachment and bonds parenting fosters between parents and children. Parents shape and mould their children throughout the developmental period. During this period of socialisation they are expected to develop acceptable family values and beliefs systems, effective communication skills, problem-solving and life skills which, of course, will become useful in adult life. Parents have the power to protect their children as well as prevent them from becoming victim or perpetrators as children or adults. Therefore, discipline would be non-violent, parents should be non-abusive, and the environment at home should be warm, caring and supportive. This also calls for greater involvement of fathers in the developmental and socialisation period.

Education system

It is also felt that the education system is a useful conduit through which to prevent and eliminate violence against women and children. It is therefore paramount to integrate women and children empowerment in the teaching/learning environment at all levels. This may assist girls and women to make informed and well-calculated choices and decisions about relationships and life generally.

There should be school-wide policies to address violence against women and children. In addition, schools' curricula should engage learners in a non-threatening manner and should be geared towards forming effective, non-violent relationships.

Reinforcing the

I have already established that Jamaica is not short on legislation, protocols and initiatives to protect women and children, some of which are mentioned above. Are they effective? Are they merely on the books or is it just a matter of lip service now that the situation is at crisis proportion? I call upon the relevant stakeholders to have the tenets of these laws move from the pages of the books into action so that our women and children can be safe again. The laws need 'teeth', measures that are punitive (harsh penalties) enough to deter perpetrators of these heinous acts against the nation's women and children. We, as a nation, need to work with the legislative machinery that's tried and tested and, more importantly, those that have proven to be effective.

Collaboration

Given the pervasive nature and the significant consequences that result from violence, responses cannot be fragmented. Responding to this phenomenon requires a multi-sectoral, multidisciplinary and multifaceted approach. All stakeholders should be on board supporting the violence reduction strategies. Stakeholders may include governments, women's organisations, civil society, the private sector, the media, inter alia. Concerted effort cannot be overemphasised as strategies are adopted to prevent as well as respond to this phenomenon.

Additionally, it necessitates forging alliances with schools, parliamentarians, business leaders, churches, government and non-government entities. It calls for involvement of ministries such as the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Youth, Ministry of Labour; the Centre for Investigation of Sexual Offences and Child Abuse; the Office of the Children's Advocate; Office of the Chief Justice; and the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions; inter alia. These important stakeholders have critical roles to play in stemming this national crisis.

It is my belief that violence against women and children should be given consideration in national policies and programmes. There should also be sufficient State-run facilities for battered women and those who face other forms of violence and intimidation. Encouraging social cohesion may also be an effective mechanism through which violence may be addressed and, as such, I recommend this as a useful strategy.

Research

While there is much data regarding the magnitude and pervasiveness of the phenomenon globally, there is a dearth of evaluation and empirical data to drive any appreciable change in the Jamaican situation. Evidence-based policies and programmes should be implemented to address contributing factors for violence against women and children.

Moreover, statistical analysis and action research may be useful in scientifically determining root causes, risks and contributing factors as well as best practices that can be adopted in order to manage the problem.

I am of the opinion that more research is required, not only on root causes but also on sources of protection against violence as well as effects on victims over time. Data collected may be utilised to inform policies and programme as well as identify vulnerable groups.

All violence against women and children is preventable and as such a national research agenda on violence against women and children in a variety of settings is paramount.

In concluding, I strongly believe that violence against women and children can be addressed successfully and effectively in Jamaica, but a lukewarm, uninformed approach will get us nowhere. We have the tools, some are listed here, we need the will.

Adella Campbell, PhD, is a graduate of Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand, and is head of the Caribbean School of Nursing, University of Technology, Jamaica. Send comments to the Observer or adcampbell@utech.edu.jm.

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