CHARLESTOWN: During a march and rally in observance of International Women’s Day last week, Junior Minister Hazel Brandy-Williams pledged that the Ministry of Social Development is seeking ways to stop violence against women.
The rally followed a march through the streets of Charlestown to the Elquemedo Willett Park on March 8. Both events were held under the theme “A Promise is a Promise – Time for Action to End Violence Against Women”.
“I want to assure you that it is the intention of my Ministry as well as the Nevis Island Administration to wrestle the age-old problem to the ground by promoting the concepts of gender equity, gender equality and harmony in male and female relationships,” said Brandy-Williams. “I am particularly struck by the words ‘time for action’ because I believe that we could no longer continue to theorize and talk about this issue but we must work together to rid our society of the scourge of violence against women in all forms.”
Brandy-Williams said the Ministry was aware that violence, in particular domestic violence, had impacted many women and families and resulted in untold social and economic costs. She said the time had come for Nevisians to make positive steps in collaboration with the Ministry and Division of Gender Affairs to create and promote health and wellness in their families.
Brandy-Williams said an effective response to violence against women had to involve a collaborative effort between women and men and all sectors of the community, including law enforcement.
“It is clear to me that a part of the change agenda must be directed at the legislative, social and cultural beliefs and practises that are deeply embedded in our society,” she said. “We must start by proclaiming loudly that all types of violence against women are criminal acts and violence is not to be condoned in the private setting of our home or in public. There must be a zero tolerance to violence in all its manifestations.”
Brandy-Williams stated that the hidden nature of domestic violence had to be removed.
“We must remove the stigma of reporting this crime to authorities,” she said. “Women, we must seek support from persons trained to assist, we must act as our sister’s keeper and most importantly, we must empower women to act on their own behalf to mitigate and reduce the risk of violence against them.”
Brandy-Williams also called on parents to pay attention to how boys and girls were socialized at home. She said research had shown that violence was a learned behaviour which involved issues of power and control over the weaker victim.
She urged all to use the march as a starting point of an agenda of change that must be embarked on to tackle the issue of violence.
“There is no excuse for abuse,” said Brandy-Williams. “The starting point is to acknowledge that any form of violence is a criminal act.”