Caribbean women vulnerable

| 24/10/2008

The murder of Estella Scott-Roberts tragically highlights once again the extreme vulnerability to gender-based violence that defines the lives of women in the Caribbean.

The 2007 World Bank/ UNODC report on Crime and Violence reveals the Caribbean to be amongst the most violent of places for women, with high levels of reports of sexual violence as well as domestic violence.

Estella, during her impressively courageous and public-spirited life, supported many women victims of violence, providing protection, support and advocacy to ensure a better net of prevention and protection against violence. She supported the establishment of the Cayman Islands Crisis Centre and was Officer responsible for Women’s Affairs during which time she worked on the National Gender Policy.

Although all Caribbean countries have signed and ratified the Convention on the Eradication, Prevention and Punishment of Violence against Women, there is so much more that has to be done to signal unequivocally, state and community accountability for ending violence against women. While policing must be strengthened, legal remedies made more accessible and affordable, shelters and social services provided for women and their children seeking safe haven, the real change has to be the transformation of the culture of gender inequality.

Ending violence against women requires that each one of us speak out against relations of power, domination and control that characterise so much of the dynamics of interpersonal relations between women and men in the Caribbean. We must embrace our collective role of advocates for respect, justice and women’s autonomy. In this, men have a special responsibility to carry this message. Violence against women is not only a woman’s issue; it is a men’s issue, and tackling this requires redefining masculinity away from the traditional and harmful practices of aggression and control.

As we go into the period of the 16 days of activism to end violence against women (November 25-10 December), let us resolve that the life’s work of Estella will continue, with resolve and with results.

A Life Free of Violence- It’s a Woman’s Rights

Roberta Clarke is the Regional Programme Director of the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) Caribbean Office

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