Cultural norms challenged

| 24/11/2009

(CNS): People in the community are being urged to challenge cultural and social norms that encourage violence and get to grips with the Cayman Islands’ continuing problem of gender violence. With the start of the ‘16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence’, which begins today, 25 November, which is the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, and runs through 10 December, the Estella Scott-Roberts Foundation is asking people to “be the change”. Foundation Director Tammy Ebanks-Bishop says the community needs to re-examine how it deals with conflict and to recognize the equality between men and women.

The consultation period regarding the pending legislation, which is hoped will help protect women and children from domestic abuse and gender violence, remains open until 30 November. People are invited to send comment and those who have suffered gender violence or any form of domestic abuse are particularly asked to comment in order to ensure that the law which emerges from this exercise has teeth.

In the meantime, the ESRF is pointing out steps people can take to begin the process of eliminate the violence form our community.

“We all need to re-evaluate the media that we allow our children to watch in order to ensure that children learn non-violent conflict resolution skills, and as adults we have to challenge the cultural norms that violence in an intimate relationship is acceptable or ‘normal’,” said Ebanks-Bishop, adding that there was a need to promote and act upon the belief that men and women, boys and girls have equal value to our society,essential to achieving gender equality in our society.

She noted how children learn their behaviour from their parents. Therefore, if the community ensures its children are growing up in safe, stable and nurturing relationships with their parents and caregivers, they will learn not to use violence. Parenting is vital in the prevention of gender violence as children look to adults and peers in their lives to model how they are supposed to interact with the opposite sex, she said.

Since gender violence is statistically more commonly inflicted by men on women and girls, the foundation director said it is necessary to challenge the stereotypes that give men power over women and girls. Gender violence both reflects and reinforces inequities between males and females and compromises the health, dignity, and safety of its victims.

“We have to begin to engage with men and boys on these topics in order to reduce the violence against women and girls that is all too prevalent in this and many societies around the world,” ESRF Chairperson Rayle Roberts said. The ESRF will be further pursuing this issue as they plan to host ‘A Call to Men Conference’ in mid-2010, which will encourage men to examine their roles as a part of the solution to address violence against women and girls.

“The eradication of gender violence cannot be the responsibility only of specific groups or the government,” Roberts added  “It is up to all of us to be the change, and to ensure that support is available to victims of gender violence and all violent crime.”

The foundation launched the ‘Be the Change’ campaign on 10 October, the first anniversary of the tragic death of Estella Scott-Roberts.

“Estella became a local icon through the work she did in the community to address domestic abuse and raise awareness about the issue,” ESRF Vice Chairperson Melanie McLaughlin said. “Her passing touched the nation profoundly, and we wanted to mark the anniversary with a campaign which builds on the foundations shelaid.”

The foundation intends for the campaign to challenge men and women to work together to become the change they want to see in our society. “We want to promote the Foundation’s vision of gender equality and a life free of violence for all,” added Ebanks-Bishop

For more information on the ‘Be the Change’ campaign, visit: or The Estella Scott-Roberts Foundation on Facebook. Persons interested in purchasing the ESRF lapel pin ($5) that was launched as a part of the campaign can send a message via the Facebook page or email

Following the tragic death of Estella Scott-Roberts in 2008, the foundation bearing her name was formed on 31 October that year. Rayle Roberts, Estella’s husband, envisioned the foundation as a vehicle that would continue to raise awareness about the social issues that his wife had been so passionately involved in tackling, such as domestic violence and abuse.

The objectives of the foundation are to advocate for a life free of violence; to carry out activities to facilitate the empowerment of women and girls; to support policies and research projects that further the aim of gender equality; and to advance progress in dealing with social issues affecting women. The Estella Scott-Roberts Foundation is a non-profit company licensed in the Cayman Islands.

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