The Guyana Council of Organisations for Persons with Disabilities (GCOPD), in partnership with UNICEF and the Human Services and Social Security Ministry, have begun intensifying their efforts to help persons with disabilities, especially those suffering from domestic violence.
These efforts commenced with the launching of a workshop on Wednesday. The workshop is focused on Gender-Based Violence (GBV) for young women with disabilities.
Minister of Human Services and Social Security, Dr Vindhya Persaud, while delivering her feature address at the opening ceremony, said no effort would be spared to help vulnerable persons.
In addition to the 914 hotline which has been in existence for more than a year, an app would soon be launched, called “I Matter”, to provide another avenue for victims to report domestic violence.
“Every person matters, so the app will be available in the stores for you to just upload it on your forms, and you can utilise the app in many ways. Information will be readily available through the app, but there is a button that will link a person who is experiencing violence…when you hit that 914-panic button, it hooks up to more 914 hotlines.
“All we ask is that you keep the location on your phone on, so if there is need for us to find you and help you, we can do that”, the Minister said.
Moreover, she said justice centres would be launched across the country so that services can be readily accessible.
“So, we’re looking at a gender-based referral system where the Police are involved or survivors’ advocates are involved…and welfare officers are involved… Justice centres will be launched across the country where these services will not be through phone call or through an extension, but they will be, or the intention is for them to be, readily accessible to people across the country under one roof…”, she said.
There is also a complex that is currently being constructed that will cater exclusively for persons with disabilities.
“That will be based on the East Coast of Demerara, and it is intended for this construction to be concluded before midpart of the year, because it has already started and I’m hoping it will finish earlier…the intention is to provide safe spaces, if you like, to hold your meetings, or events, or anything that you feel that is necessary. And in next year’s budget, we’ve asked for transportation, retrofitted transportation to cater for persons living with disabilities…,” she said.
The Minister added that, later on in this year, training will commence in a number of areas, and it would be targeting persons living with disabilities. She said that when these training programmes begin, attendance would be at no cost.
“You might say that is separate to the issue of violence, but it’s not. It is working to make you very independent, very independent. And once you will access those training programmes…the funding will be available to you, because we want to encourage micro enterprise. We want to encourage you to be entrepreneurs, we want to encourage you to be bosses, and we want to encourage you to take control of the finances…”, she explained.
Over the years, not many programmes have been implemented to educate women and girls with disabilities about GBV. However, according to the Minister, very few women and girls with disabilities are aware of their rights, and lack the knowledge of the available GBV services.
It is with this workshop and continuous online and in-person training that GCOPD hopes to sensitise and empower women and girls with disabilities.