‘Spotlight’ initiative aims to change mindset, culture of gender based violence

Minister Vindhya Persaud speaks to women and girls about the Spotlight Initiative.
Minister Vindhya Persaud speaks to women and girls about the Spotlight Initiative.

United Nations Resident Coordinator Mikiko Tanaka has said that the Spotlight Initiative intends to change the mindset and culture of targeted communities across the country so that gender based violence is no longer viewed as something normal.

She said so on Monday when she and European Union Representative Evelina Melbarzde joined Minister of Human Services and Social Security, Dr. Vindhya Persaud on her latest outreach to Mon Repos, East Coast Demerara.

The Spotlight Initiative, according to Minister Persaud, has the potential to make significant inroads in reducing domestic violence as it addresses not only public awareness, but the strengthening of critical service delivery systems, while forging partnerships with communities to have wider network resources.

“I would like to see community groups being integrally involved in this initiative as it provides for that. This holistic and collective approach will have the far-reaching impact that is so badly needed,” Minister Persaud expressed.

Tanaka said she was energized Monday by the community’s commitment and interest in working with Spotlight to stop violence against women and girls. The UN team looks forward to working with the Ministry in helping the communities, she offered.

“This has to spread to get a real change in the mindset; the culture of communities. At the end, we want to hear that gender based violence is unacceptable. At this point, you still hear a lot of people say it’s normal. It can’t be normal; we want that change of attitude and behaviour,” Tanaka expressed.

As Minister Persaud continues to take her Ministry’s programmes to people across the country, the UN and EU have been joining forces with the ministry to reach out to the targeted communities in an effort to introduce the Spotlight programme.

The EU Representative noted that the programme, being offered in Regions One (Barima/Waini), Four (Demerara/Mahaica), Six (East Berbice/Corentyne), and Seven (Cuyuni/Mazaruni), has strong partners locally which signal that the commitment and network for it to be successful are very strong.

The UN and EU collectively launched the Spotlight Initiative to eliminate all forms of Violence against Women and Girls (VAWG) worldwide by 2030. It aims to address the root causes of VAWG with an emphasis on prevention of family violence which includes sexual and gender-based violence, intimate partner violence and school-based violence.

The team recently shared some of Guyana’s statistics that show how one in two women would have experienced some level of violence in their lifetime; 55 percent of women experienced such at some point in their lives.

The Spotlight Initiative was signed by the Government of Guyana, EU and UN in October last year and is a three year programme funded by the EU.

Guyana is one of six Caribbean countries to benefit from the initiative and Minister Persaud had said that the initiative will open doors for a multi-sectoral approach. “We will investigate every report of sexual and domestic abuse against women and girls and the Childcare and Protection Agency (CPA) will be doing everything to end this scourge. I urge the public to not hesitate to report cases of abuse.”