A wish list for the 2018

If The Caribbean Voice were to present a pragmatic wish list for the year 2018 elimination of the law criminalizing attempted suicide would probably top the list. In 2016 a motion to this effect was debate din parliament and in principle supported by both sides of the house, But government voted against it because they did not want the opposition to be given credit for the bill. TCV suggested a bipartisan bill that would avoid this competition for credit but nothing has since been done.
Other very doable measures, all of which have been ventilated many times in the public domain include:
➢ The planned registries of sex offenders targeting child and adult sexual predators respectively, established and operational;
➢ Mental health added to the Family Life and Health curriculum in schools nationally;
➢ Government support to organizations engaged in significant work on mental health issues;
➢ Reintroduction of the Gatekeepers Program;
➢ Bipartisan legislation to raise the age of consent to 18 years;
➢ A mechanism to tackle pesticide suicide, perhaps modeled along the highly successful Sri Lankan Hazard reduction Model;
➢ Rape kits at all hospitals;
➢ The steps leading to the bypasses on the EBD overpasses be enclosed so no one can jump off;
➢ Finishing of the renovation and retooling of the National Psychiatric Institution in Berbice;
➢ Expansion of counseling services to all families of suicide and all abused victims;
➢ The Sexual Offences Court at the level of the High Court, be supplemented by a specialized court at the level of the Magistrates’ Courts
➢ A mobile court that would be able to hold sittings in every region on a regular, perhaps rotating basis focusing on sexual abuse as well as gender based and child abuse
➢ A domestic violence unit in the police force with members posted at all stations and also trained to deal with gender based and child abuse
➢ Completion of the integration of mental health care into the current physical health care system including establish psych wards at all public hospitals and psychologists in every major health care institution;
➢ Counselors in all schools. The batch of 30 who recently graduated can be used and complimented with upcoming graduates from both the private tertiary institutions as well as UG which is set to offer a Psychology program;
➢ Renaming of the suicide helpline as the suicide and abuse helpline and making the necessary adjustments to facilitate. As well wide and continuous publicizing the contact info through all possible platforms;
➢ Suicide and abuse sensitivity training for all police and health care workers;
➢ Creation of an integrated support network for victims of abuse;
➢ Mental health training to be added to the curriculum at the Teachers’ Training College;
➢ Bipartisan legislation mandating that all cases of abuse should be prosecuted even if the victim withdraws the complaint and/or refuses to testify.
➢ Nationwide workshops to tackle dysfunctional relationships and imbue emphatic communication;
➢ Phone companies regularly send out to their cell phone customers, suicide prevention and anti-abuse messages as well as tips to help suicidal and abused persons.
➢ Commissioning of a survey on the use of Internet and social media in relation to social issues;
➢ Setting up collaborative home visit committees in every region to visit families of suicide and abused victims. The first committee has already been established in region two by the Regional Democratic Council in collaboration with The Caribbean Voice;
➢ Establishing a database of all stakeholders on the social landscape and convening a national stakeholders conference to address these issues;
➢ Convening of a national conference to address violence against women.=;
➢ Launching of the ‘Model Guidelines for Sexual Offence Cases in the Caribbean Region’ as has been done in Jamaica with assistance from the Canadian government. Government should approach Canada for assistance in this respect.

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There is no love without attachment

There can be no love without attachment so this view, held especially by religionists, but also by others, that love without attachment is the best form of love negates the very connotation of love.

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Know when to give up…

Sometime one has to give up in order to move on. Persistence does not always lead to the desired goal and thus knowing when to call it quits is a skill/intuition that is a necessary part of one’s armory of success.

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Self is the vehicle for atma

Dalai Lama Quotes: We shouldn’t think that the self is something that is originally there and then eliminated in meditation.
Indeed. In Hindu metaphysics there are so many selves and so many definitions of each self that it becomes a maze. Ironically many of those who talk about surrendering the self, eliminating it or however else to make it immaterial are themselves steeped in aggrandizing the self. The reality is that the self is the vehicle for the atma (soul) and elimination of self means that atma has to move on to another vehicle.

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Thank You.

The Caribbean Voice sincerely thanks all who have supported and in some way helped us to have a fulfilling 2017. We look forward to similar support in 2018 as we seek to build on our efforts of 2017 save lives and prevent abuse. May this new year be kind and generous to all. May it brings a spirit of caring compassion and a desire to uplift, empower and make a difference in the lives of others. And may it ensure the blessings of enough and a mood of serene satisfaction. A blessed 2018 to all.

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Breaking the Silence

Every time we impose our will on another, it is an act of violence
—Mohandas Karamchand (Mahatma) Gandhi

The 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence, a global campaign from 25 November through 10 December, took place this year against the backdrop of an unprecedented global outcry. Millions rallied behind the hash tag #MeToo and other campaigns, exposing the sheer magnitude of sexual harassment and other forms of violence that women everywhere suffer, every day. At the heart of this year’s theme, “Leave No One Behind – End Violence against Women”, for the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women (25 November) was the imperative to support those who are particularly vulnerable.
In fact, according to Time magazine, “ the hash tag #MeToo (swiftly adapted into #BalanceTonPorc, #YoTambien, #Ana_kaman and many others), which to date has provided an umbrella of solidarity for millions of people to come forward with their stories, is part of the picture, but not all of it.”
Time stated, “Women have had it with bosses and co-workers who not only cross boundaries but don’t even seem to know that boundaries exist. They’ve had it with the fear of retaliation, of being blackballed, of being fired from a job they can’t afford to lose. They’ve had it with the code of going along to get along. They’ve had it with men who use their power to take what they want from women. These silence breakers have started a revolution of refusal, gathering strength by the day, and in the past two months alone, their collective anger has spurred immediate and shocking results: nearly every day, CEOs have been fired, moguls toppled, icons disgraced. In some cases, criminal charges have been brought.”
Added Time, “The women and men who have broken their silence span all races, all income classes, all occupations and virtually all corners of the globe. They might labor in California fields, or behind the front desk at New York City’s regal Plaza Hotel, or in the European Parliament. They’re part of a movement that has no formal name. But now they have a voice.”
Sadly, this revolution has not touched the shores of Guyana, where sexual violence is still very much hidden for many reasons, including police complicity via bribery. Instead, a handful has been calling for a national conversation. But hasn’t a national conversation been ongoing for quite a while as so many talk up a storm? If simply talking in abstraction were the antidote to violence, then violence would be a non-issue, would it not? The reality is that talk, framed in a context that offers redress through practical action, is the only kind of talk that is meaningful. Yet while Guyana is saturated with abstract talk, action is almost invisible, except for the selfless work of a small band of NGOs and activists, with a small amount of similar work done by the government.
Earlier this month, the media reported on a murder suicide, on the Corentyne. A forty-year old woman was stabbed to death by her common law husband, who then took his own life. According to one media report, the woman revealed to her niece that she (the woman) was going to be killed. Why did the woman not report to the law and leave the home? Why did the niece not report to the law and encourage the woman to leave the home and find somewhere safe? Why did neither of them seek counseling for the woman and the husband?
The roadblock apparently is the two fold – otherization of the call to action and a perception that issues like this must either be kept hidden because of ‘shame’ or that it’s a waste of time to seek help. On the one hand almost all who suggest what should be done expect some hazy other to take action, as they remain dismissive of the call for abuse prevention to be everyone’s business, the need for each one of us to tackle the issue in our homes, communities and workplace as that is really where the walls of silence need to be broken down and misplaced concepts such as family honor and status need to be shunted aside. On the other hand the deafening silence fosters abuse, sometimes with fatal consequences, often because victims and others know not what to do and how to do it.
Against this background The Caribbean Voice (TCV) joins the call for the annual 16 days of activism against women violence to become activism in its real sense instead of rhetoric, photo ops and pageantry. Instead of walks, trees wrapping, photo exhibitions and the like, relevant ministries should embark on nationwide education/sensitization and training campaigns so women can be empowered to tear down the walls of silence and so that citizens can not only know what steps to take to tackle issues of violence against women and how to intervene to make women safe, but they can be motivated to take action and be provided with supports to be successful. This approach will also enable citizens to understand the other forms of abuse beyond physical and sexual – emotional, financial, psychological, verbal and spiritual – and would concretize abuse prevention as everybody’s business. As well scarce resources and efforts would be relevantly maximally used to bring about redress.
On the books Guyana has the Domestic Violence Act and the Sexual Offences Act but these laws are not enforced with any mechanism that provides teeth. Surely it is high time for police across the board to be sensitized with respect to these laws so that all laws are stringently applied nationally? And while TCV applauds the establishment of the Sexual Offences Court at the level of the High Court, we join the call for this court to be supplemented by a mobile court that would be able to hold sittings in every region on a regular, perhaps rotating basis, As well, these courts must be bolstered by a Special Victims Unit in the police force, which, according to Head of the Child Care & Protection Agency, Ann Green, can bring charges in 72 hours, in order to prevent perpetrators from moving out of their jurisdictions. Furthermore we join Red Thread Founder and activist, Karen De Souza in calling for a specialized court at the level of the Magistrates’ Courts as well to handle cases of abuse.
Additionally, there is need for mechanisms to enable abused victims to break the silence by sharing their experiences and publicly calling out abusers as well as seek help. A hotline would be one such mechanism. Or perhaps the Suicide Helpline can be expanded to include abuse. Gatekeepers/lay counselors would be another mechanism. As well, the government should foster the creation an app that would also enable sharing and reporting of abuse. Meanwhile, we urge all victims of abuse to report the abuse online on the page http://reportabusegy.com/ created by social activist Akola Thompson.
As well the government/relevant ministries must create and widely and continuously disseminate a list of all counselors, public and private, in the various regions as well as NGOs and other entities providing counseling such as the Domestic Violence Counseling Center at Corriverton, Guyana Foundation Sunset Centers, Monique’s Helping Hands, Help and Shelter, SASOD and so on. In fact the government should also provide support to the work of these entities, since they supplement the very limited service offered by government.
Also, the media has a significant role to play in the fight against all forms of abuse that goes beyond mere reportage and op eds or editorials. It must including publishing of information that would both educate the reading public and arm them with strategies to cope and bring about redress, including how and where to access necessary help. And it must provide a platform for women and others to break the silence and access help.
Meanwhile we note that the Ministry of Social Protection’s Sexual Offences and Domestic Violence Policy Unit (MSSODVPU) offers a range of services: shelter and temporary accommodation, financial assistance, rehabilitation, skills training, counseling, social work services, legal aid… So why is it that many cases of gender-based abuse continue to fester often with fatal consequences? For example, a mother of five has been enduring years of domestic abuse, threats to her life, and most recently rape and an acid attack by her 56-year-old ex-reputed husband in spite of repeatedly reaching out to the police. Even reactively this Unit should have been able to help this woman and prevent the recent acid attack and rapes.
Breaking the silence and being empowered to take action can only happen if victims and others know that resources and a network is available to support them, especially if /when they decide to walk away. Thus TCV calls upon the Ministry of Social Protection to set up offices in all ten administrative regions and engage in widespread and ongoing promotion as well as collaboration with the police and community based organizations so that its work can become proactively encompassing across Guyana. As well we urge that not only should orders of protection be urgently provided when requested but also that they should be enforced and supported by the police at all times.
Some years ago TCV launched an online petition calling for a registry of sex offenders to be raised. Now we are rooting for the realization of the Director of the Childcare & Protection Agency, Ann Green’s plan to have such a registry of sexual predators of children and we hope that plans for a similar registry for sexual predators of adults will also come into being in 2018. As well, we appeal to readers to please sign our petition calling for such a registry and urge others to do so by clicking on the ‘Petitions’ link on the left hand bar of the index page on our website – http://www.caribvoice.org – and then click on the ‘Registry of Sex Offenders’ link, so that we can boost the registry’s chances. There, our petition calling for the age of consent to be raised to eighteen years can also be accessed. Again we appeal to readers to please sign our petition and urge others to do so.
Finally we offer a number of free workshops, all of which address abuse. We urge communities, organizations and institutions to reach out to us so we can bring these workshops to you. The Caribbean Voice can be reached by email (caribvoice@aol.com, keshni.rooplall@yahoo.com, sixtusedwards@yahoo.com) text or phone call (697-9968, 659-9196, 6991351, 218-5054, 694-7433 or 644-1152). On our website – http://www.caribvoice.org – are links to all of our social media pages, through which coping information and strategies to tackle violence against women can be accessed and we can also be contacted.

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A Christmas Message

Christmas essentially is about a man who taught by example how to uplift and empower others and who exemplified that service to the less fortunate, the needy, voiceless and powerless is the best form of worship. And so as we in The Caribbean Voice strive to continue to follow those precepts, our fervent wish is that everyone out there takes some time off, no matter how little, to help someone else. We urge all to take five minutes of your time to ask someone, ‘how are you today’ and listen without judging for by doing so may well save a life. We urge also that everyone acts in accordance with the reality that suicide and abuse prevention are everybody’s business and that you never simply pass by or stand idly when someone needs to or even can be helped. For this is the surest way to prevent suicide and abuse in all its forms.
From The Caribbean Voice to all – be safe, be happy, be blessed.

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