Basseterre, St. Kitts, March 09, 2017 (SKNIS): Changing the behaviours and mind-sets of men and women is key to eradicating gender based violence in the society, says Acting Director of the Department of Gender Affairs, Celia Christopher, appearing on the radio-television programme “Working for You” on March 08, which is commemorated globally as International Women’s Day.
“We can sit and we can talk about the violence against women and we can make all the laws in the world, but it goes right back to behaviour,” she said. “People have to want to change the way they do things. No one institution can do it alone and that is why we are partnering and so passionate about partnering with the National Women’s Association (NWA) because they have a big part to play in helping us and to help government realise that gender based violence is very costly to the community, it is disrespectful and it doesn’t help anyone.”
Mrs. Christopher said that in this regard the ministry has done training sessions with men both inside and outside of prison.
“We have been into the prison…just as recent as last year,” she said, while noting that the Department of Gender Affairs plans to visit again. “Also, because we have the National Men’s Association (NMA), we are now trying to organize outside of the prison because it’s not all of the perpetrators who are in the prison. You have some of them on the outside as well. So, we are trying to find a way to reach them and bring that education to help with behavioural change.”
Mrs. Christopher said that behavioural change is slow and immediate change is not expected, but incremental changes can be made with support from organisations and legislation.
“All of that is needed to help them to come to the realisation that instead of fighting they need to learn to sit and talk,” she said.
The director said that training is not restricted to men, but girls from a young age need to be trained to understand that violence is not equivalent to love. She said how girls view themselves and know their worth are integral part of the training.
“We are working with girls and going into the schools because, not that we have lost the generation before, because I always feel hopeful that there will be change, but we are focusing now on the young girls,” she said. “So, we are going into the personal development training, which involves self-esteem because we realise that there is an issue.”
In terms of gender training, Mrs. Christopher said that they have asked several students from various schools to be a part of the sessions. She said that the students are being trained to become advocates to their fellow schoolmates. They in the end should be able to influence the mind-set of young girls and remedy the issue of self-worth.
“I realised that in some of the training, when we go into the school, there is a serious issue of self-worth and I was taken aback by how deep it is,” said Mrs. Christopher. “So, it’s not only going to take the work of the Department of Gender Affairs, but we also have to bring back some of the spirituality into the school and that is why I want to work so close with the church because they can go in with us even for 10 or 15 minutes to bring back that spiritual side of it.”
The director said that the Department on Gender Affairs will also be collaborating with the Ministry of Health.
“[Young women] have to know and respect their bodies. So, we are going to be teaming up,” she said. “We are also trying to build those strategic links so that we can get the education for us to help in changing their behaviour and to see themselves as being worthy of being respected.”