Spotlight Initiative Launched to Tackle Violence Against Women and Girls


I mentioned the Spotlight Initiative, a partnership between the Jamaican Government, the European Union and the United Nations, in my last blog post.

The initiative was officially launched today at the Office of the Prime Minister. You can watch the recording of the ceremony on Facebook here. Unfortunately I missed the ceremonies, but I understand that the two events outlined below included deeply moving testimonials and powerful performances. We know that the issue of violence against women and girls is one that resonates and runs deeply. After all, one in four women have reported that they have experienced physical or sexual violence in their lifetime. One in five have suffered from sexual abuse before the age of eighteen. “Toxic masculinity” was a term used several times this morning.

In his comments at the official launch at Jamaica House, Prime Minister Andrew Holness made a personal appeal for information and assistance in finding Jasmine Dean, the university student who has not been seen since February 27.

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Prime Minister Andrew Holness speaks at the official launch of the Spotlight Initiative at Jamaica House. (Photo: Office of the Prime Minister)

During his speech, the Prime Minister also made it clear that the Jamaican Government can, and must, take on this burden of domestic violence that impacts our entire society and undermines our efforts at sustainable development. It is a matter that is affecting the public good, noted the Prime Minister. He dismissed the oft-used argument that it is “man and woman business” – “That is utter nonsense,” he insisted, to applause, stressing that gender-based violence has an impact on the State, societal wellbeing and the economy. “Therefore the Government of Jamaica will intervene,” he emphasized. A critical point!

Money is in the budget for the construction of THREE (yes, three!) national shelters for abused women and their children. He noted that Minister Grange has confirmed that these will be up and running this fiscal year.

“We need men and women, boys and girls – everybody in this fight,” stressed Michelle Gyles-McDonnough (the highest-ranking Jamaican at the United Nations), urging a “comprehensive, whole-of society approach.” The EU’s Jolita Butkeviciene observed: “A cultural shift can happen…We believe that in Jamaica, we can make a difference.” She believes that the Jamaican Government is up to the task.

We look forward to hearing progress reports as this program gets under way.

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Kingston, March 9, 2020:  The Government of Jamaica, the European Union (EU) and the United Nations (UN) system in Jamaica today launched a new collaborative effort to combat the country’s alarming levels of violence against women and girls.

The launch of the Spotlight Initiative included two key events. The first was held at the Office of the Prime Minister and included a keynote address from the Most Honourable Andrew Holness, ON, MP. It also included high level representation and remarks from Jolita Butkeviciene, Director for Latin America at the European Commission’s Directorate-General for International Cooperation and Development; and Michelle Gyles-McDonnough Director, Sustainable Development Unit, Executive Office of the Secretary-General of the United Nations. Gyles-McDonnough is the highest-ranking Jamaican in the United Nations.

The second event was held at the UWI Regional Headquarters and featured a keynote address from the Most Hon. Juliet Holness, MP. Edutainment performances were provided by The Ashe Company, Tanya Stephens, Tarrus Riley, Desmond Dennis and Andrew Bailey.

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“A cultural shift can happen”: Jolita Butkeviciene, Director for Latin America at the European Commission’s Directorate-General for International Cooperation and Development speaks at the official launch of the Spotlight Initiative on March 9, 2020. (Photo: European Commission in Jamaica)

 

The “Spotlight Initiative” is a global multi-year programme implemented in 27 countries across the world. It is funded primarily by the EU with contributions from the UN.

In Jamaica, the Spotlight Initiative will invest 8 million Euro over three years on a range of efforts – focused in four parishes – to prevent and reduce family violence, which mostly affects girls and women.

Family violence refers to acts of abuse and aggression in family or close-knit relationships. This includes domestic violence, intimate partner violence, child sexual abuse and corporal punishment.

According to recent statistics, 28% of women in Jamaica experience physical or sexual violence over their lifetime. In 2018, 71% of girls under 18 who were victims of crime were raped.

Two out of 10 girls aged 15 to 19 years think it is okay for a husband or partner to hit his wife or partner, and 85% of children experience violent discipline at home.

“The recent spike in brutal cases of violence against women is evidence of a long-standing challenge in Jamaica, in which girls and women bear the brunt of family violence,” said Mariko Kagoshima, UN Resident Coordinator ad interim in Jamaica, The Bahamas, Bermuda, The Cayman Islands and Turks and Caicos Islands.

“The Spotlight Initiative will bring several agencies together to address the root causes of this violence, including harmful cultural beliefs and norms,” she said.

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Prime Minister Andrew Holness (centre) with (l-r) Hugo Verbist, Ambassador of Belgium to Jamaica; Jolita Butkeviciene, Director for Latin America at the European Commission’s Directorate-General for International Cooperation and Development; Ambassador Malgorzata Wasilewska, European Union Representative in Jamaica; and Ambassador of Spain to Jamaica, Josep Maria Bosch Bessa. (Photo: European Union in Jamaica)

The Spotlight Initiative approaches family violence as a major public health and development issue. A range of interventions will seek to change and influence laws and policies, individual behavior and wider social norms. Efforts will also be made to strengthen institutions that serve girls and women and improve the delivery of essential services to them.

Implementation will be led by a number of UN agencies, working closely with the Ministry of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport as well as civil society organizations. The four parishes on which Spotlight will focus are Kingston and St. Andrew, St. Thomas, Clarendon and Westmoreland. Interventions will target selected communities in these parishes. Other elements of Spotlight will have national impact.

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(left to right) Ambassador Malgorzata Wasilewska, European Union; Joyce Hewett, Woman Inc; Senator Kamina Johnson Smith, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade; Mariko Kagoshima, UN Resident Representative ad interim; Ms. Michelle Gyles-McDonnough, Director, Sustainable Development Unit, Executive Office of the Secretary General, United Nations; Prime Minister Andrew Holness; Minister of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport Hon. Olivia Grange; and Jolita Butkeviciene, Director for Latin America and the Caribbean at the European Commission. (Photo: European Union in Jamaica)

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