The Health Policy Project has ended, but work continues under a new USAID five-year project, Health Policy Plus (HP+).
NEWS & VIEWS
Caribbean diva singer Calypso Rose (left) joins HPP Jamaica’s Country Program Manager Sandra McLeish (right) at the first Caribbean Conference on Domestic Violence and Gender Equality in Trinidad and Tobago.
Posted by Sandra McLeish, B.Sc; MBA (Hons), Country Program Manager, Health Policy Project Jamaica, and Hannah Silverstein, Health Policy Project
April 30, 2013
SCARBOROUGH, Trinidad and Tobago—“If not now, when? If not us, who?” This was the charge given by U.S. Congresswoman Donna M. Christensen during her keynote address at the first Caribbean Conference on Domestic Violence and Gender Equality. The conference was held March 25-27, 2013 in the twin island Republic of Trinidad and Tobago to discuss strategies for addressing gender-based violence (GBV) in the region and to share innovative practices to improve health and social services for those affected by GBV.
Gender-based violence encompasses physical, emotional, psychological, and financial abuse and discrimination that is directed at individuals or groups of individuals based on their gender.1,2 The conference reinforced that GBV is not just a women’s issue, but a human rights issue that affects people of all genders and sexual orientations. GBV has many associated health risks which can lead to a wide range of long-term physical and mental health problems. Women who experience GBV are three times more likely to be infected with HIV than those who do not experience GBV.3 GBV also hinders individual and societal development and poses significant economic costs in the form of higher health expenditures and lost educational achievement and productivity.
Gender-based violence is pervasive throughout the world, and is particularly prevalent in the Caribbean, where the incidence of sexual violence is more than double the world average.4 Additionally, the Caribbean contains two of the ten countries with the highest incidence of reported cases of rape in 2010.5 The Caribbean Conference on Domestic Violence and Gender Equality was organized by the Global Center for Behavioral Health (GCBH) in association with the Trinidad and Tobago Ministry of Health, to increase awareness of these issues, discuss strategies to address them, and to build international and regional alliances based on overcoming the challenges of GBV in Caribbean countries.6
At the conference, Health Policy Project Jamaica (HPP Jamaica) described how it is working to address GBV in the Caribbean in its presentation, “Building and Strengthening Clinic-Based Violence Screening Policy.” The presentation outlined HPP Jamaica’s pilot project to improve health and social services for GBV victims by supporting increased integration of GBV into the screening and referral processes at an HIV/Sexually Transmitted Infection (STI) clinic. The GBV screening and referral system will be piloted at the Comprehensive Health Centre (CHC), the largest health center in Kingston, Jamaica’s capital city. HPP Jamaica is partnering with Woman Inc., which has run the only domestic violence crisis center in the country for nearly 30 years; the Kingston and St. Andrew Health Department (MOH); and civil society organizations for key populations, and plans to implement the project at CHC beginning in May 2013.
The presentation outlined four key elements to comprehensive GBV screening programs: institutional support, effective screening tools and protocols, thorough initial and ongoing training, and immediate access and referrals to onsite or offsite support services. Most of all, it emphasized that sustainable routine screening must be rooted in a whole “systems approach.” The concept of a whole systems approach is included in most global guidance on GBV programming within the healthcare sector. The components of such an approach include ensuring needed reforms within clinics, establishing a network of champions for the cause, and building networks with community-based organizations. In Jamaica, the HPP-led partnership has engaged the CHC and other community institutions and civil society members to start building these systems.
Speakers and participants travelled from over ten countries, coming from as far as South Africa, to engage in the conversation on ending GBV. Caribbean diva singer Calypso Rose was one of the speakers to address participants in the meeting, sharing her story of being gang-raped at age 17 by three men.
During the closing ceremony, participants commended the conference organizers for their interdisciplinary approach in discussing domestic violence as well as factors affecting the enabling environment. HPP Jamaica’s Country Program Manager Sandra McLeish echoed this sentiment in her reflection on the broader human rights impacts of GBV. “There is the tendency for us to consider women and girls only when thinking of GBV, however this affects everyone -- regardless of race, education and social standing. In planning interventions we should keep that in mind,” said McLeish.
Organizers plan to continue addressing GBV in the Caribbean through various actions, and discussed holding the event bi-annually to monitor progress and share lessons learned.
1 Green, M.E., and Levack, A. (2010). Synchronizing Gender Strategies: A Cooperative Model for Improving Reproductive Health and Transforming Gender Relations. Interagency Gender Working Group.
2 IPPF. (n.d.). Glossary: GBV. Retrieved from International Planned Parenthood Federation: http://www.ippf.org/resources/media-press/glossary/g
3 UNAIDS, AIDS Epidemic Update (Geneva: UNAIDS, 2009); and Population Reference Bureau, World's Women and Girls 2011 Data Sheet (Washington, DC: Population Reference Bureau, 2011).
4 UNODC. (2012). Sexual Violence. Retrieved from United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime: http://www.unodc.org/documents/data-and-analysis/statistics/crime/CTS12_Sexual_violence.xls
5 UNODC. (2012). Sexual Violence. Retrieved from United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime: http://www.unodc.org/documents/data-and-analysis/statistics/crime/CTS12_Sexual_violence.xls
6 Biard, D., and Moss-Knight, T. (n.d.). Welcome to the Caribbean Conference on Domestic Violence and Gender Equality! Retrieved from Caribbean Conference on Domestic Violence and Gender Equality: http://www.cdvge2013.org/
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