Girl power

New charity launches with focus on sexual violence and other issues

Most of those present did not take to the stage publicly, but the message proudly displayed by the teenagers and other young women in attendance was clear – I Am A Girl.

Some stood at the side of the road near Heroes Square in Bridgetown holding up placards and wearing the t-shirts that declared their stance.

The occasion was the official launch of the charity, I Am A Girl, which coincided with the recognition of International Day Of The Girl Child under the theme Empowering Adolescent Girls; Ending The Cycle Of Violence.

“We want the girls to feel safe, to feel empowered; the girls that have low self-esteem to understand that they don’t have to feel restricted just because of their sex. We want them to understand that they too can come out on top just like any of us and that is why we are here,” explained group trustee Alian Ollivierre.

To deal with the problem of child sexual violence, Parliamentary Secretary in the Ministry of Tourism and International Transport Senator Irene Sandiford-Garner said Barbados should implement a comprehensive national policy.

Senator Irene Sandiford-Garner (right) with president of the National Organization of Women Marilyn  Rice-Bowen.
Senator Irene Sandiford-Garner (right) with president of the National Organization of Women Marilyn

This, she explained, should provide for a specialized treatment programme for both victims and perpetrators.

“This specific element is especially critical if we are to end the cycle,” she insisted.

The parliamentary secretary noted that the country still had a long way to go before it could triumph over sexual violence despite a 2011 report by the Royal Commonwealth Society, which found that Barbados was one of the best places to grow up as a girl.

In her view, issues such as poverty, limited supervision, inadequate parenting skills, drugs and peer pressure continue to make girls susceptible to the scourge.

Sandiford-Garner further stated: “Barbados urgently requires a national process for the collection and collation of data from the multiple sources engaged in the fight against sexual violence against our children. The disaggregation of data collected will be of utmost importance in our efforts.”

In December last year, she said, Barbados’ population comprised 19,937 boys between the ages of 15-24 while there were 19,852 girls.

In the birth to 14-year-old category there were 26,849 boys and 26,853 girls.

Country Representative for UN Women Christine Arab said while both males and females face challenges, there are issues that are particular to young girls that are worrying.

Country Representative for UN Women Christine Arab.
Country Representative for UN Women Christine Arab.

“I think for girls, they face particular challenges when it comes to knowing that they have worth, knowing that they never have to be ashamed to do better than everyone even if everyone happens to be a group of boys, and that doesn’t make you bold and that doesn’t make you improper. It makes you realize your self worth. To know your strength is not arrogance, it’s comment sense,” Arab stressed.

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