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Stop normalising violence against women and girls’- Diplomat

PHOTO:  Country Director of the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS) Alex Theran (top left),  President of the Guyana Press Association (GPA) Nazima Raghubir (top right),  Head of Development Cooperation at the Canadian High Commission Janine Cocker (bottom left) and  UNICEF Area Representative for Guyana and Suriname Nicolas Pron (bottom right)

In order to combat violence against women and girls, Head of Development Cooperation at the Canadian High Commission Janine Cocker is urging individuals to change the way in which they view the issue.

During a virtual panel discussion on Migrant Women, COVID-19 and Gender-based Violence on Wednesday, the Diplomat noted that “the key issue is to stop normalizing violence against women and girls and that is breaking that cycle of violence that we all know about; how we treat our sons, our daughters, our nephews, our nieces, that language we use and those kinds of things so that it becomes completely unacceptable.”

She noted that this attitude coupled with the lack of economic opportunities makes women more susceptible to violence. However, she lauded the Government of Guyana’s recent move to include migrant women in its cottage industry initiative and pointed out that host communities are equally important in protecting migrants.

Cocker’s comments came on the heels of two Venezuelan women speaking out about being raped and beaten by a serial rapist. The women whose stories were published in a daily newspaper detailed being repeatedly raped, sodomised and beaten by a 36-year-old man Thurston Semple who has since been remanded to prison.

She was joined by Country Director of the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS) Alex Theran and representatives from the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF).

HIAS started working with Venezuelan migrants in Guyana in 2020 on issues relating to gender-based violence.

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic and travel restrictions, Theran noted that persons are still moving to Guyana under extreme circumstances. But support for these families have decreased leaving some unable to feed themselves.

“We’re seeing that women and girls are far more susceptible to violence in and out of the home,” she added noting that this is compounded by the language barrier which affects their ability to get employment.

Theran disclosed that HIAS has worked with close to 700 persons at its Georgetown and Bartica offices in areas of gender-based violence, providing financial support, mental health and educating persons on their rights under the laws of Guyana.

In cases relating to gender-based violence, the organisation gives victims the option to file a police report with the provision of a translator, offer basic help to persons in hospitals and other required assistance.

HIAS also works closely with the International Office for Migration (IOM) to tackle Trafficking in Persons (TIP) given that many Venezuelan migrants end up in such positions

UNICEF Area Representative for Guyana and Suriname Nicolas Pron in brief remarks noted that it is important to support the rights of migrants and participate in interventions from which they will benefit.

The panel discussion chaired by President of the Guyana Press Association (GPA) Nazima Raghubir, was held in observance of International Women’s Day (IWD). IWD was observed on March 05, 2021 under the theme “Choose to Challenge.”

The panellists have all called on persons to choose to challenge issues affecting the migrant community in Guyana.