THERE has been much discussion of late in the public space about women and girls' safety in Jamaica, spurred in part by several reports of violence against this vulnerable group.
The outcry has been loud from various groups which have been calling for action, and Government has responded, saying that it is working to strengthen legislation aimed at eliminating acts of violence against women.
State Minister in the Ministry of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport, Alando Terrelonge, says from a national perspective, Government has taken several measures to combat violence against women, explaining that, “Jamaica has ratified several gender-related international instruments that promote the protection and preservation of human rights and discourage gender-based violence”.
He said some progress has been made with Jamaica adopting, signing and amending gender legislation to address the prevalence of gender-based violence.
While there is work being done on the legislative end, there is also work needed on the social side, beginning in families, says Counsellor David Anderson.
“That's the first place where parents will be protecting their daughters, and equipping them with the skills they need to navigate what can be a big, bad world,” he said.
How have parents been trying to keep their daughters safe?
Kim Jackson, 48, business owner:
I have conversations with my teenager about what the reality of the world is for young women like her. We watch the news together and have discussions about her concerns, her fears, and just the realities of life. I also make sure that she is well equipped to help herself when she's out — not only does she have self defence tools, but I made sure when she was younger to get her into self-defence classes. So she is armed with a black belt, and other reinforcements in her purse.
Laurence Hines, 60, university lecturer:
I tell the girls that just because myself and their brothers can go to certain places alone, it doesn't mean that they can do the same. Sad to say, but life is not fair. They know that they have to take their safety seriously, as just one mis-step can be deadly. As someone who has been a victim of crime myself, I reinforce even more that as women, they have it 200 times harder than men do, so they have to be extra, extra vigilant.
Sashanna Kidd 30, beautician:
I teach my pre-teen about boundaries, and the importance of setting boundaries early on, and standing up for herself when someone is being inappropriate. Once you set boundaries, then some things are less likely to happen. She also knows never to be too scared to shout for help when she's afraid, and to always say what she means, and to not give mixed signals. And she knows that she can always call me when she feels uncomfortable in any situation.
Paul Williams, 44, construction company owner:
My daughter is a girly-girl, but I've taught her how to curse, and to know when to say F it, and stop being polite. You don't have to be polite all the time, you don't have to be soft all the time, and as soon as someone starts being inappropriate, put them in their place without feeling the need to explain yourself.
Michelle Powell-White, 47, customer care agent:
Be fierce, that's what is important. My daughter is a fierce little warrior, and I've taught her all she knows! Confidence is key — never try to be a people pleaser, and it's OK to say no and leave a situation you're not comfortable in. These are all very important for a young girl to learn, and practice.