Shining a 'Spotlight' on gender-based violence in Jamaica
Prof Opal Palmer Adisa

WITH the aim of ending violence against women and girls in Jamaica, the Institute for Gender and Development Studies Regional Coordinating Office (IGDSRCO) at The University of the West Indies (UWI) has joined forces with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) on the Legislative Reform to Eliminate Violence Against Women and Girls project.

The project, which began at the start of this year, forms part of Pillar 1 of the EU-UN Spotlight Initiative project, which aims to develop and implement relevant legislation and policies as part of an overall campaign to end violence against women and girls. The EU-UN Spotlight Initiative has six pillars.

The Jamaica Spotlight Country Project is led by IGDSRCO director and gender specialist Professor Opal Palmer Adisa, and managed by research fellow Dr Imani Tafari-Ama.

“This is an urgent national problem,” said Professor Adisa. “One in every four women in Jamaica has been physically abused by a male partner, and 25 per cent of Jamaican women have been sexually abused by men who are not their intimate partners.”

“The COVID-19 pandemic has only served to exacerbate this problem of violence against women and girls,” Professor Adisa added.

Dr Tafari-Ama noted that the IGDSRCO will be working to create broad partnerships with civil society, government, private sector and the media to raise national awareness aimed at eliminating personal and social violence in the society.

“Our aim is to build a social movement comprising women, men, girls, boys and transgender people, as champions and agents of change at the national, subnational and community levels,” Dr Tafari-Ama said.

“The overall vision of the Spotlight initiative in Jamaica is that women and girls realise their full potential in a violence-free gender-responsive and inclusive way,” Dr Tafari-Ama added.

The Jamaica Spotlight Country Project will focus on reaching and including women and girls who are isolated and most vulnerable to gender-based violence and harmful practices.

Project activities include making recommendations to the joint select committee of Parliament responsible for amending several laws under review, including the Sexual Harassment Bill, Domestic Violence Act and Sexual Offences Act; the training of volunteers to plan, design, and implement a national awareness raising and advocacy campaign, mobilising churches to take a public stance against gender-based violence; and an online petition, all aimed at raising national awareness of violence against women and girls.

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