Domestic violence survivors gain business skills
Domestic Violence survivors in attendance at their graduation ceremony

A total of 80 survivors of domestic violence from two parishes are now investing business skills and micro grants in their new or improved small business enterprises under a $17.1 million economic empowerment programme geared to cut their dependence on abusive partners.

The 80 new and previously established businesspeople include 20 women who recently graduated in Clarendon this year under phase 2 of the empowerment programme. The remaining 60 trained under phase one of the programme in 2022 include 40 from Clarendon in 2022; and 20 from St Thomas.

Additional cohorts of survivors from other parishes are to be trained in the coming months to ensure more women in crisis can secure their financial security.

The five-month intensive programme in St Thomas and Clarendon, which included micro grants for participants, falls under the Rural Women's Economic Empowerment Project implemented by the municipal corporations of Clarendon and St Thomas with funding from the United Nations/European Union-funded Spotlight Initiative (SI). Other key partners are the Ministry of Local Government and Community Development and the Clarendon Parish Development Committee Benevolent Society.

Sessions included introduction to entrepreneurship; business planning and development; identifying and dealing with abuse; conflict resolution; self-esteem; vision boarding; and beauty and soap making skills.

The economic empowerment programme seeks to practically implement components of the violence against women and girls prevention strategy of the local sustainable development plan (LSDP) developed by the United Nations Development Programme.

In attendance at the graduation of the latest cohort in Clarendon, UNDP Resident Representative Denise E Antonio called for more investments targeting the social and economic well-being of vulnerable groups such as victims of domestic violence.

"This can only strengthen local economies and reduce inequalities and the cycle of violence, ensuring no one is left behind," she stated.

In a charge to the graduates, she said, "…The path has been paved for your economic independence, free from abusive control. You send a powerful message to women in abusive situations that their circumstances do not define their lives".

Meanwhile, mayor of May Pen Winston Maragh encouraged the group to "grasp this opportunity with both hands".

"You have been empowered to undertake your various entrepreneurial ventures. Serve as the champions of change within your respective communities and shine the spotlight on your continued contribution towards national development and vision 2030," he said.

He called on them to be mindful of their duty to prevent and reduce family violence, which mostly affects girls and women.

The Spotlight Initiative in Jamaica, which started January 2020 and will end in December 2023, is a united effort to eliminate violence against women & girls. It is implemented by UNDP, UNFPA, UNICEF and UN Women.

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