CARICOM Human and Social Development chief lauds regional response to gender-based violence

Dr. Doulas Slater, CARICOM Assistant Secretary-General, Human and Social Development

(CARICOM Secretariat, Turkeyen, Greater Georgetown, Guyana) – Dr. Douglas Slater, Assistant Secretary-General, Human and Social Development, CARICOM Secretariat, has commended the Spotlight Initiative’s Essential Services Package (ESP) Community of Practice (CoP) project. The project aims to provide access to a coordinated set of essential services for all women and girls who have experienced gender-based violence.

Speaking at the launch on Tuesday 24 May held at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Port of Spain, Trinidad, Dr. Slater said the ESP/CoP is one of the many activities being implemented by the Spotlight Initiative, a global multi-year partnership between the European Union and the United Nations.

“The regional Spotlight Initiative has envisioned the ESP/CoP as one of its priorities to promote exchange, cooperation, and learning while setting the minimum standards for addressing and preventing gender-based violence in emergency response and programming,” Dr. Slater said.

Please see below, the full speech delivered by Dr Douglas Slater.

Remarks by Dr. Douglas Slater
Assistant Secretary-General
Directorate of Human and Social Development
Launch of the Essential Services Package/Community of Practice (ESP/CoP)
Tuesday, 24 May 2022
Hyatt Hotel Trinidad & Tobago

I am very pleased to participate in the launch of the Essential Services Package and Community of Practice (ESP/CoP) for the region and to bring greetings on behalf of the Secretary-General, Her Excellency, Dr. Carla Barnett who has sent her best wishes for a successful meeting.

I wish first to commend the United Nations Fund for Population and Development (UNFPA) in partnership with the CARICOM Secretariat, for leading this initiative that aims to provide greater access to a coordinated set of essential and quality multi-sectoral services for all women and girls, who have experienced gender-based violence.

The launch today builds on an initial engagement held in November 2021, where key stakeholders in the region from national Gender Machineries as well as from Social Services, Health, Justice and Policing, Governance and Coordination and the Education sectors and UN partner agencies, participated in a virtual two-day regional Inception Workshop. That Workshop you would recall, agreed on the ESP/ CoP Terms of Reference, shared experiences, and discussed the challenges the region faces in the implementation of the ESP at the national level.

The creation of an ESP/CoP in the region is one of the many activities being implemented under the Spotlight Initiative, a global, multi-year partnership between the European Union and the United Nations. Spotlight represents an unprecedented global effort to invest in gender equality and women’s empowerment as both a precondition and driver to achieve the 17 Sustainable Development Goals.

Through this effort, the aim is to eliminate Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG) the population most at risk of and disproportionately affected by all forms of Gender-Based Violence (GBV) . The regional Spotlight Initiative has envisioned the ESP/CoP as one of its priorities to promote exchange, cooperation, and learning while setting the minimum standards for addressing and preventing gender-based violence in emergency response and programming.

The need for an ESP/CoP cannot be overstated especially in a region that is highly prone to disasters, such as hurricanes and the recent eruption of La Soufriere Volcano in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. This was reiterated when Ministers with responsibility for Gender Affairs and their Directors met virtually and agreed on the CARICOM Statement Preparatory to the 66th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women held at the United Nations in March 2022.

The Meeting expressed concern that women and girls are at risk for sexual assault and rape during emergencies, especially if food, water, or fuel sources are far from settlements or located in poorly lit, unsafe areas or where emergency shelter management is not properly designed and effectively implemented.

Women and girls are typically more physically vulnerable and less mobile than men and often find themselves exposed to violence as they carry out their gender-specific roles as caregivers, providers and labourers, along with other unpaid care work.

Member States also acknowledged that increased economic pressure on the household also increases and normalises family violence, as evidenced during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic and urged that more mechanisms be put in place to support women and girls to be more resilient in the face of climatic and other shocks and hazards.

The United Nations Joint Global Programme on Essential Services for Women and Girls who are at risk of violence, identifies the services to be provided by the health, social services, police, and justice sectors (as the “Essential Services”), as well as Coordination Guidelines for the delivery of Essential Services and the governance of coordination processes and mechanisms. Service delivery guidelines for the core elements of each essential service have been identified, to ensure the delivery of high-quality services, particularly in low and middle-income countries. Taken together, these elements make up what is known as the “Essential Services Package” or ESP.

The purpose of the Package is to support countries as they work to design, implement and review services for women and girls who are victims and survivors of violence, in diverse settings and situations, not limited to emergencies. A Package is a practical tool for countries, setting out a clear pathway on how to ensure the provision and coordination of quality services in all sectors.

It is designed to ensure that the services are coordinated to respond comprehensively, are women-centred and where necessary, child-centred, and are accountable to victims and survivors.

The ESP is not a one size fit all package. Each Member State will treat differently with the ESP because some may already have the prescribed services in place, and others may need to adapt existing ones, implement new services, or take additional measures to meet these standards. The package allows each Member State the latitude to set their local standards to ensure that the required services are of the highest quality for their population. The Guidelines, while universally applicable, have been developed with low to medium-income countries like ours in the Caribbean, in mind.

The provision, coordination and governance of the essential health, police, justice and social services modules can significantly mitigate the consequences that violence has on the well-being, health and safety of women and girls; assist in the recovery and empowerment of women; and in some cases proactively prevent violence from occurring and recurring. Essential services can diminish much of the economic cost of violence experienced by women, families and communities and can help to break the inter-generational cycle of violence, thereby contributing to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.

The ESP aims to fill the gap between Agreements made at the international level to which many of our Member States are Parties, and implementation at national level of service provision and providing technical guidance on how to develop quality essential services. This includes commitments reflected in the Agreed Conclusions of the Commission on the Status of Women held in 2013.

The ESP will be delivered by many of you present here today, who are part of the Community of Practice; as collectively you will support implementation through effective governance and decision-making structures, and take steps to ensure active stakeholder engagement, collective ownership, and source funding for sustainability.

It is therefore timely and relevant that today’s meeting is being held to not only enroll you as official members of a regional Community of Practice but also to introduce two knowledge products: including much-needed guidelines for the Management of Safe Shelters for Survivors of gender-based violence in the English and Dutch-speaking Caribbean.

I pledge on behalf of the Secretariat our unwavering support in this groundbreaking initiative and I’m confident that this two-day Meeting will facilitate a very rich exchange and a strategic work plan, as we continue to work purposefully and collaboratively to make the region one where women and girls will live lives free of violence.

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