Partnering for women’s advocacy in Guyana under the Spotlight Initiative

Progress continues, steadily and surely, on issues relating to sexual and reproductive rights, gender equality (my thoughts from 2020 here) and gender-based violence in the Caribbean (in addition to LGBT rights, to a much more limited extent, perhaps). It may seem rather patchy, here and there, but sometimes small battles, as well as large ones, need to be fought and won, one at a time. In Jamaica, while 28 per cent of Jamaican women experience physical or sexual violence by an intimate partner in their lifetime, according to the Final Report of the Women’s Health Survey of 2016… most do not seek help and suffer in silence.

The United Nations Spotlight Initiative, which describes itself as “the world’s largest targeted effort to end all forms of violence against women and girls,” with substantial support from the European Union, has given a major boost to the struggle to eliminate all forms of violence against women and girls in the Caribbean. It was launched in Jamaica in March 2020, and you can read more about that here.

Imani Duncan-Price, Consultant with UN Women, leads a workshop in Kingston on Violence in our Workplaces and Communities, spearheaded by the Trinidad-based CIWIL, in May 2022. (Photo: UN Women Caribbean)

In May of this year, I attended a workshop in Kingston – unfortunately rather too short, as there was so much valuable input and discussion – on “Promoting Freedom from Violence in our Workplaces and Communities.” The workshop was spearheaded by Caribbean Women in Leadership (CIWIL), and a very practical online toolkit has been produced, with a detailed guide on how to implement it. If you would like to know more about this, you may contact Imani Duncan-Price, Consultant with UN Women Caribbean, via email:; on Twitter @imanidp.

Meanwhile, elsewhere in the Caribbean, there is a lot of work to do regarding legislation on domestic violence and, in particular, international conventions on sexual harassment in the workplace. Here’s more from the Caribbean Observatory on Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights:

The Caribbean Observatory on Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights and the Caribbean Family Planning Affiliation (CFPA) met with members of the Women and Gender Equality Commission to explore common connections on critical issues of gender-based violence, sexual and reproductive health and rights and gender equality in Guyana.

The commission’s Chairperson Indra Chandarpal, CEO Renata Chuck-A- Sang and Commissioner Nicole Cole met with the CEO of the Caribbean Family Planning Affiliation (CFPA), Rev. Patricia Sheerattan-Bisnauth, Project Manager of the SRHR Observatory Jenelle Blackman, Data Monitoring Officer Dawn Hazell Gills and Adeola Young, Advocacy and Communications Coordinator.

Fruitful discussions among Caribbean women. (Photo: Caribbean Observatory)

The group discussed the progress of legislation on domestic violence and human rights conventions, such as the ILO C190 related to sexual harassment in the workplace. The programs of the Commission with women to address issues faced by vulnerable populations, particularly with indigenous women, persons with disabilities, and migrant women, were also on the agenda. In discussing gender-based violence, Rev. Patricia Sheerattan-Bisnauth stated “The engagement of men and boys as partners in ending gender-based violence and gender equality is a key factor in pushing the work forward. The observatory and CFPA  have completed studies in the territories of Saint Lucia and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines on the views of men and boys on gender based violence and we are happy to share this with our colleagues to guide programming.” The transformation of harmful masculinities and changing the narrative of gender equality of being seen as a women issues effort is necessary to engage men and boys. It is an issue for all members of society.

Sustainable Development Goal #5 on Women’s Equality – outside the UN Headquarters in New York. (Photo: UN Women/Amanda Voisard)

Both organisations agreed on the need for the strengthening of evidence-based programming by data collection on the various social issues faced by the population and encouragement of the sharing of information among CSOs and state entities. The observatory’s virtual database has been built and the team is currently collecting data in the region.  WGEC CEO Renata Chuck-A-Sang spoke about  the current data collection on the Sustainable Development Goals by the Bureau of Statistics, Ministry of Human Services and Social Security data on persons with disabilities and the Documentation Centre on women.

Chairperson Indra Chandarpal indicated that work is being done by CSOs and state entities in Guyana on the development of indigenous persons and women, however public engagement  is required to decrease the gaps in access of vulnerable populations to rights and services. There was consensus on the need for gender sensitive data collection to inform programming and policies, and to track progress. Project Manager Jenelle Blackman welcomed such developments and reiterated the observatory’s commitment to partner with the WGEC and other groups on initiatives to ensure that no one is left behind.

The  Caribbean Observatory on Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights  is a Spotlight initiative (SI) in partnership with UNFPA and the Caribbean Family Planning Affiliation (CFPA). The project contributes to regional cooperation to prevent and respond to family violence in the region. It also monitors human rights obligations, law and policy, gather data to track progress on Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) and Gender-based violence (GBV) and bring key allies  together to advocate for change of legislation, policy and harmful social norms across the Caribbean.


Care packages for survivors of family violence, distributed by the 38-year-old Jamaican non-governmental organisation Woman Inc in association with the Spotlight Initiative and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).