Kingston, 15 December 2021 – “I’m so happy we have a second shelter that is ready” said the Minister of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport, the Honourable Olivia Grange, as she opened the second government-run shelter for victims of domestic abuse.
The Minister cut the ribbon, symbolising the opening of the facility, in the presence of the High Commissioner of Canada, as well as representatives of the European Union Delegation to Jamaica, the UNFPA and UN Women who have been assisting the Ministry to establish safe spaces for women.
Minister Grange said this latest shelter — the second of three being established by the Ministry of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport — “is ready to accept women and their children who have had abusive situations and need to move from that kind of situation into a shelter where they get protection.”
The Minister said this second shelter was in a remote location and would focus on housing “very high risk victims”. However any woman who needs the shelter should call the National Helpline on 876-553-0372.
The opening and tour of the new facility took place on Human Rights Day — at the end of the 16 Days of Activism towards eliminating violence against women.
“We are celebrating 16 Days of Activism against violence against women and I scheduled this tour so that I could demonstrate that we are doing something about protecting our women and that we have facilities that are ready to be occupied. So here we have additional facilities. This facility can house approximately 13 persons. It’s a comfortable facility… What we have been able to do is to say to the public that we are ensuring that our women are protected — that we create safe spaces for them,” said Minister Grange.
Women who go to government shelters will receive counselling in an environment free from violence or judgment.
“The environment is quite therapeutic; it is evident that this is a place to heal,” said the Programme Manager for the European Union Delegation to Jamaica, Vanna Lawrence.
The European Union has provided €8M, under the Spotlight Initiative, “to support Jamaica in its fight against violence against women and the EU is very pleased to be associated with this second shelter because it does carry forward the EU’s passion for supporting women and girls in their fight against violence,” said Ms Lawrence.
The Spotlight Initiative is a partnership between the European Union and the United Nations. The Director for the United Nations Population Fund Caribbean Office, Alyson Drayton, said her organisation had been assisting the Ministry to produce a manual of special operating procedures for the shelters, providing equipment as well as training counsellors and hiring of staff who will work with women who come to the shelters.
Mrs Drayton explains that the shelters will provide a lifeline for some women. “Many women experience violence in the course of their relationship and, unfortunately for many of them, they remain in the relationship because they see no options, nowhere to go…The shelters are important in terms of providing an option that someone can go, they can be safe, and they can start to put their lives back together.”
Aside from counselling, women who attend the government shelters will also receive training to increase their economic options. One of the new training programmes, which will begin in the new year, will be sponsored by the High Commission of Canada.
“So we have something called the Canada Fund for Local Initiatives,” said the High Commissioner of Canada, Her Excellency Emina Tudakovic. “There’ll be a project starting probably January that will do income generation or stuff to keep the women and their families busy including hydroponics… We’re looking at about 15 beneficiaries and it’ll be a small scale project but it’ll be enough to hopefully get people back on their feet.”
The establishment of the government-run shelters for women who need to leave violent relationships has been one of the priority programmes of the Ministry of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport. Since 2018, the Ministry has been acquiring properties and transforming them into facilities to house women who are victims of gender-based violence and their children. This new shelter is the second of three that have been promised by Minister Grange.
The work to transform the third property into a shelter continues.
All the partners in the establishment of the government-run shelters have expressed satisfaction with what has been achieved so far.
High Commissioner Tudavic said “I want to commend the Ministry on the work they’ve done. This is largely funded by the Government of Jamaica themselves so really great work. It’s time to do this and I’m really glad that they’re in a position to do this and I wish them all the very best of luck.”
The Principal Director in the Bureau of Gender Affairs, Sharon Coburn-Robinson said “we’re extremely happy about this because for so many years persons have wanted to have this safe space.”