Grenada advances towards establishing a National Coordinating Mechanism to address Gender- Based Violence in the post-Spotlight Era

The content originally appeared on: The Barnacle News

ST. GEORGE’S, Grenada – Grenada continues to make significant strides in addressing Gender-based violence (GBV) with the impending establishment of a National Coordinating Mechanism, following the successful completion of parish-level, nationwide training on the National Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for GBV response.

The SOPs, targeting key service providers in the health, social services, police, and justice sectors, provide precise guidelines to improve the support and assistance for victims and survivors of GBV, especially intimate partner violence (generally referred to as domestic violence) and sexual abuse.

For example, the police, through the Special Victims Unit, takes the lead on GBV-related matters, with healthcare professionals making reports when victims provide informed consent or when required by law. To provide immediate- to long-term care and support, the Child Protection Authority assumes responsibility for child victims and survivors, while the GBV Unit in the Ministry of Gender Affairs works with adult victims and survivors. Furthermore, the document emphasizes the protection of victims’ privacy during the reporting process, and it advocates for the avoidance of “virginity testing”, aligning with human rights principles.

The SOPs also underscore the significance of maintaining the integrity of medical evidence in legal proceedings, encouraging prosecutors to work closely with the health sector to ensure proper documentation and availability of medical records, and the extension of courtesies to medical professionals attending court. Overall, the document highlights the importance of standardizing the response to GBV, including in emergency situations, and fostering collaboration among these crucial sectors.

The Ministry of Gender Affairs, in close collaboration with the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), with support from the European Union under the Grenada Spotlight Initiative to End Violence against Women and Girls, has been dedicated to enhancing the capacity of service providers to address GBV throughout all parishes. This was done by providing training to the five Multi-sectoral Response Teams that are aligned with each Sub-Office of the Ministry of Social and Community Development, Housing and Gender Affairs in Grenada, and one in Carriacou and Petite Martinique.

Nicole Neva-Pitt, Head of the GBV Unit within the Ministry of Gender Affairs outlined the strategic vision of establishing a National Coordinating Mechanism, which will be further fortified by sub-national committees in each parish. She stated, “Our goal is to establish a National Coordinating Mechanism, building upon the foundation laid by Social Services. This mechanism will be complemented by sub-national committees comprising professionals trained in the SOPs and representatives from civil society. Our vision is to have dedicated teams in each parish, ensuring swift and efficient responses to incidents of GBV”.

During the training program in St Patrick, Sophia Phillip, Junior Communications Consultant at Grenada Spotlight Initiative, engaged with participants who shared their insights:

From Left- Bertrand Edwards, Abigail Jeffrey, Nicole-Neva-Pitt, Donysia Francis- Domergé

Bertrand Edwards, a Community Mental Health Worker with over 35 years of experience, welcomed the holistic approach to caring for GBV survivors and stressed the importance of addressing mental health issues stemming from GBV.Abigail Jeffrey, a Social Worker in St. Patrick, underscored the importance of addressing biases in order to offer effective assistance to victims and survivors of GBV.Donysia Francis-Domergé, an Operations Supervisor at a women’s refuge acknowledged the need to challenge the normalization of GBV and expressed her commitment to applying the knowledge gained during the training with her clients and community.

Jacqueline Sealy-Burke, one of the consultants who played a pivotal role in developing the SOPs and facilitating the training series, echoed the sentiments expressed by participants and emphasized the need to involve all sectors in the increasing efforts to eradicate GBV.

The forthcoming plans to establish the National Coordinating Mechanism and sub-national committees represent significant progress in Grenada’s journey toward a more coordinated and responsive approach against gender-based violence, building on the work of the Grenada Spotlight Initiative which is scheduled to conclude by the end of 2023.