Is violence a big issue in Barbados?
For many years, women across Barbados faced violence. For example, men would traditionally go to work during the week. Come Friday, they would get drunk, come home and cause a ruckus. This led to violence towards women and children. It’s a practice culturally ingrained, not just in Barbados, but across the Caribbean. It’s a pattern we wanted to break.
What did you decide to do about it?
I’ve been a Girl Guide since I was six. Being part of this active women’s movement inspired me to work on women’s rights. For me Guiding is a way of life so each day I try to live out the Promise and Law. Inspired by my work with the Girl Guides, I became part of the Women’s Forum in Barbados. As a result, I inputted into Barbados’ first Domestic Violence Protection Orders Bill in the Nineties, which was drafted to assist victims of violence and perpetrators.
How did people react when the Domestic Violence Bill was drafted?
It wasn’t met with much resistance – it was timely. The country was facing increasingly violent actions against women, but we knew breaking the cycle would take more than just a few groups coming together. It needed an act of parliament.
The Bill was recently updated. Were the Girl Guides involved?
Before the Bill was updated, Girl Guides, along with members from national women’s groups, were encouraged to comment on the Bill and the proposed amendments. As the largest organisation for girls and young women in the country, we are well respected in Barbados and it is good to represent on these issues. When girls and young women are given a voice, people sit up and listen. By inputting into the Bill and holding anti-violence rallies, it’s made our country realise that girls can change the world – they just need to be given the opportunity to make a difference.
What advice would you give to those who want to influence their Government on issues such as violence and women’s rights?
It’s essential to build relationships with key allies. Many of the Girl Guide groups are involved in their communities, showing others how guiding isn’t just about social activities. It is possible to advocate for change too. On our own we may be one small voice but if we join with our local, regional and international partners, our small voice moves from a whisper to a shout! Guiding is an activity, a movement and an organisation which help girls understand how they can grow to their fullest potential. Girls are the eyes and ears of communities, as well as the heart of it. Their active involvement in Guiding will ensure change happens.
What else are Girl Guides doing to Stop the Violence?
Violence permeates our society, and girls and women tend to face more violence than men. To help tackle the issue, the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts introduced its Voices Against Violence (VAV) curriculum, which educates girls and young people about what to do if they see or experience violence.
The Girl Guides Association of Barbados is currently conducting training events to address the various issues of gender-based violence. We want our girls to be able to take responsibility for their own lives and see themselves as agents of change. Voices Against Violence is a great curriculum to generate such action. Working with men and boys is also part of the curriculum in Barbados as we believe all voices must be heard. When they are, authorities are given the invaluable opportunity to hear what life is really like for a young girl or boy living in Barbados.