BYisrael: Shelters can be safe spaces for vulnerable

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Deputy Chief Secretary Dr Faith BYisrael at a forum on sexual harassment in the workplace, at Magdalena, Lowlands on Tuesday. – Photo by David Reid

Deputy Chief Secretary Dr Faith BYisrael says the THA is pushing to create safe spaces for vulnerable people in emergencies, including those experiencing gender-based violence.

Dr BYisrael made the comments on Thursday as the internal and external stakeholders who operate in shelters received training on shelter operations for the vulnerable.

The two-day shelter management workshop took place at the Division’s head office in Glen Road, Scarborough. The workshop was run by the Gender Affairs Unit of the Division of Health, Wellness and Social Protection (DHWSP) in collaboration with the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and with support from the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR).

BYisrael, the Secretary of Health, Wellness and Social Protection, urged the participants to implement the information shared within their various organisations, as she said these workshops allow participants to pay attention to areas that would not be at the top of the list of concerns but may have the potential to make a bad situation even worse.

“It focuses on ensuring that if we are in an emergency setting and we need to have a shelter, it is one that is safe for all individuals and that includes ensuring that we take into consideration gender-based violence issues.”

“Hopefully, we never have to use this information but if we ever are in a position where we have to mount shelters, that they are safe, and they are the safest for those who are most vulnerable.”

She said there was a need to provide more than basic emergency care to the vulnerable population.

“Usually, when you’re thinking about emergency shelters, you ensure that the person has somewhere to sleep and has some food to eat but we are going a little further than that.

“We want to ensure that those individuals are the safest that they possibly can be, which means putting systems in place to prevent any kind of gender-based violence because we don’t want a situation where coming out of a shelter, coming out of an emergency, we have individuals who have been further traumatised or further abused because they were in a shelter space.”

She said she appreciated the facilitators and various stakeholders who participated.

“I am thankful that the training is happening at this moment in time. Safety within such spaces is so important, especially when treating with vulnerable communities, and having an emergency can double and triple their vulnerability.”

UNFPA’s Gender-Based Violence specialist Titian-Rose Whittle said it was important to provide the education as there was a need to build capacity on the ground.

“We are looking at general guiding principles for gender-based violence, the survivor-centred approach and key preparedness actions that can be taken and adapted into your work.”

Gender Officer in the THA’s Gender Affairs Unit Nigel Phillips said that the workshop was timely, noting that it was being held just after the observation of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women on November 25th and amid 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence, which ends on December 10th.