Health Division, CEDAW launch GBV initiative in Tobago

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Terry Ince –

THE Green Bench Talk Initiative has been launched in response to continued instances of gender-based violence (GBV) in Tobago. It is meant to raise awareness of GBV and provide an avenue for victims to get help.

The initiative was launched last Friday at the Scarborough Health Centre by the THA Division of Health, Wellness and Social Protection in collaboration with the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) in TT, in commemoration of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, which was observed on November 25.

CEDAW TT founder Terry Ince said the Green Bench initiative was a combination of two things. She said firstly, it addressed the environment as the benches were made of plastic.

“We partnered with the Flying Tree Environmental company to design the bench and then they created the bench which is made completely out of plastic.

“If you can imagine, each bench requires at least 30,000 plastic bottles. So if you think of all those plastic bottles being removed from our landfills, from our drains, you can see the positive impact the initiative has just on the environment.”

The second, she said addressed GBV.

“Addressing the societal scourge of GBV during this time, just brings it home.

“It says that, as a community, as a country, we can all do something to eliminate violence against women and girls whilst taking care of our environment.

“We hope that it’s not just today, we hope that this would be continuing everyday, where we can be raising awareness…doing things to mitigate violence against women and girls.

“The messages on the benches gives us some indication of the things we can do and the numbers we can call.”

The benches, she said, will be strategically installed at various locations.

Head of the Gender Affairs Unit in the THA Division Nigel Phillip said to some, it might just be a simple bench, noting that what mattered most were the messages on the bench which would indicate our protection against our women and girls.

Nigel Phillip –

GBV, he said, happens in different forms.

“What we see coming into our unit in the division is a lot of issues on domestic violence, because when you talk about GBV, it is just different aspects of violence. But if you want to categorise it and look at domestic violence, we have issues of domestic violence that we sort out in the Division of Health, Wellness and Social Protection.”

He said the division could receive as much as four to five reports of GBV per week depending on the season.

“So you may have carnival, you might see a spike in violence. We have Christmas coming, you’ll also see a spike in violence. Around school time when some of the times when children have to get books and those kinds of things, there is a spike in violence.

“And carnival, because of substance abuse and all these kinds of things, you can also see a spike in violence.

“So it all depends on the season, sometimes you may see a rise and fall, as sometimes you may not see any within a period and then all of a sudden, you see there is a spike in violence.”

He said such messages were very important.

“You need to hear them all the time. So it’s not just a message that is planted – people can see it, they can hear it. The more it is in your space, the more it becomes part of what you want to hear or what you want that learnt behaviour to happen to change that type of behaviour.”

Phillip said males would not be forgotten by the initiative.

“We have cases of men coming in but the reason why men don’t report it is because of stigma. They’re afraid of stigma and how they are looked at. Even to the fact that if they have to go to the station to report that type of violence, they wonder how they are going to be treated.

“But over the years, this year I would say, I have seen cases of more men coming in to the division for that support.”

Assistant secretary in the division Sonny Craig said the initiative was “fantastic.”

Sonny Craig –

“As a division, we are happy to be a part of this, and we are happy to facilitate this, and we are encouraging it. We are encouraging our communities to step forward and to stand in defence of our ladyfolk, our female folk.”

Without saying where exactly the benches would be placed, Craig encouraged members of the public to look out for the benches in Tobago.

“They would be on display with potent signs and symbols to motivate us…to really do better, as a community.

“We must do better. And the process of seeking to build what we call the greatest little island on the planet, we definitely would need to be able to hold our own and be able to support and protect our weaker vessels in our communities.”