DO MARCHES STILL HAVE THE POWER TO MOVE MOUN­TAINS?

The Star (St. Lucia) - - LOCAL - By Faye-Chantelle Mon­de­sir

United we stand, di­vided we fall is an all too com­mon say­ing which be­came even more true on Wed­nes­day Novem­ber 25th, 2015 when Raise Your Voice Saint Lucia or­gan­ised a march to mark ‘In­ter­na­tional Day for the Elim­i­na­tion of Violence Against Women’. The theme for this year’s cam­paign was ‘Preven­tion’.

Ac­cord­ing to sta­tis­tics, one in three women have ex­pe­ri­enced some form of violence through­out their life­time. Bear­ing this in mind, gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials, teach­ers, activists, stu­dents and the gen­eral pub­lic, though small in num­ber, as­sem­bled at Seren­ity Park in Sans Souci, Cas­tries to protest and march against violence to­ward women. The ‘marchers’, some bear­ing plac­ards and T-shirts with mes­sages of sol­i­dar­ity, moved to the Derek Wal­cott Square where a vigil was held.

Stand­ing firmly in sol­i­dar­ity, scores of ea­ger par­tic­i­pants demon­strated their sup­port for the ac­tiv­ity and to so­licit so­ci­etal change in at­ti­tudes to­wards women. The need for change within the coun­try’s jus­tice frame­work, laws and poli­cies was also un­der­scored. The over­rid­ing aim was to in­cite change and to in­crease aware­ness of women’s rights, while jolt­ing the cur­rent ad­min­is­tra­tion into ac­tion through the rais­ing of col­lec­tive voices and declar­ing zero tol­er­ance for acts of violence against women.

Danielle Dubois, a teacher at the St. Joseph’s Con­vent sat with The STAR on Wed­nes­day af­ter the march. She said, “I’ve come out to­day to sup­port the move­ment and I think it’s im­por­tant that young peo­ple get in­volved in ac­tiv­i­ties like th­ese and to try to en­cour­age peo­ple like my­self and younger per­sons to get in­volved.”

When asked about the re­sponse from teach­ers and stu­dents at her school, she replied, “I find the re­sponse to­wards marches has been very neg­a­tive; I don’t know why. In Saint Lucia ev­ery­one is afraid to have an opin­ion openly about some­thing. For in­stance, peo­ple say, ‘Why you chang­ing your pro­file pic for France, or why this or why that’, but why not? It’s as if we are afraid to feel. We’re afraid to stand up for any­thing. I think that the re­sponse should have been a lot bet­ter and peo­ple should be more ex­cited about this cause.”

She con­tin­ued: “Also, if we look back into our history a lot of what we were able to over­come and achieve to­day was be­cause of marches, peo­ple com­ing to­gether to rep­re­sent for is­sues af­fect­ing ev­ery­body. Saint Lucia has had a history of marches, protests and what not. It’s just not here any­more!” She pon­dered on the lack of par­tic­i­pa­tion by schools and youth groups. “I think we should have had a half day to­day . . . get the younger peo­ple in­volved to show the im­por­tance. I think we don’t do that enough, ex­pose our kids to things like this. The younger ones should be al­lowed to ex­press them­selves!”

From a stu­dent’s per­spec­tive, Ran­laigh Florence from C.A.R.E. Cen­tre in Anse La Raye told The STAR, “I am here to rep­re­sent and stand for abuse against women and to show that abuse against women is wrong. I am say­ing that it may not nec­es­sar­ily make a change in ev­ery­one, but to those who get it, it will make a pos­i­tive change in them.” When asked about his per­sonal con­tri­bu­tion to­ward ini­ti­at­ing change in re­gard to com­bat­ing this plight af­fect­ing women he ex­pressed, “Well what I would do is speak to those who did not get the mes­sage and con­vince them that violence against women is wrong.”

UWP leader Allen Chas­tanet who par­tic­i­pated in the march also spoke to The STAR. “I think the jus­tice sys­tem is fail­ing all of us and, as a con­se­quence, it’s also fail­ing women. I think one of the sad­dest things, and I keep ar­tic­u­lat­ing this, is the num­ber of young, teenage preg­nan­cies and the num­ber of kids who have grown up where there has been one par­ent who can’t even sup­port them­selves, far less three, four kids. It must take a lot from women’s self­es­teem to find them­selves in that po­si­tion,” he said.

Also com­ment­ing was op­po­si­tion leader Gale Rigob­ert. “There is no deny­ing that in the past, sev­eral strides have been made since the var­i­ous con­fer­ences to raise aware­ness about the abuses that women suf­fer but, as you can tell, given the news items of late, we have some dis­tance to go still. Whereas the sen­sa­tion­al­ism sur­round­ing the news re­port­ing heinous crimes such as sex­ual as­sault, do­mes­tic violence and rape al­ways catch our at­ten­tion and jolt us to our core, there are many other forms of dis­crim­i­na­tion that women still suf­fer. Th­ese are to be brought to the at­ten­tion of the pow­ers that be, to make the ad­just­ments to en­sure that whether it be psy­cho­log­i­cal, phys­i­cal, do­mes­tic, emo­tional, that we can elim­i­nate the im­pact of violence against women and up­hold the rights of women,” she told The STAR.

When asked about his expectations from the march, Se­na­tor Dr. Stephen King told The STAR, “Well there are a num­ber of things, be­cause we have some very clear ob­jec­tives with the march . . . we need to get our leg­is­la­ture in place, es­pe­cially the fam­ily law bills. We also need to get the foren­sic lab opened and get good man­age­ment and thirdly, we need in­vest­ment in our ju­di­cial sys­tem. We need ef­fi­cient courts and per­son­nel, we need to raise aware­ness that our women and chil­dren should be re­spected, pro­tected and loved. There are many ways we de­grade our women; in our mu­sic, in our me­dia. Our mu­si­cians should pro­mote the dig­nity of our women; like they say, ‘She’s Royal!’”

Mu­si­cian Ron­ald “Boo” Hink­son con­curred with King adding, “A mes­sage needs to be sent to per­pe­tra­tors that it is un­ac­cept­able to abuse women. From ev­ery­thing I have read - I am not an ex­pert - rape is not about sex, it’s about power. When we cre­ate an en­vi­ron­ment in which our women are made into ob­jects of sex, par­tic­u­larly in mu­sic that we bom­bard our young peo­ple with, we will end up with a lot of th­ese prob­lems. I am not suggest­ing that mu­sic is the only thing. We have just bom­barded our chil­dren with this and there is noth­ing in place to tell them, ‘Hey this is not our right!’ They hear it on the ra­dio, they hear it ev­ery­day and this has to be ad­dressed at a na­tional level.”

Fol­low­ing the march She Caribbean pub­lisher Mae Wayne posted this com­ment to her Face­book page: “Yes­ter­day we marched against rape and violence against women. I was a bit dis­ap­pointed in the turnout con­sid­er­ing how out­raged we have been in light of world events. Com­pas­sion needs to start at home. Violence is violence.”

Ac­cord­ing to a state­ment from Raise Your Voice this is the group’s first ma­jor ac­tiv­ity. “Our work does not stop with the march. In fact, the march will be used to cre­ate pub­lic aware­ness for the work ahead”, the group says.

They may be young but they were big on the march for the elim­i­na­tion of violence

to­wards women on Wed­nes­day.

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