Day of the Girl: Jamaica stands up against sexual abuse

Here in Jamaica, we’ve been tackling gender-based violence for a long time. It’s an issue many people still don’t know enough or talk enough about. On Tuesday – International Day of the Girl Child – EVE for Life hosted the #GirlChildJA Twitter chat to open up the topic for conversation and let people speak their mind.

The support from both men and women was frankly overwhelming. At EVE for Life, helping vulnerable girls and young women recover from abuse, unplanned pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases demands serious sustained effort – but the cultural challenge only magnifies the demands upon us. The kind of support we got on Tuesday gives us optimism that together as a nation, we can unite to fight crimes committed against the girl child!

#GirlChildJA allowed people to contemplate sexual abuse openly, not hidden in silence. It became a trending topic in Jamaica, generating a total of five million impressions!

The final question in particular generated a number of interesting responses: “What should Jamaica do to improve the lives of our girls? Government, civil society, everybody?” Responses included making sure girls are raised with sufficient self-worth; while others put pressure on the government to strengthen laws and enforcement of those laws. Not only that, but people wanted to make sure our judicial system is properly equipped to handle cases of sexual assault.

Male participants were particularly encouraging. Some expressed protection and care towards women, recognising the importance of equality and female empowerment and that it comes at no cost to their rights. The fact that men in Jamaica are publicly speaking out against the sexual assault crisis in their own country is an incredibly powerful statement.

Using twitter as an advocacy tool generated a momentum; it’s the fire that starts the spark – but on its own obviously not enough to sustain the whole war. The inspiration and motivation that comes at a time like this only lasts momentarily and must soon be backed by action.

The chat is motivation for us to continue our work. Social media advocacy plays a great part in gathering the community to take action and unify advocates. This will only inspire more action and attention to these cases. The survivors we work with play an integral role in the process. Their stories are real, and their realities reflect the culture of Jamaica. It is EVE for Life’s hope that they will continue to educate and empower women to rise up against the socio-cultural norms of their country that sustain the abuse.

You can support EVE for Life by following us on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, or visit our website at everforlife.org. You can make donations to our Ashley Fund, which supports our survivors’ group through educational assistance for our girls, workshops, and advocacy. While the work we do is so meaningful, we need more people to advocate against crimes of sexual abuse. The more noise we make as a community, the better chance we have at changing gender violence norms in Jamaica. #GirlChildJA shows us that many people cared enough to speak out about it. We can’t let the discussions stop.

About Eve for Life

EVE for Life’s mission is to contribute to the Jamaica HIV response through innovative interventions that will prevent new infections and improve the quality of life for women and children living with or affected by HIV. The mentor moms programme, which matches trained sexual abuse survivors with mentees to help them overcome trauma in their lives, has produced outstanding results. Through workshop training and counselling, women are able to speak up about their stories, give back to their communities and find a family within EVE. The effort to spread awareness across parishes in Jamaica includes workshops with sexual abuse survivors and talks given at schools. 

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