Alison Drayton | Ensuring access to essential services for survivors of gender-based violence | Comment

A cursory glance at newspaper headlines across the Caribbean paints a grim picture of the impact of gender-based violence (GBV) in the region, particularly violence against women and girls: “A woman killed with an ax at home”; ‘Cop found guilty of raping a teenager’; “Man accused of raping his daughter”; ‘St James based pastor charged with rape of teenage girl’;. “Mother, stepfather accused of inciting 13-year-old daughter to have sex”. Are we ready to accept this as our heritage?

Gender-based violence refers to any harmful act perpetrated against a person’s will, and which is based on socially ascribed (gender) differences between men and women. This includes acts that inflict physical, sexual or mental harm or suffering, threats of such acts, coercion and other deprivations of liberty. Recent studies in Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, Suriname and Trinidad and Tobago estimate high prevalence of domestic violence and child sexual abuse, as well as significant risk for women and girls survivors of being killed by their intimate partners.

Although the prevention of these crimes is primarily the responsibility of the perpetrator, a number of these incidents (including fatalities) can be prevented by service providers who, with the proper training and resources, will be able to mitigate risk, protect survivors and hold perpetrators accountable for their crimes. Essential services, such as health service providers, are also seen as entry points for GBV survivors, particularly those who suffer domestic violence and are isolated from their support networks, or those who are unaware of having been victims of GBV. , or you don’t know where to find help. These entry points, when properly trained and properly resourced, can become safe havens for survivors. Additionally, when services such as the police, justice mechanisms, health points and the social welfare system work together to ensure that referral pathways are clear and responsive, victims are better supported to navigate their options, without having to tell their story to multiple actors and be re-traumatized.


As part of the EU-funded regional Spotlight Initiative, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) established the Regional Essential Services Package Community of Practice (ESP CoP ), a space that will enable key regional institutions and national gender desks across the Caribbean to set standards and priorities in ensuring that service delivery to GBV survivors is of the highest quality.

The ESP is a referral tool for the provision of essential services that will be available to survivors of GBV. These services include health, social services, justice and the police. When these services are in place and available to all survivors and those at risk of GBV, the consequences of violence on the health, well-being, safety and resilience of survivors can be mitigated and can basically saving lives.

As the United Nations Agency for Sexual and Reproductive Health, it is UNFPA’s responsibility to work with partners and stakeholders, such as CARICOM, to ensure that services are delivered in a safe manner. , ethical and confidential, and in a non-judgmental and non-judgmental way. -discriminatory. Unfortunately, the lack of coordinated services, human resource capacity and general distrust of our systems lead to under-reporting, and the burden of care, healing and recovery often falls on the shoulders of the survivor. – and this is one of the reasons for this collaborative effort. establish the ESP COP.

The ESP CoP is co-chaired by CARICOM and UNFPA. It is a space for representatives from the health, social services, justice and police, coordination and governance, humanitarian and education sectors at the regional level, including UN agencies overseeing the implementation of the Regional Spotlight Initiative. A space where these regional institutions will sit with representatives of national gender desks in all Caribbean countries and territories, to exchange good practices, adopt global standards and facilitate South-South cooperation in GBV prevention and response . In addition, several civil society organizations were also invited to participate in all relevant events and meetings, to ensure a common approach and understanding.

Following a virtual regional kick-off workshop held in late 2021, the first in-person meeting of the ESP CoP will be held in Trinidad and Tobago on May 24-25, 2022. ESP members CoP will begin a two-day working meeting to agree on key priorities and action plan for the coming year, based on the findings of a regional ESP lessons learned study currently being conducted by UNFPA.

UNFPA is committed to achieving, by 2030, our three transformative outcomes of zero unmet need for family planning, zero preventable maternal deaths, and zero gender-based violence and harmful practices. The ESP COP will undoubtedly contribute significantly to the achievement of the third “zeroes” here in the Caribbean.

Alison Drayton is Director and Representative of UNFPA’s Caribbean Subregional Office. Email your comments to

Michelle J. Kelley