Welcome to part two of our September 2020 Inspirational Interview with Catherine Sealys, president and one of the founding members of Raise Your Voice Saint Lucia (RYVSLU). Catherine is the voice and passion behind RYVSLU, who not only advocates for women and children but ensure they received the necessary support services and be reintegrated into society as independent, productive individuals.
In this part of the interview, Ms. Sealys discusses how men should interrogate rigid gender roles and RYVSLU’s goal to raise women’s standard of living in Saint Lucia.
Part 1 of this interview was published on 27 September 2020.
6. With the coronavirus pandemic currently raging on, the rates of VAW, including domestic violence, have been surging worldwide. How has the pandemic affected VAW in Saint Lucia, and what are some of the ways RYVSLU has adapted in order to continue helping women and girls while adhering to the safety measures needed to curb the virus?
Domestic violence rates has been high in Saint Lucia for many years. What coronavirus has done is expose the problem and, by extension, the lack of support and resources such as shelters available to women who are victims.
When the government shut down the country, RYVSLU was the only agency proving support services such as temporary emergency shelter and remote counseling and interventions. At some point, we had to negotiate over the phone, because everywhere was closed with the exception of the police. We had to make most of our interventions virtual and ensure that both parties could keep in constant communication.
7. How do you think men and boys can help to end violence against women?
By promoting positive masculinity, by getting the silent majority of men who do not agree with harmful practices and attitudes to speak out. If men are part of the problem, how can we solve the problem unless men are involved?
We desperately needed to encourage men to actively stand against violence against women while also interrogating how rigid gender roles negatively impact their own lives. Men are not born violent; they are conditioned by society’s image of masculinity. It is time that men question the image and break out of it. We cannot expect women to become empowered without also sensitising and transforming how men behave. They must work hand in hand.
8. Tell us about RYVSLU’s plans for the future. What campaigns, programmes or projects do you have coming up in the next five years?
- Transitioning from a virtual itinerant organisation to an office-based organisation to provide improved services to our clients
- Establishing an agricultural processing facility, product development laboratory and training facility to create sustainable employment for women and girls who are victims of gender-based violence
- Establishing a women’s cooperative to create access to saving and financing for micro businesses using local and sustainable inputs to create livelihoods
- Raising the standard of living for at least 300 women over the next five years by creating sustainable livelihoods and less dependence on abusive relationships.
- Advocating to ensure the enactment of the new domestic violence legislation and to make amendments to existing laws which legally marginalise and victimise women and children.
9. How can The Pixel Project’s supporters engage with and support the efforts of RYVSLU to stop violence against women?
We welcome support from both individuals and organisations working to end violence against women and girls. Our support services are always underfunded and oversubscribed, and we use all funds raised on client services. We welcome the sharing of our work on social media and your other networks and donating to our emergency shelter and COVID-19 food box programme, as these are two critical components to assist victims.
10. In your considered opinion, how can we end violence against women for good?
Violence against women can be prevented by strengthening women’s access to basic human rights and resources. Our experiences over the last eight years have indicated if women have access to resources, i.e., education, jobs, housing, health care, child care, etc., the chances of them staying in an abusive relationship is very low. In instances where these resources are available, the rates of violence against women decreases. We believe if our central government focused on the needs of women and why they enter or stay in abusive relationships, we could provide the necessary support to end violence against women.