16 days to make a difference

Dr Gabrielle Jamela Hosein
Dr Gabrielle Jamela Hosein

Diary of a mothering worker

Entry 351



MONDAY WAS International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. It begins what is globally known as 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence. The 16-day campaign ends on December 10, which is Human Rights Day.

On Monday night itself, I got a late call about a woman, 30 years old and mother to two boys who are five and six. On Sunday, her boys’ father severely beat her and stabbed her in the head, violating a protection order, and almost killing her. His premeditated goal was to leave her dead. She’s now critical, in hospital, and will struggle with brain injury, physical injury and psychological injury for a very long time.

The call was to ask me for help. Was there subsidised housing available for this hard-working mother? Did I know anyone that could donate enough to pay her rent for the months of rehabilitation when she cannot work? Would anyone donate toward family therapy, or her single-handed financial responsibility for her boys? Was any system in place that could meet her needs in a timely, just, sufficient and realistic way?

I said I would see what I could do. Looking after her $3,000 of monthly rent for a year isn’t an inconceivable donation and it could make the difference for generations. Please contact me if you are willing to help.

The problem of men killing women and mothers is real, with a face, a family and a cost. This horrific story is repeated again and again across the country. We can put a number to women murdered by their partners this year, but how many women have barely lived? To understand the relevance of this question, here are the facts.

One in three women in TT report experiencing physical or sexual violence from their partner in their lifetime. The majority of these women report experiencing violence “many times.”

In the 15 to 64 age bracket, over 100,000 women in TT are estimated to have experienced one or more acts of physical and/or sexual violence perpetrated by male partners. Approximately 11,000 are likely to still be in abusive relationships.

Keep in mind that women are most vulnerable after they end a relationship, are no longer so easily controlled or threatened, have turned to the State for protection, and have tried to move on with their lives. Keep in mind that women take as long to leave as they do for many reasons. For example, 39 per cent of women who stayed in violent relationships did not want to leave their children, 12 per cent could not support themselves, and 11 per cent had nowhere to go.

Women survivors of intimate partner violence (IPV) are more likely to have problems: 40 per cent report poor general health (vs 28 per cent for non-survivors), 24 per cent report chronic body pain (vs 11 per cent for non-survivors), and 13 per cent report difficulty performing usual activities (vs seven per cent for non-survivors). Also among survivors, 31 per cent are unable to concentrate, nine per cent need sick leave, and ten per cent lose self-confidence.

Survivors of intimate partner violence report greater trauma among their children. Signs of this include: 18 per cent poor school performance, ie, having to repeat school years (vs nine per cent for non-survivors), 14 per cent incidence of bed-wetting (vs eight per cent for non-survivors), and social behaviour such as aggression among ten per cent (vs three per cent for non-survivors).

Young women and mothers are more vulnerable. Women whose partners are unemployed or have only primary school education are more vulnerable. Women with disabilities are more vulnerable. Shockingly, seven per cent of women who have been pregnant experienced physical intimate partner violence during a pregnancy. More than half reported being punched or kicked in the abdomen. Two in five experienced worse violence during that time than otherwise.

If you are a radio host, religious leader, politician, union leader or head of the maxi-taxi association, use these facts to call for accountability instead of impunity.

Your message is that perpetration of such violence must stop. Men have a role in ending the societal problem of male violence against girls and women. The Government must immediately approve a comprehensive national prevention strategy. Each of us can change social norms that reproduce violence, and demand state systems that address harm and trauma in ways that bring justice and healing. Most of all, men must stop murdering women.

This message is urgent and necessary. Helping even this one woman is urgent and necessary. If you have a platform, use it. If you can, contact me to donate. Over these 16 days, commit to whatever difference you can make.


"16 days to make a difference"

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