THERE is a need for an overhaul of the education system both at school and at home if this country is to properly address the problem of gender-based violence.
This is the consensus of a psychologist and educator who shared their views with Newsday on the topic which has dominated the news last week because of the country's reaction to the murder of 23-year-old court clerk Andrea Bharatt.
Bharatt was kidnapped after she got into what she believed to be a taxi at King Street, Arima on January 29 and her body was found at the Heights of Aripo on February 4. Two months earlier, Ashanti Riley, 18, was found dead in Santa Cruz days after she getting into a PH taxi to take her to San Juan. The double tragedy reignited calls for better protection for women.
Psychologist Sean De Mills said with a re-engineered education system there should be positive changes, as long as the national interests trumps any personal or political ones, in seven to ten years.
“The focus in the fight against crime must move from law enforcement specialist to social scientists. More guns and more vehicles have not curbed the rise in crime. Train our children how to interact with each other regardless of gender. Those children will move into secondary schools, eventually get into the workplace but you have to change the culture from that basis.”
Lecturer Dr Madgerie Jameson-Charles said gender-based violence disproportionately affects women and girls but also affects men and boys.
She said: “Gender-based violence should not be treated as a simple phenomenon that can be resolved using a single intervention. To resolve gender-based violence, it must be addressed using a multi-sectoral inter-sectional approach. This is necessary because of the pervasiveness of it.
"One central cog in addressing gender-based violence is through education. Education is seen as the means through which we prepare our children for life beyond the classroom.”
De Mills believes that there needs to be greater attention paid to the men – particularly those between 18 and 45. Of the murder toll, 13 per cent are women, he said, with the remaining 87 per cent being men, half of those deaths being gang-related.
Jameson-Charles highlighted the Health and Family Life Education (HFLE), which is a skills-based approach to education, aimed at enhancing healthy living and social and emotional skills in children and young people. It equips children to have life skills that will enable them to live healthily, make good decisions about life and be productive citizens, she said. She added that studies showed that it had positive effects in decreasing aggression in boys, decreasing suspensions and expulsions, decreasing drug use and delinquency along with other benefits.
Presently, she said, there is a pilot project funded by the European Union and UN aimed at addressing all forms of violence against women and girls and harmful practices with a focus in the Caribbean on family violence.
"The emphasis of the initiative for TT is to reduce family violence. The HFLE curriculum will be assessed and updated to address family violence. The pilot will be conducted among teachers in the three geographic areas – Tobago, Piarco/Tunapuna and Rio Claro/Mayaro. The teachers will then be trained to deliver the updated curriculum."
She said there was a need to update the curriculum to tackle gender-based violence specifically. TT was highlighted because of its high instances of violence against women. The pilot programme began in 2020 and is training 200 teachers from both primary and secondary schools. The training is expected to end in August before the programme is rolled out to children aged between three to 17 as part of the school curriculum.
De Mills also believes that men need to be cultured differently to be more in the homes since from anthropological standpoint they were raised not to be. He also highlighted that 67 per cent of homes are single mothers so the men now labelled as monsters are coming from homes where the primary caregiver were women.
Jameson-Charles said while education is a key function in addressing the issue it is not sufficient.
“Sometimes gender-based violence is very prevalent within the learning environments. It may start from early childhood because some of the structural inequalities of society are mirrored in the schools. Some of the stereotyping and traditional rules and patterns that education reinforces may contribute to gender-based violence. Many young people practice it because it's part of a tradition. There are certain incremental things that people do that may bring about relief, but one requires a comprehensive map of the education system to address it.”