The Over-the-Hill Unit in the Office of the Prime Minister held a ‘Sexually-Based Crime’ workshop, aimed at empowering students to speak out again such acts against them. The one-day forum accommodated about 100 students from schools in the Over-the-Hill area at the Paul Farquharson Centre, Police Headquarters, January 30, 2020. The students wore blue coloured T-shirts with the message: #SOS: StampingOutSexualViolence. The students from primary to senior levels were accompanied by teachers and guidance counsellors. The workshop was officially opened by Michael Foulkes, Parliamentary Secretary in the Ministry of Social Services and Urban Development, on behalf of the Minister, the Hon. Frankie Campbell. Mrs. Patricia Minnis, wife of the Prime Minister, encouraged the students to speak out against sexually-based crimes, as she closed out the workshop.
“Today represents the beginning of a new era in how we address and respond to sexually-based crime for young persons. You are now in the driver’s seat and we are committed to listening to you to determine how we can best address this matter,” Mr. Foulkes said. During 2018 a total of 627 cases of child abuse were reported to authorities, said Mr. Foukes, citing local statistics. This reflected an increase of about 10 percent in reported child abuse cases when looking at 2017. Of the 627 cases of child abuse, 213 of the cases, or 40 percent of all reported child abuse was classified as sexual abuse. “It is for this very reason why a forum such as the one being held here today, bringing together you, the student leaders, around this issue, is so very important. For far too long we the adults have sat and discussed the issue of child sexual abuse among ourselves around the table without giving you, the young persons being impacted by this issue, a voice in the conversation,” he said.
The students represented Albury Sayle Primary School, C C Sweeting Senior High, Columbus Primary, C R Walker Senior High, D W Davis Junior High, Marjorie Davis Institute for Special Education, Stephen Dillet Primary, T A Thompson Junior High, T G Glover Primary School and Woodcock Primary School. They heard from representatives from the Ministry of Education and guidance-counselling officers, Social Services, Royal Bahamas Police Force’s Community Policing Unit, University of The Bahamas and The Bahamas Crisis Center. Presenters engaged the students in activities aimed at illustrating the various stages of sexual assault, peer pressure and other levels of discomfort should they be preyed upon by anyone.
Eventually, several of the students will be afforded the opportunity to apply the lessons they have learnt by creating and recording professional Public Service Announcements on sexually-based crimes in the community, drugs, gangs, and other social problems. And, once they returned to their respective schools, they would be supported by an intervention to be launched on campus involving local non-profits, the Department of Education, the Department of Social Services, with added support from the Office of the Prime Minister.
Facilitators of the workshop were: Samita Ferguson, Executive Manager of the Over-the-Hill Unit in the Office of the Prime Minister; Kemie Jones, Economic Development & Planning Unit, Office of the Prime Minister and Rocky Nesbitt, Project Manager for Over-the-Hill Initiative. The Over-the-Hill Community Development Partnership Initiative, officially launched in May 2018, is built around six key pillars designed to fully restore the Over-the-Hill community communities. They are Social Empowerment, Economic Empowerment, Rejuvenation, Smart Technology, Green and Sustainable Technology and Programmes for the Youth and the Elderly.