Officials at the Department of Gender and Family Affairs, Ministry of Social Services and Urban Development, continued to facilitate their own programmes while collaborating with other government and civil society stakeholders and non-governmental partners to address the safety and well-being of Bahamian families during the COVID-19 Pandemic. Research conducted by the Department showed that the emergency lockdown experience of people being confined to home to prevent spread of the dangerous novel coronavirus sometimes presented challenges to some families locally, and across the globe.
In response to local queries, complaints and requests for assistance in instances of increased violence, family feuds, depression, anxiety, loneliness, fear and a general need for help, the Department — in conjunction with the University of The Bahamas — conducted an online survey to ascertain the safety and well-being of families during COVID curfews and lockdown experiences.
(The DGFA has conducted a number of other surveys during the COVID-19Pandemic as a means of detailing and addressing how the Pandemic is impacting local families and indeed the family structure.) The results of the survey conducted in conjunction with the University of The Bahamas, suggested a slight increase in Family Violence in the home pre-COVID-19 and during the COVID-19 lockdown. To address those matters, the DGFA has hosted various virtual trainings, seminars, workshops and Tall Hall Meetings in conjunction with government and civil society partners and affiliates. Themes and topics included: Psychological Well Being and Support, the Impact of COVID 19 on Men, Women and Families in The Bahamas; the Role and Response of Non-Governmental Organizations during COVID19; NGO guidelines to apply for grants, and international funding; How to strengthen businesses during COVID 19; the Role of the Church during COVID-19; Social Assistance Support for Families during COVID 19; Dealing with the Stigma of Contracting COVID-19; and the Role of Men in the Family. The Department continues to work with NGO partners to monitor the occurrence of violence in homes and families.
“While it is important to respond to any crisis, pandemic such as COVID-19, or disaster, that response always becomes easier when you would have had structured programmes and policies already in place,” Minister Campbell said. “For example, in the case of the slight increase in family violence, our protocols prior to COVID remained in place, our multi-agency collaborations remained in place, thus allowing us to be a whole lot more effective because we have more than one agency or entity that is in a position to
respond or to react. That is the beauty of public, private partnerships.”
The Department of Gender and Family Affairs is also part of a multi- stakeholder, inter-sectoral Council that provides training, advice and guidance for families. Representatives from the Department of Social Services, Ministry of Social Services and Urban Development, the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Education, the National Women’s Advisory Council, the Royal Bahamas Police Force, the Training Authority, Civil Society Bahamas and the University of The Bahamas also help to comprise the Council.
“COVID-19 is a virus that does not discriminate between the rich and the poor, between men or women, the elderly, the youth, the sick or those healthy,” Minister Campbell said. “As a Ministry, we realized that in order to come to the aid of the ultra-vulnerable we would have to embark upon and initiate those strategies that would be both transformational and incremental to make provisions for those most vulnerable.”