By: Matt Maura/Bahamas Information Services
The Director of the Department of Gender and Family Affairs, Ministry of Social Services and Urban Development, Dr. Calae Philippe, said last week’s three-day National Gender-Based Violence (GBV) Law Review Forum was a significant step in the right direction to address Gender-Based Violence in The Bahamas.
Dr. Philippe described the Forum in five words: “Wow, Awesome, (and) a Visionary Experience.” “I commend the Hon. Minister of Social Services and Urban Development (the Hon. Obadiah H. Wilchcombe), the host, and co-host, the Hon. Lisa Rahming (Minister of State for Social Services and Urban Development with direct responsibility for the Department of Gender and Family Affairs), for supporting this vision to move the Gender-Based Violence discussion to addressing the discrimination in law,” Dr. Philippe said.
“I know that we have had activities in the past, but this was significant in that we were able to use this platform to inform the public about the steps we need to take to ensure that legally, we can address Gender-Based Violence in The Bahamas.”
The Forum opened Thursday (February 17) with a keynote address from Prime Minister, the Hon. Philip Edward “Brave” Davis. Audiences, In-house, via Zoom and via Facebook, also heard from Minister Wilchcombe and Bahamian Ms. Marion Bethel, United Nations Committee Member, Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination, during the Opening Ceremony. Parliamentarians from the Senate and the House of Assembly also attended the Opening Session en masse even though the Senate was scheduled to meet later that morning.
They were joined by representatives from almost 35 Non- Government Organizations (NGOs), Non-Profit Organizations (NPOs) and Community-Based Organizations (CBOs) representing female, male, children and family groupings, in addition to the Community of Persons with Disabilities. Large numbers of members of the general public also participated virtually. (The Forum concluded Saturday at the Grand Hyatt Convention Centre.) Dr. Philippe described the participation as: “Wow! Just awesome. This forum was important for, and to, so many persons including our Prime Minister who, despite being in the midst of a very busy schedule, was here with us. This was a priority for him.
“It was also significant that the Parliamentarians, our legislators, our lawmakers, attended in-person. The President of the Senate (Senator, the Hon. LaShell Adderley), the Speaker of the House of Assembly (the Hon. Patricia Deveaux) are committed to this. The Hon. Members of the Senate, on the morning the Senate would meet, found it important to be here for the Opening Session.
“Then we had the participation from so many of the NGOs, the NPOs and the CBOs, members of the general public which was so amazing.” Dr. Philippe said she anticipates there will be a further domino effect from the participation of the NGOs and other groupings.
“Non-Government Organizations, Non-Profit Organizations and the Community-Based Organizations, all of the Civil Society Organizations, are really the lifeblood of the movement of addressing Gender-Based Violence (because) they are constantly on the ground,” Dr. Philippe said.
“They were here; they heard the commitment and they understood the language. We provided them with all of the necessary documents, we provided insight as to how we are going to address the prevention and intervention of Gender-Based Violence and so now they can go and sit in their communities, in their organizations, and have full discussions.
“Persons across the board were engaged during the three days, and it is my belief that they will continue to be engaged and will make a difference. We must see that Gender-Based Violence is a scourge that is taking down lives and families and we will not have that in our country,” Dr. Philippe added.