Aimed at reducing gender-based violence and other social ills across Guyana, the Ministry of Social Protection has initiated a series of regional outreach programmes, with the villages of Orealla and Siparuta being the latest beneficiaries.
A team comprising of the Director of Social Services, Wentworth Tanner; Assistant Chief Probation and Social Services Officer, Ricardo Banwarie; Manager of the Sexual Offences and Domestic Violence Policy Unit, Akilah Dorris; Senior Probation and Social Services Officer (Child Protection), Phillina Singh; Psychologist, La Toya Arthur-Tucker; Conflict Management and Development Specialist, Navita Shivdayal; and Probation and Social Services Officers, Junior Blair and Ms. Erica Pestano conducted a sensitisation session with residents, the toshao, and village council of Orealla and Siparuta.
The Village Council and residents benefited from a variety of presentations on family violence prevention, interpersonal conflict management, social assistance programs (public assistance, old age pension), and child protection matters among other issues.
During his presentation, Tanner explained to the residents that the public assistance programme is divided into three categories: persons with permanent disabilities; persons with temporary disabilities who are unable to provide for their family; and the economical category which includes, but is not limited to, single parents who work for insufficient income.
The director reminded the residents that the ministry’s social assistance programmes can support families in caring for themselves and their children. He noted that efforts are underway to improve systems to properly care for the pensioners, vulnerable children, and victims of abuse.
Meanwhile, Singh enlightened the residents on child abuse and how to identify it. She explained that children experience both physical abuse and sexual abuse. She added that under the Sexual Offenses Act, sexual abuse of a child involves penetration as well as touching or rubbing the child in a sexual way and kissing on the lips.
Singh said, “There is also sexual grooming, where persons groom your children, bribe them with fancy gifts preparing them for sexual encounters. So pay attention to your children; it’s important to bond with your children and find out what is happening with them.”
Doris presented on the seriousness of sexual and domestic violence. She noted that domestic violence is one of the most under-reported crime which does not only affects the persons sharing an intimate relationship but others in the home.
Domestic violence can also take the form of elderly abuse or child abuse and should therefore be reported at all times.
“Leaving an abusive relationship is not easy but we will work along with the toshao to come up with a plan for the victims to have a safe place when they decide to leave an abusive relationship. The abusers on the other hand can be charged, placed before the court, and even be incarcerated.”
Doris urged the residents to be vigilant and watch out for all forms of abuse and report the cases to the police. She also encouraged them to cooperate with the police to have the cases properly addressed.
A similar outreach was recently conducted in Bartica, Region Seven. Others are slated for vulnerable communities in Regions One and Eight to understand and respond to social issues affecting them.