Thursday, 14 April 2016

TAKING THE LEAD: Empowering sex abuse survivors is Eve for Life’s challenging, rewarding mission

MAKING A POINT: Floyd Green listens keenly to Eve for Life's Joy Crawford at Tuesday's public forum; (below) Watson, second left, sits down with some of her girls.

A survivor mentorship programme is one of the initiatives Eve for Life has devised to provide support and motivation for the dozens of young women who come to them, victims of sexual abuse, to get their lives back on track. According to Patricia Watson, executive director of the eight-year-old non-profit, they are happy to connect these young women with mentors but due to an overwhelming lack of resources, most of the counselling is being done via text messaging.

EFL recognized from the start that they cannot do the work alone, Watson tells TALLAWAH. Considering the bigger picture, she says a multi-agency approach is needed to effectively tackle the problem of sexual abuse at all levels – with adequate financial backing to make the projects and programmes workable. “It’s been very difficult getting support from local bodies. Most of our funding comes from UNICEF, other UN partners and USAID. Other than that, we have no local support,” the executive director laments. “The UN agencies have been our greatest supporters. Otherwise, it’s from our own pockets.”

But Watson and her team, miracle workers at heart, are used to making do with very little. To date, their tireless efforts have impacted he lives of hundreds of young female abuse victims, providing them with opportunities for employment and education. A new lease on life. Their work has since expanded from the Corporate Area into parishes like St. James, St. Ann and Westmoreland (a particularly worrisome parish), Watson reports, with plans to venture into neighbouring areas once the resources are available. 

They’re far from backing down from the challenge. “Eve for Live is committed to leading from the front on this issue,” Watson says, emphasizing their plan to increase collaboration with local agencies. To get the ball rolling, they’ve teamed up with the Office of the Children’s Advocate for the Nuh Guh Deh movement, aimed at sounding the alarm on the long-term effects of sexual abuse and putting the perpetrators on notice. 

The initiative’s official unveiling was one of the highlights at Tuesday’s Keep the Children Safe public forum at the Knutsford Court Hotel, where State Minister Floyd Green (Education, Youth and Information) gave a ringing endorsement of “the partnership approach”, as he applauded the NGOs fighting the good fight. “For this ministry, children are our number one priority. We are sending an unequivocal signal that abuse will not be tolerated,” Green said. “Too many cases are going unreported. We must change that culture. This is a long road to travel, but we are committed to travelling that road to keep our children safe.” 

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