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UNICEF and CARICOM Secretariat host regional validation workshop with education stakeholders

Participants at the UNICEF CARICOM Spotlight Initiative Caribbean Regional Programme Validation Workshop with Education Stakeholders gather for a group photo. The Workshop was held 20-21 September 2023 at The Brix, Port-of-Spain, Trinidad.

PORT-OF-SPAIN, TRINIDAD – Caribbean guidelines for the education sector to prevent and respond to Violence against Women and Girls (VAWG) and Violence against Children (VAC) have been validated during a two-day workshop held 20-21 September 2023 at the Brix by Autograph Collection, Port-of-Spain, Trinidad and Tobago.
The Education Standards were developed under Pillar 3 (Prevention) of the European Union-United Nations Spotlight Initiative Caribbean Regional Programme led by UNICEF in collaboration with the CARICOM Secretariat.

The Education Sector was identified as one of the priority areas for strategic intervention since educational institutions are important sites for normative change and have the potential to address gender inequalities and prevent and respond to gender-based violence (GBV).

As part of a “whole-of-education” approach where several interventions can be coordinated to achieve more sustainable results, there is a need to better understand the role of the education sector in the protection against both victimisation and perpetration of violence as part of integrated services.

The Whole of Education Approach proposes to work with family and peers in school within a community, which, as part of the wider society, will help to transform harmful gender norms and attitudes that perpetuate GBV with the view of improving the ethos of the school and promote healthy, equitable and non-violent relationships for children, young people, and all members of the school and community.

Denise Stuckenbruck, Regional Gender Advisor, UNICEF Latin America and Caribbean Regional Office in her welcome remarks, stated “we address a pressing issue that affects 1 in 3 individuals in the Caribbean: Violence against Women and Girls and Violence against Children. This validation workshop serves as an opportunity to emphasize the urgency of this issue and the need for innovative approaches that promote the rights of women and children. Our key partners in this endeavor include ministries of education, principals, educators, school counselors, community groups, parents, caregivers, and youth-led initiatives.

Our mission is clear: together, as a community and society at large, we must transform harmful gender norms and attitudes, improve our schools’ ethos, and foster healthy, equitable, and non-violent relationships. The solidarity we build here today and tomorrow will pave the way for a safer, more equal, and violence-free Caribbean for all women and girls.”

Three products were validated during the workshop: Education Standards to respond to VAWG and VAC; a set of information tools on the Essential Services for the education community at school level; and the Whole of Education Approach to VAWG and VAC. The Education Sector has been included in the Essential Services Package Community of Practice (ESP CoP), which was developed by the United Nations Population Fund in response to VAWG in the Caribbean, and launched in May 2022. The Caribbean will be the first Region to integrate the education sector as part of an ESP CoP.

The Standards’ purpose is to create an enabling environment for an effective response within and through education, as it aims to provide all women and girls who have experienced GBV with greater access to a set of essential quality and coordinated multi-sectoral services. They provide guidance for the design, implementation, and review of response services for women and girls subject to all forms of GBV for the education sector.

In delivering welcome remarks during the Opening Session of the workshop, Helen Royer, Director, Human and Social Development, CARICOM Secretariat shared that “the Education Standards for Essential Services and the Whole of Education Approach to prevent and respond to VAWG and VAC will contribute to the four policy imperatives of the CARICOM Human Resource Development (HRD) 2030 strategy, Access, Equity, Relevance and Quality. It will contribute to the achievement of the whole strategy particularly to the HRD 2030 immediate Outcome #2: Strengthened equity in access and provision to HRD.

“Addressing the root causes and mitigating the risk factors of VAWG and VAC is at the heart of prevention work and must take a multi-sectoral approach to reach individuals, communities, and institutions in coordinated ways so that they are mutually reinforcing. The education sector is key to complement the health, justice, police, and social services to prevent and respond to VAWG and VAC in the Caribbean.”

Participants included Chief Education Officers from CARICOM’s 15 Member States and five Associate Members, representatives from teacher education institutions, Civil Society Organisations, the CARICOM Secretariat and CARICOM Youth Ambassadors and officers from the United Nations Population Fund, United Nation Children’s Fund and the European Union.

At the conclusion of the workshop, recommendations concerning the application of the three products were outlined and will be presented for endorsement at the next CARICOM Council for Human and Social Development (COHSOD) to be held in November 2023.

About the Spotlight Initiative:
The Spotlight Initiative is a global initiative of the United Nations which has received generous support from the European Union. Its aim is to eliminate all forms of violence against women and girls. Launched in 2017 with a seed funding commitment of €500 million from the European Union, the Initiative represents an unprecedented global effort to invest in gender equality and women’s empowerment as a precondition and driver for the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.