Guarantee Shelters to Victims of Domestic Violence

by Raise Your Voice Saint Lucia Inc
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Guarantee Shelters to Victims of Domestic Violence
Guarantee Shelters to Victims of Domestic Violence
Guarantee Shelters to Victims of Domestic Violence

Shelter space for domestic violence victims is limited and shrinking

Domestic Violence shelter space for domestic violence victims is limited and shrinking as abuse cases continue to rise during this ongoing COVID-19 pandemic

When we look at the number of domestic violence calls made to our organization, and how many people used our services at our own safe between May 2020 to October 2021 there is a crisis within a crisis in Saint Lucia.

But it is important to keep tracking the numbers to more accurately analyze the trends.

While we did not record any domestic homicides in that period, lack of shelter space for abused victims remains a serious issue and hundreds of people couldn't get immediate shelter or find a place to stay when they sought help. This was due to limited shelter space by both state and NGO’s but also because people were not allowing anyone in their private homes for fear of being infected and then infecting them and their families with COVID.

Despite the frustration at turning people away, the upside is that we have realized there is a serious need and we are working to increase shelter space in the next year, while encouraging the Gov’t to work towards increasing state shelter spaces in their own shelters.

We are working to ensure we don't lose any ground that we've made regarding domestic violence, how victims are treated and how service providers react

Presently we are working on a project to create inter agency collaboration and communication and to synchronize processes and procedures used for the provision of domestic violence support services at both state and NGO levels.

Between January to October, 2021, we provided shelter for approximately 107 persons in our safe spaces, 28 at private off-site spaces and 11 at varying locations. It cost us a total of US$300 per day per client to provide a comprehensive set of support services, we can only continue this work with your help.

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Covid-19 has had an immeasurable impact on women in Saint Lucia, both socially and economically. Indeed, a significant percentage of Saint Lucian women work in the informal sector, according to our observations and anecdotal reports the lockdown measures have led to a partial and sometimes total drop in their income, and they do not benefit from any social security insurance.

As a result of the lockdown, curfews, state of emergency many women have been deprived of income: waitresses, restaurateurs, hairdressers, make-up artists. Domestic workers have lost their jobs, such as Kathy, who with two small children to cater for is compelled to return regularly home to her family, while no boss wants to take such risk with her. As for Allisa, who was responsible for cleaning for a Business Person for a sum of $440 USD per month, she lost a source of income that allowed her to buy products to sell at the market, after her service hours. She is forced to solicit others to provide one meal per day for her children. In rural areas, the situation is no better.

The majority of women are engaged in the informal sector; however, the money raised by Government to assist with COVID-19 relief has largely been used to build roads and other infrastructural project which does not benefit women and children. The food distribution program was a onetime affair and many households have received nothing.

Overall, few women in the informal sector have been able to adapt to the new situation. Designers have started to make masks, female traders have switched to digital technology to sell their goods including home deliveries, but this is not within the reach of the majority of illiterate women.

The women's workloads are increasing, with the closure of schools, as the lockdown had not broken the traditional pattern of male and female roles within the household, while social distancing, the watchword which has disrupted the logic of social solidarity, deprives them of support from the other family members. Those who have lost their husbands are left alone in their bereavement without any assistance from the family. The level of poverty has worsened among women, whose spouses are affected and can no longer contribute to household expenses and responsibilities.

In the long term, the society will be devastated by the Covid-19 pandemic. Should women continue to be ignored economically and socially, there will be increased family instability. The most venerable women will find it difficult to get back on their feet. They will practically have to start all over again. Their recent vulnerabilities expose them to risks that can lead to more violence, prostitution and other forms of deviance. This was an opportunity for strategic planning by the state to address major problems facing poor women.

Access to food is the primary issue facing women, ability to pay rent for safe shelter, utilities and education expenses. Food security is the key to independence and a life free from domestic violence. Financial autonomy is a major problem of poor and vulnerable women and the establishment of micro loans so women can start over after the devastating effects of COVID-19 is extremely urgent.

Over the last 3 months a total of 31 women have received safe shelter which was paid in part by funds raised on GlobalGiving. 

Shelter space is in demand daily, however our capacity to provide additional shelter is restricted by limited funding. 

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COVID-19 has exposed how widespread gender based violence most specifically domestic violence and child sexual abuse, also the lack of resources such as shelters, support services and social safety nets for victims of violence. 

Systemic failures with respect to where does a women who has lost her livilihood, is a victim of violence go for shelter or support.

The agencies dedicated to providing such services lacks capacity i.e both human and material resources to tackle this shadow pandemic called gender based violence and coupled with lost of the ability to pay rent, utilities, internet connection for e-learning, etc is nothing short of a double blow to women and children. 

Based on available inhouse resources we provide shelter to a limited number of clients for prolong periods as covid-19 has also limited our ability to find employment for clients so they can be reintegrated. 

We continue to advocate for both improved support services and material support to victims of gender based violence and hope that the pandemic would have forced a change in the service delivery mechanism within the public services agencies, this has not been forthcoming. 

To date from January 2021 we have provided shelter support to twenty six individuals, we ask for your donation to continue the work we have started. 

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Since lockdowns first began in April of 2020 at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, we were fearful that domestic abuse victims would have been at additional peril because of the limited number of safe spaces and services provided even during normal times. While we sounded the alarm prior and during calls to stay home regarding the potential increase cases of intimate partner violence no attention was given to the matter by central government, now, those fears are coming to fruition. Reports of domestic violence have spiked in many communities and women and children have no additional resources to access. 

We do not have the necessary capacity as an NGO to house all those who request help, therefore in our daily interventions with victims who still reside in the same dwelling as their abusers we encounter:

  • Abusers attempt to further isolate and control victims;
  • Abusers frighten victims by promoting fear of contracting COVID-19 if the victims seeks help outside the home;
  • State Shelters are full and unable to assist victims most of the time;
  • Victims also expressed fear of going into shelters for fear of being exposed to COVID-19;
  • Restrictions ennacted due to COVID-19 impacts victim’s escape and safety plan.

We work with victims who we cannot house due to limited capacity by

  • Assisting victims to create a safety plan to outline ways to remain safe while they are in the same space as their abuser
  • An escapte plan if they have alternative shelter and are planning to leave
  • We provide assistance to them if they get alternate shelter by providing food and in some cases utilites and short term rental support;
  • We encourage self-care as much as possible, such as meditation, music, etc 
  • We maintain constant daily contacts and we encourage social connections through phone calls, texts, emails, and social media platforms as much as is practicable.

The pandemic has limited our ability to arrange fundraising activities and it is practically impossible to acquire additional rented space on our current budgets. More donations will allow us to  do so but we cannot prevail without your help and donations.

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Packaging food parcels bought with grant from GG
Packaging food parcels bought with grant from GG
While our mandate is to advocate and provide support services for victims of gender based violence and lack of access to justice; COVID-19 arrived with challenges that was unforseen and unplanned which required us to diviate from our scheduled programs to provide basic food support to our clients:  
Over the last 4 months we have had to:
  • Seek donations to procure basic food items and packed 1142  food packages and the same quantity of personal hygiene packs for our clients who had lost their jobs and in some instances their homes;
  • Set up remote counseling via IPAD to safe houses
  • Obtained a special pass from the NATIONAL EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT AUTHORITY (NEMO) to distribute food and hygiene pack and also respond to GBV incidents during State of Emergency and Curfew;
  • Suspended group Counseling; 
  • Suspended physical home visits and instead done face time just to reassure clients;
  • Suspended the completion of our office space and counseling room; 
  • Received a Grant from GlobalGiving which allowed us to provide 320 food and hygiene packs to our clients. 

COVID-19 has escalated the many challenges of GBV victims as the country shut down, GBV spiked and abusers used this time to escalate abuse, with school being closed and over 30K students at home so did sexual abuse. 

The greatest challenge now is for food, rent and utilities with internet connection being key as most marginalized homes has no water, electricity, internet connection or digital devices for children to participate in E-Learning. 

Disparties between the middle and upper class versus the poor and marginalized are more visible as the hospitality industry, small businesses, and self employed enterprise shut down and thereby shutting down paycheck to paycheck jobs leaving many unable to support basic needs. 

“Safety planning is still our number one priority and we have integrated new applications on smartphones that alerts 6 people either via text, call or alert to signal the person needs help. We have created safe people and places to go for individuals who are still in the abusive home and as always, each situation is unique so all plans are tailored to the specific case

And above all else we continue to practice safety to avoid the spread of the corona virus. 

We thank you for your support thus far and continue to ask for your donations to assist those who are unable to provide food and E-learning support for their children. 

Volunteers packing food parcels
Volunteers packing food parcels
Volunteers measuring non perishable food.
Volunteers measuring non perishable food.
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Organization Information

Raise Your Voice Saint Lucia Inc

Location: GROS ISLET - Saint Lucia
Website:
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @ourvoiceslu
Project Leader:
Catherine Sealys
President
GROS ISLET, Saint Lucia
$4,505 raised of $15,720 goal
 
100 donations
$11,215 to go
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