In Jamaica, approximately one out of three women have experienced physical and/or sexual violence by an intimate partner or a non-partner during her life.
Evidence shows the risk of gender-based violence (GBV) increases during times of additional stress, including financial hardship, job losses and emergency situations, including during a pandemic.
The COVID-19 pandemic has created an environment of multiple uncertainties and stressors unlike anything we have experience in our lifetime. Health fears, potential for economic hardships, job losses and extended periods of quarantine and stay at home orders have all coincided to create a dangerous scenario for women, and their children, who are in abusive relationships.
Utilising opportunities to reach women at risk
In February 2020, the MOHW established a COVID 19 hotline that is currently manned by volunteers and fields thousands of calls from persons seeking information and guidance on matters relating to COVID-19.
Seizing on an opportunity to reach women at risk of GBV, PAHO collaborated with the Ministry of Health and Wellness to train a new cadre of volunteers in GBV sensitisation and prevention as part of their orientation process.
Using the LIVES acronym, which stands for Listen, Inquire, Validate, Enhance safety and Support, the training built the capacity of the helpline team to be sensitive to cues that callers give to suggest that they may be experiencing GBV.
Virtual training sessions were held on 29 May and 1 June for 40 new volunteers and was facilitated by Dr. Britta Baer, PAHO Regional Violence Prevention Advisor; Dr. Michelle Harris, PAHO Jamaica, Advisor on NCDs and Mental Health; and Ms. Elga Salvador, Gender Specialist, UNFPA, Jamaica.
UNFPA, in collaboration with the Ministry of of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport, are currently updating a crisis support manual to include all relevant resources and agencies available to persons in need. The manual will guide helpline operators, and others who come in contact with woman at risk of GBV, to the available referral options to better support persons in need.
For persons seeking COVID-19 related support and are based in Jamaica, please call 1-888-ONE-LOVE (1 888 663 5683)