As Minister with responsibility for Gender Affairs and on behalf of the Government of Antigua and Barbuda, I would like to offer my sincerest condolences to the family and loved ones of Ms. Neltah Telemaque. Any instance of gender based violence is regrettable, however, when it results in the loss of life it is particularly difficult to accept and process.
The government of Antigua and Barbuda has been working proactively to address the issue of gender based violence and in particular violence against women and girls.
We understand that this is not a new issue and it is one that has persisted over the years. It is also noteworthy that we are currently in the midst of the 16 Days of Activism, a global campaign meant to raise awareness on gender based violence against women.
My ministry has been working diligently through the Directorate of Gender Affairs, and with support from the RPFAB to address this issue through policy, response services of the Support and Referral Centre and engagement with international development partners to assist us in generally strengthening our institutional capacity when it comes to gender based violence.
It will be critical for us to recognise that the issue of gender based violence has to be a national priority. We have to allocate time, as well as financial and human resources to ensure we are doing everything we can to mitigate this type of behaviour and to protect the women and girls of Antigua and Barbuda. The gross disregard for life that some individuals demonstrate for others will not be tolerated, as this behaviour is not acceptable, and accountability for these crimes has to take place to deter others.
I would like to encourage everyone to be aware of the services available as it related to gender base violence in Antigua and Barbuda, and would implore everyone to offer assistance to those who they suspect may be experiencing violence.
This can be the difference between life and death in some instances. The Directorate of Gender Affairs operates a 24/7 national gender based violence hotline and the number to call is 463-5555. The Support and Referral Centre which is located on Nevis Street also provides services to victims of gender based violence.
The work of the Directorate of Gender Affairs will surely continue, and they will be hosting a candle light vigil on Friday 10th December at 6pm, at Edris Parking Lot to honour the lives of women who have died due to gender based violence in Antigua and Barbuda over the years.
As we enter the final day of the 16 day of activism period I implore all citizens to utilise the services available, to utilise non-confrontational methods to resolve disputes and to help others when we recognise signs that abuse may be taking place.