Published:Sunday Gleaner Ryon Jones
Over the past seven years a non-governmental group, Eve For Life, has quietly gone about the business of providing a guiding light for hundreds of Jamaicans.
The group targets mainly females between the ages of 13 and 24 with the majority of them being HIV-positive, survivors of childhood sexual abuse or just youth at risk based on HIV-related issues.
The organisation, which was co-founded in 2008 by Joy Crawford and Patricia Watson, provides psychosocial support mainly for females in the parishes of St Ann, St James and Westmoreland.
At present, Eve For Life has 164 direct clients in various programmes, including for children - male and female - aged eight to 16 years old. The group also has 20 clients in a support group for survivors of sexual abuse, some of whom contracted HIV as a result.
"We provide support in a four-pronged way. We host a large support group for them and training and sensitisation around life skills, sexual and reproductive health and rights and parenting," said co-founder Joy Crawford, who is also the director of programmes and training at Eve For Life.COUNSELLING SUPPORT
"We also provide them with one-on-one counselling with a counselling psychologist, and we also provide them with peer-to-peer mentorship. The mentorship is run by mentor moms, who are young women who were in the programme before, who we have trained in a number of disciplines and now act as big sisters for them.
"We provide them with what we call a life coach, who is an older, more mature woman living with HIV who acts as a surrogate mother for them."
The beneficiaries also have access to vocational development as Eve For Life networks with key partner agencies, such as Lifelong Learning and Heart Trust/NTA, in an effort to get the girls back in school or to undertake skills training based on their capacity.
The females who have young babies are also given a basket with groceries and related items every month.
"We offer them family inter-ventions as well, where we interact with their family and immediate caregivers to strengthen the family unit to make sure that whatever we are doing with the girls is being sustained, and the family can also come in to us for counselling," Crawford disclosed.
One young lady, who has been in the programme for the past five months, credits it with saving her life.
"I used to think about killing myself and all those things, but now I don't think that anymore because I have something to live for and I believe in myself," the young mother told The Sunday Gleaner during a visit to one of the organisation's support groups recently.
"It helps me mentally and physically to don't really listen what people have to say and give me strength every day, because the counselling is good and we bond with each other," another added.
Eve for Life Executive Director Patricia Watson told The Gleaner that the figures presented in the ESSJ were similar to what her charity group had seen while working with women infected with HIV.
"This is one of the reasons we started our Nuh Go Deh campaign, because a large number of the young women who we see infected with HIV and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are victims of sexual violence," said Watson.
Watson said in many cases, the economic and social costs of the high number of sexual assaults against young children go well beyond the costs of emergency care.
"The number of young women we are seeing getting raped and then
getting an STI or getting pregnant is really alarming because these are
babies, and the statistics will show that once the girl gets pregnant or
[gets] HIV, her chances of dropping out of school go up. If there is no
intervention, the chances are that she will have another child in two
years, chances are she will not get employment, and by the time she is
in her 20s, she will have more than three children. So the sexual
assault is just the beginning of a horrible cycle for many of these
girls," argued Watson.
‘Nuh Guh Deh’... Watson Blasts Sexual Predators Published:by WESTERN BUREAU
Monday issued a call for Jamaicans to stridently reject and stop men from physically and sexually abusing and killing young girls across the island.
"We need to condemn every man who is having sex with girl children, we need to state that we know the law ... it is not sex, it is rape, it is sexual assault, it is carnal abuse," said Watson, while speaking at a community forum at the Flankers Peace and Justice Centre, St James. "It is a crime under the law and a sin under God and man."
The forum, which was staged as a part of the 'Nuh Guh Deh' campaign, forms part of an overall programme aimed at arriving at a community consensus on the seriousness of sexual abuse, rape and the killing of young girls; as well as to agree on actions to improve the protection of children from sexual predators.
"Our hearts are full now that we have reached this stage that we have to be telling our big men 'Nuh guh deh' ... stop molesting our girl children. Stop raping our girl children. Stop blighting the future of our girl children," said Watson..
The Eve For life executive director made the appeal against the backdrop of the recent killing of 14-year-old Santoya Campbell of Shrewsbury, Westmoreland, in January, and 14-year-old Kayalicia Simpson of Yallahs, St Thomas, who was hacked to death recently. The girls were said to be victims of sexual abuse because, at the time of their deaths, both were pregnant.
"I know our hearts were full to overflowing when we heard all sorts of remarks coming out, which showed that people in the community knew what was happening, knew that Kayalicia was being sexually abused, and knew she was pregnant," said Watson.
Quoting from the Family Planning Board's survey of 2008, Watson said 34 per cent of adolescent girls reported that their first sexual encounter was forced - that is, their first introduction to the sexual act was through rape.
'Leave Our Girls'
No-Maddz issues warning to older men
By Simone Morgan Observer reporter firstname.lastname@example.org
REGGAE-DUB group The No-Maddz have come out against the rise in sexual attacks against young girls in Jamaica through their Nuh Guh Deh campaign.
The musicians partnered with Eve For Life, a non-governmental organisation, which supports women livingwith, or affected, by HIV/AIDS.
No-Maddz and Eve For Life have worked together since the latter's launch in 2008.