The Non- Governmental Organizations (NGO)’s Coalition for the Protection of Children and Youth will move its third Town Hall meeting to Portsmouth on Wednesday (today) as it continues to raise the awareness of child sexual abuse in Dominica.
The meeting will take place upstairs of the Credit Union Building from 4.30 pm.
The Coalition hosted its first Town Hall meeting on May 20th at the Dominica Public Service Union (DPSU) building in Roseau, while the second was held on June 10th, at the Prevo Cinemall.
“The third Town Hall meeting is in an effort for us to decentralize the activities of the NGO Coalition,” Chairperson of the NGO Coalition, Delroy Williams told Dominica News Online on Tuesday. “Coming from the first two we have had a number of calls from the general public so we can have these meetings outside of Roseau to give the entire Dominican population an opportunity to contribute to the dialogue.”
According to Williams a number of key individuals from the north within the communities of Portsmouth and environs are expected to address the gathering.
“Key among them would be Oliver Wallace, who is a welfare officer and also a Pastor in the area, we will have a number of other members of the clergy and people involved in social and youth development in the Portsmouth area,” he said. “We are hoping to discuss recent cases and the recent happenings as it relates to child abuse.”
He pointed that the meeting is expected to provide the people of the north with an idea to see the issue as one that is close to their hearts and to impact them into becoming advocates to the issue within their community.
Williams indicated that the Coalition has noticed that a number of recent sexual abuse cases brought forward in the court have come from the north.
“So we are hoping that in itself can usher in more discussion on the issue,” he stated.
He revealed that part of the plans of the upcoming Town Hall meeting is to give more opportunities to community members to speak as it relates to the six-point ‘Call for Action’ proposed by the Coalition which includes; legal reform, child friendly court system, harsher sentencing, integrated protocol, mandatory reporting and a convicted sexual offenders’ list and to see how these things impact on their livelihoods.
As it relates to the Town Hall meetings, Williams stated that the NGO’s are hoping to target the population centres across Dominica.
“So places like Grand Bay, Castle Bruce, La plaine, the Kalinago Territory, even St Joseph and other hot spots that we have identified during our coalition meetings,” he noted. “What we are hoping is to engage the communities in planning those meetings, not just the NGO Coalition going in there and having a meeting. So we will be engaging the local authorities, the village councils and community development of councils and hoping that they themselves will see that issue as one that needs to be discussed within the community.”
He said the Coalition is looking forward to working closely with other agencies like the Welfare Division, the Dominica Police Force, in terms of making sure that this issue continues to be one of relevant discussion.
The topics for discussion at the Town Hall Meeting are as follows;
-Convicted rapists being out on bail for a new offence,
-The length of time it takes to have a case heard in the courts,
-The experience of reporting matters to the Police and Welfare Departments,
-The handling of sexual abuse victims within the Health system
-The incidents of sexual abuse by people in positions of authority in the Church, the Education system and in Government.
The discussions will continue on the pros and cons of a Bail Act, a Sexual Offenders Register, Mandatory Reporting and a Family Court.
Agencies represented in the Coalition include; The National Youth Council, Love One Teach One, Lifeline Ministries, Child Fund, East Federation, West Federation, Dominica Planned Parenthood Association, Dominica Arts and Crafts Producers Association, AGANAR, Dominica National Council of Women, Dominica Association of Persons with Disabilities and CARIMAN.