October 10, 2010
The New Jersey Arya Samaj Humanitarian Mission (NJASHM) has embarked upon a pioneering project to construct a benevolent home for seniors, abused women, men and orphans. The facility which is estimated to cost some US$100,000 will be erected in Port Mourant, Berbice, according to NJASHM’s Pandit Suresh Sugrim. He revealed that fund-raising activities have already commenced in this regard in the United States and Guyana.
An artist’s impression of the proposed benevolent home
It was after carefully analyzing the situation of abuse in Guyana that the decision was taken to fast track the venture which will see the construction of a two-story facility measuring 180 feet by 60 feet, with the capacity to accommodate about 300 individuals from all ethnic groups, religions and background, Pandit Sugrim added.
He explained that the Berbice location was strategically chosen as it was found that while there are some facilities for battered women in Georgetown limited attention is given to the rural areas. Port Mourant was also chosen partly because that region has a high incidence of abused women, and because the land space was readily donated by the Port Mourant Vedic Mandir. The proposed site Pandit Sugrim said is already well developed.
“Abused women and underage mothers, especially outside of the capital, often feel as if they have no place to go. In this regard NJASHM is planning to build the home which will offer temporary housing, education and other necessary assistance…” As part of the programme, the abused would be engaged in various forms of empowerment programmes such as craft/skill training, counselling to repair negative self-worth, as well as, benefiting from nursing/medical care, among other things, Pandit Sugrim revealed.
Given the rise in domestic violence, abuse of children and the growing needs of seniors, the NJASHM rose to the challenge and decided, apart from carrying out its existing social services work, to construct a modern facility to offer a home for the target population. According to Pandit Sugrim, “domestic violence has become very rampant in Guyana and there appears to be an urgent need for additional support to arrest its prevalence. Every day that I read the newspapers and see another woman raped, another woman killed by her live-in boyfriend or husband…it is one of the most disgusting situations…For how much longer could civil society tolerate this level of violence directed at women?” he queried. The NJASHM had brought the problem of domestic violence more forcefully to the public when it joined with other Non Governmental Organisations to conduct a Walkathon in 2009 from Port Mourant to Albion, Berbice.
Among the other efforts initiated, was a campaign to empower needy women to run their own businesses with the NJASHM providing seed money for such projects ranging from $50, 000 to $100,000. So far, few individuals have benefitted from this programme which is still active. As part of this empowerment process, Pandit Sugrim said that “the organisation encourages victims of domestic violence to speak out and not remain in silence.” He further commended the late Shri Prakash Gossai for being in the forefront to address the problem of domestic violence and suicide among Hindus and other religious groups. Pandit Sugrim asserted that although the local governmental policy on domestic violence is still evolving and is poised to play an important and expanding role under the auspices of the Ministry of Human Services and Social Security, the government’s efforts must be supplemented by that of NGOs.
“The NJASHM has joined this effort and is inviting other NGOs to come onboard, for such acts of benevolence will help to restore the dignity of our women and shield them from further violence and despair.” Despite the significant government programmes that have resulted in tangible progress, abused women, orphans and vulnerable children continue to need help in Guyana, Pandit Sugrim added. Citing local statistics he revealed that there were some 3,600 cases of domestic violence reported in 2007 compared to about 1,708 the previous year, representing an over 100 percent increase in one year. “When we add the vast number of cases that go unreported, a scary picture emerges.” According to the US Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for the year 2007, domestic violence in Guyana is widespread. At least one in three Guyanese women has been a victim of domestic violence.”
It was just recently that the NJAS Humanitarian Mission made a donation of $100,000 to the Help and Shelter organisation towards fighting domestic violence in Guyana. And according to Pandit Sugrim, additional support will be forthcoming in the effort to further address the problem of domestic violence.