Disrupt the deeply embedded culture of silence within Jamaican communities.
Empower and instil positive values and attitudes in the participants while transforming negative beliefs and values about others and self.
Demonstrate how community participation focused on positive youth development can improve overall social well-being.
Enhance community involvement, quality of life and access to preventive and primary resources such as healthcare and social services.
Over the past decade, Jamaica has experienced an increasingly high rate of violence, of which sexual violence against young people (mostly girls) has become a “silent emergency.” Community activists and researchers addressing this issue attribute the culture of silence as one of the main contributors to the continued progression of this epidemic.
In 2018, a Situational Analysis of Jamaican Children by the United Nations (UNICEF-United Nations Children’s Fund) found that parents/guardians within the Jamaican context are mostly unaware of the stipulations of the Child Care and Protection Act. They are often not armed with knowledge or advocacy skills to ensure that their children’s rights are respected or even to ensure the safety of their children.
It was through this growing concern that our inaugural project, The GIFT came to be.
The GIFT has three main objectives:
- To create a safe space for young girls to build healthy relationships through a sport-focused framework that builds confidence, competence, character and connection.
- To encourage positive youth development using coaches as mentors within high-risk communities.
- To provide a space for local agencies to meet parents/guardians within their communities and bring awareness of the issue of sexual violence against young people, child rights, and how parents and guardians can ensure the safety of their children.
Our intention in undertaking this initiative is to maximize the benefits individuals supported by this project will receive from new and transformed services. Local communities as a whole will also benefit through enhanced community involvement, quality of life and access to preventative and primary healthcare and social services.
Lessons learned from this project can be used in other grassroots programs within communities that have high poverty and violence (in particular, sexual violence against young people) in other jurisdictions within Canada and beyond.