York Professor Ruth Rodney contributes to novel report on violence against women and girls in Guyana

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The first national prevalence study on violence against women and girls (VAWG) in Guyana reports that one in two females have experienced some form of intimate partner violence in their lifetime.

Released Nov. 13, the report “Guyana Women’s Health and Life Experiences Survey Report” was designed to offer comprehensive national information to focus on violence prevention efforts in Guyana.

Assistant Professor Ruth Rodney presenting the results of the research during the launch

York University Assistant Professor Ruth Rodney, in the School of Nursing, Faculty of Health, contributed to the report and completed the qualitative component of this study together with Sireesha Bobbili, project manager at CAMH and PhD candidate from the Faculty of Public Health at University of Toronto. That study is titled “Women’s Health and Life Experiences: A Qualitative Research Report on Violence Against Women in Guyana.”

Rodney and Bobbili were also interviewed on Hits and Jams 94.1 BOOM FM, a radio station based in Georgetown, Guyana, and reached more than 8,000 people who tuned in to discuss VAWG and learn about their research results. The radio interviews took place over three days, and the recorded sessions are available on the Hits and Jams Facebook page and continue to be accessed since their release on air.

“We made a concerted effort to speak with various community members,” said Rodney. “We were very pleased that Hits and Jams gave us the platform to speak with the wider community. It gave us the ability to reach communities that may not have had access to our results otherwise. It is important that discussions on VAWG occur within communities because our research illustrated the importance of the community voice in intimate relationships. Our new relationship with Hits and Jams offers more opportunities to expand our reach.”

One main finding from the qualitative report was the serious and sometimes fatal outcomes for women when communities chose to engage in idle gossip. In their report, Rodney and Bobbili indicated that gossiping continued in communities when the masculinity of men was threatened, even though multiple examples exist of women being killed based off of rumours.

Sireesha Bobbili (left) and Ruth Rodney (right) presenting the report to the High Commissioner of Canada

“Our results show that gender inequality is at the root of violence against women in Guyana. These traditional ideas about the differences between women and men are learned through family and community members and lead people to play distinct roles in society. Even though certain gender norms may be harmful, results show that the majority of women hold these values,” said Bobbili. “Eighty-three per cent of women thought that men should be the head of the household and 78 per cent believed that women should take care of the home; however, 88 per cent of Guyanese women also believed that women and men should share authority in the household. These contradictory ideas can contribute to violence when women are expected to conform to gender norms.”

Their research also examines how a coordinated, women-centered, multi-sectoral response would decrease the re-victimization survivors experience when seeking help. Most importantly, Rodney’s and Bobbili’s report provides Guyanese-based services and initiatives that can be modeled to improve other sectors within the country.

The report includes the first research results of its kind launched for Guyana. It was funded by UN Women, UNDP, USAID and the Inter-American Development Bank.