Sat | Sep 23, 2017

Rochelle Duncan : Batting for women’s rights

Published:Thursday | September 14, 2017 | 9:02 AMCecelia Campbell Livingston
Rochelle Duncan is passionate about helping vulnerable women and girls.

PORTMORE, St Catherine:

Abused women and those who do not have a voice have seen a passionate advocate in Rochelle Duncan.

Duncan, who will graduate from Norman Manley Law School later this month, is exploring gaps in prosecuting sexual offences.

She shared with Rural Xpress that many of the sexual offence cases have gone unreported and many accused persons, when brought before the court, are not found guilty - even where there is sufficient evidence to prove guilt.

It is that passion that has seen her volunteering with Eve For Live, a non-governmental organisation founded in 2008 in response to the dire need for support to women and children living with or affected by HIV and AIDS and those who are sexually abused, among other things.

"My interest in service relates to women's rights, particularly in addressing gender inequality and the rights of the child, while ensuring the protection of our nation's children," said Duncan.

After being introduced to co-founder Joy Crawford, who enlightened her about the programme, Duncan was inspired to become a volunteer with the organisation.

"I am also personally acquainted with persons who have experienced sexual abuse, but refuse to report it because of fear or potential ridicule. As a law student, I was firstly concerned about the legal aspect, but after speaking with victims of sexual abuse and other persons involved with Eve for Life, I became particularly concerned about victim support," are the impassioned words coming from her.

So touching were some of their stories that Duncan said she was heartbroken about some of the experiences of the women.

"It was hard for me to come to grips with the fact that so many women go through such traumatic experiences, for example, being sexually violated by family members from as young as 12 years old and being threatened to keep silent about it. My broken heart fuelled my anger at one point, but then I realised that what was more important is finding a solution to the problem, and how to give of myself and service," she said of what has now become her passion.

Currently, Duncan's focus is on Eve For Life, but looking ahead, she said it is her desire to become more involved in being an advocate for organisations that focus on protecting and preserving human rights and assist in the care and mentorship of abused and vulnerable women and children.

"Having completed my legal studies, I am interested in using my knowledge and skills to advance the solution to these issues that have become more real to me because of my continued interaction with survivors," she shared.

Duncan, who lives in Portmore, and is a past student of Convent of Mercy Academy 'Alpha' and University of the West Indies, is also a finalist in the Miss Jamaica World competition.

rural@gleanerjm.com