Put us out of business!
As Woman inc celebrated its 35th anniversary over the Valentine’s Day weekend, acting executive director Joyce Hewett is making another plea to Jamaicans to end the violence that creates a need for her organisation. “Many times, I say to people, please put us out of business. I see the confused look on their faces, but what I am trying to relay is that I want our country to be in a place where we do not have to be a refuge for people experiencing violence of any kind.”
Hewett was speaking at the handover of a donation of $300,000 from the Malta brand, which partnered with the Desnoes and Geddes (D&G) Foundation to support the Women’s Crisis Centre that’s operated by Woman inc. When asked how the donation would benefit the organisation, Hewett disclosed with a smile, “When we opened our offices for The Crisis Centre, the space was very open, which went against our mandate for anonymity; but through private funding from the Red Stripe company we were able to install a partition. With this Malta donation, we will be able to install privacy glass, which will help to protect walk-ins identity when visiting our centre. With any remainder, we are hoping to invest in our Transition Home that we are looking to open by July or August.”
Woman Inc is a voluntary, non-profit, non-governmental organisation founded on February 15, 1984. It draws upon the creative energies of women from all walks of life who are dedicated to providing assistance to victims of rape, incest, domestic crisis, sexual harassment at the workplace and human trafficking with a special focus on domestic violence.
Though the organisation provides tremendous support to those in need, Woman Inc continues to face financial constraints that threaten its survival. The main sources of income include private donations, fundraising and a small subvention from the Government because Woman Inc provides the only shelter (The Crisis Shelter) of its kind in the country. “Funding is our main challenge. It’s difficult for us to stay afloat and provide free services for such a paramount need. Domestic disputes continue to rise in our country, so we feel we have so much to do but without the proper funding, it just becomes more challenging.”
Originally launched as the Women Crisis Centre, Woman inc decided to rebrand as a more inclusive entity about 15 years ago. Hewett explained that this was prompted by the rising need to provide assistance to both genders. “We found that there were a number of male victims, men who needed someone to speak to, either for advice or support,” said Hewett. “Through the centre, we provide a shelter, walk-in counselling services and a 24-hour hotline that has specially trained volunteers of both genders to help callers through any crisis.”
The hotline counselling services are fundamental to the centre’s overall mandate and, more importantly, highlights their commitment to anonymity. The hotline operates solely with volunteers, who give their time to further the work of Woman inc. While the centre does offer walk-in services to those in need, the operating hours are from Monday to Friday, between the hours of 9:00 a.m. and 5:00 a.m.; because of this, the 24-hour Hotline becomes more integral.
Malta junior brand manager Michelle Cunningham lauded the Woman Inc team for their commitment to the cause and expressed delight at being able to provide some support. “There is no question as to the impact of Woman Inc and its services. Malta salutes this movement and acknowledges that you are true heroes who consistently care for the ones who care for us.” Cunningham noted that the donation was part of an initiative dubbed ‘Beer Love’, which was executed on Valentine’s Day to give back to its consumers, customers and worthy causes.
“We are just so grateful for this donation and we would love to see more of the private sector emulate moves like this because it does make a difference. As it stands now, there is almost a social order where domestic violence has become an acceptable norm. This impacts us all, the private sector too. Think of the victims who go home to violence every day and get up in the mornings to go to work as if everything is okay; this produces little to no productivity. I hope the more people that learn of these struggles will feel inspired to help us help others,” Hewett urged.
Woman Inc services consist of The Crisis Centre, a Crisis Shelter and a 24-hour Hotline. Additionally, the group has an active public education programme aimed at primary and secondary schools, community groups, church groups and the general public, in addition to sensitisation training for members of the Jamaica Constabulary Force. If you would like more information on Woman Inc or learn how you can help, please reach out to (876) 929-9038 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.