The Clothesline Project returned for its third year at the Derek Walcott Square last Tuesday in celebration of International Women’s Day 2012. The project was organized by TOCO and PROSAF together with the Division of Gender Relations and hosted by HTS/Radio100. They Often Cry Outreach (TOCO) is a 501(c)(3) US based not-for-profit organization founded by St Lucian artiste Taj Weekes and is dedicated to improving the lives of underprivileged, at-risk and orphaned children in the Caribbean through sports, health and enrichment programs.
The clothesline project is an exhibition of poignant messages penned by family and friends of people who have died and whose lives have been profoundly affected by the scourge of domestic violence. It also highlighted testimonials from women and girls who have and others who are facing domestic and other forms of violence.
The messages were displayed on t-shirts and the activity also provided counseling and answers to people who were currently in an abusive situation. Taj Weekes explained to the STAR what the project is really about and how it has brought a positive change in the lives of women in St Lucia. “It serves two purposes —it gives them an out and it also encourages other women to do the same. It is helpful because people see their story and what they are going through—they tend to shed tears or seek counsel in an effort to get help and get out of their abusive situation,” said Weekes. The recipient of the St Lucia House Foundation’s Humanitarian Award said he was touched when he saw women break down in tears after reading a few messages on the t-shirts. Weeks explained the t-shirts were all bought by himself and “the idea really, is to get persons to write their stories, their messages on the t-shirts. Hopefully next year, participants will bring their own t-shirts to continue hosting the event that is expected to touch and change lives in St Lucia.” Velika Lawrence, a member of Positive Reactions Over Secrets and Fear (PROSAF) says one of the goals of the project is to address the issue of sexual abuse in St Lucia. She noted that suitable resources need to be in place to help the many women and girls who are affected “whether it is secretly or openly and there are many cases that are not heard of in public where young girls and women are sexually assaulted.” She further stated that her organization exists to help the many forms of abuse that affect the lives of women every day. “We live in a society where some of these incidents are kept hush-hush; we are not expected to talk about it, it is always a surprise thing and the clothesline project is happening at a time when a woman was recently murdered along with her infant. This was reported but how many go unreported; how many are covered to protect offenders of these crimes?” Meanwhile, Minister of Gender Relations, Alvina Reynolds has strongly condemned the recent brutal murder of a teenage mother and her one year old daughter. Reynolds says she was deeply saddened by the tragic incident and called on all members of the society to strongly denounce violence against women. She made the pronouncement during the annual clothesline project which was held at the Derek Walcott Square. The Minister further added that the financial and social impact of violence in the society is a major burden. She says persons need to work together to help fight and reduce the incidence of domestic violence against women. The Minister for Gender relations indicated that women on the island are still plagued by poverty, unemployment and abuse and inequality. The clothesline project began on Tuesday and ended yesterday with counseling sessions for abused women and even HIV rapid testing. It featured formal addresses by prominent women and celebrities and saw visits by a number of schools from Castries and surroundings.