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The ‘Nuh Guh Deh’ Campaign Wants to Make Jamaica a Place Where Sexual Abuse of Girls Is Never Okay

Children at an outdoor class run by the local community for the children of squatters in Kingston, Jamaica; photo by the United Nations, used under a CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 license.

Children at an outdoor class run by the local community for the children of squatters in Kingston, Jamaica; photo by the United Nations, used under a CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 license.

Eve for Life, a non-governmental organisation in Jamaica, is trying to change the harsh reality that many young women face in the country through a campaign dubbed “Nuh Guh Deh” (Don't Go There). The “deh” that they are referring to is the sexual abuse of girls and the pervasive attitude of some Jamaicans, especially men, that the practice of sexually initiating girls from a young age is acceptable.

Young women who live below the poverty line are particularly susceptible to being preyed upon. They are often lured into the sex trade, or pimped out to “sugar daddies”, sometimes by their parents or guardians, in exchange for the promise of economic support.

By embarking on this awareness campaign, the NGO hopes to raise awareness about the issue and protect the futures of new generations of young Jamaican women. One blogger, Emma Lewis, is paying attention to their effort and wants to use October's UN International Day of the Girl Child as a springboard to further empower these abused young women, many of whom are not given educational opportunities, which could provide them with a way out.

Lewis acknowledges that such circumstances are not unique to Jamaican girls:

In many parts of the world, girls face discrimination. In some countries, they are forced into early marriages [...] which they are physically and psychologically unprepared for. In many countries, girls are subject to physical and sexual abuse. Millions of girls up to fifteen years of age endure and suffer from female genital mutilation (circumcision). Many are deprived of a proper education. Many are forced into child labor, sexual exploitation and human trafficking. The International Day of the Girl Child focuses on the need to address these difficulties, to promote girls’ empowerment and the fulfillment of their human rights.

She commends the work that Eve for Life is doing, supporting some of the country's most marginalised girls — young, unwed, HIV+ mothers and their children — by providing AIDS counselling, mentoring, social support and training and by advocating on their behalf. Lewis explains:

Young women make up over sixty per cent of all people living with HIV globally. In Jamaica, there are more than twice as many women in the 15 – 24 years age group living with HIV as there are men [...]

Their situation is usually exacerbated by poverty and the rising cost of living; unemployment; stigma and discrimination; lack of family support; domestic and sexual abuse (increasingly); and even in some cases homelessness.

The fact that Eve for Life has publicly addressed such a deeply instilled mindset and is committed to changing the cycle of abuse should go a long way to stopping “the practice of ‘grooming’ young girls, sexualizing them when they are still very young”:

It is the practice of older men approaching these very young girls for sex, which is often forced on them. They are still children. It is illegal. It is sexual abuse. It causes mental, spiritual and physical suffering, unwanted pregnancies, sexually transmitted infections, and sometimes HIV. Men, stop it!

The official launch of the “Nuh Guh Deh” campaign will coincide with the International Day of the Girl Child on Saturday, October 11, 2014.

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