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Basseterre, St. Kitts (SKNIS): The Department of Gender Affairs is targeting young women in schools as one of its efforts to help boost self-esteem among the young women of the country. This is in an effort to help reduce incidents of domestic violence, according to Mrs. Celia Christopher, Acting Director of the Department of Gender Affairs.

"We are focusing now on the young girls and so we are going in to do personal development training, which involves self-esteem because we realize there is an issue," Mrs. Christopher said on the government radio programme "Working For You" on International Women's Day on March 08. She said there is gender sensitization training where students are involved, with the hope that they will return and impart that to other young girls.

"I realize in some of the training when we go into the schools, there's a serious issue of self-worth and I was taken aback with how deep it is," she added.

Minister of State responsible for Gender Affairs, Senator the Hon. Wendy Phipps, who was also a guest on the programme, posited the view that lack of proper parenting and attention to children is one of the main reasons that lead to low self-esteem. She believes young girls clamor for attention from their parents and when they do not get this attention, they resort to negative behavior to get that attention. This she believes carries over into adulthood which may be why some women settle for domestic abuse from their male partners.

"Children try everything in their power to get your attention and sometimes these children figure the only way I can get her attention or his attention is to do something wrong. So their mentality begins to become warped and if you're not careful they grow up with that same mindset into adulthood," she explained. "It should be poured into our children that nobody who loves you hurts you. And even though sometimes the rules might be stiff, at the end of the day children understand, if you show them the linkages between reward for good behavior and punishment for bad behavior, they will understand the difference between good and bad and evil as well at the same time and they will become better citizens at the end of the day," she said.

Mrs. Christopher pointed to the importance of the work of the Department of Gender Affairs in the fight against domestic violence, but noted that it will take the entire community to help in the cause. As such, the department is making strategic links with the church and other civic groups, with the hope of showing especially young girls the need for self-worth and self-esteem.

"We can make all the laws in the world, but it goes right back to behavior. People have to want to change something and as the minister says, no one institution can do it alone and that is why we are partnering," she said.

She explained that gender based violence is costly and disrespectful to women and that is why they are partnering with other institutions to address the problems that cause domestic violence.

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