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Nailah John creates Facebook page against Domestic Violence in SVG

Nailah John creates  Facebook page against Domestic Violence in SVG

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by Samantha Campbell Fri, Dec 9. 2011

It was shortly before seven, Pacific Standard Time, Monday, when Nailah John’s regular morning routine was interrupted by the piercing pangs of her Blackberry mobile.{{more}}

Just the day before, her phone went crazy with messages from back home detailing the death of a prominent dental technician. Now, less than 24 hours later, the phone was at it again.

In the few minutes that followed, she would learn about the violent machete attack on a young mother on the Grenadine island of Bequia. And a few hours after that, she would see the graphic image on the Internet of the woman lying face down in her own blood.

Oh no, not again!

The incident which left 24-year-old Givvon Bynoe fighting for her life on Monday was the latest in a string of violent attacks in St. Vincent and the Grenadines this year. The killing of dental technician Ewarth ‘Ells’ King on Sunday marked the 23rd time, in 2011, that someone had died by violent means.

Since August, eleven people have been either injured or violently killed here. Among them are 7 women, 2 men and a young boy. The decomposed body believed to be that of another man was also found last week. And as these incidents solicit outrage across the country, reports of daring daylight robberies, car thefts and women’s bags being cut right off their shoulders, generate heated debates about the reasons on local talk shows.

Each time an attack occurs, Vincentians flood social networking sites like Facebook with their own variations of the incident. They send Blackberry broadcasts to one another, far and near, in a similar vein, sometimes followed by gruesome pictures of the crime and their disgust over the seeming rise of violent crime here.

And Vincentians in the Diaspora, like Nailah, with their hands virtually tied by the limitations of distance, ponder what’s taking place in their homeland and what they can do to help.

“It’s a shame I’m not at home, I would be protesting everyday,” she tells me in our first phone conversation in over a decade.

Her words alternating between passionate calls-to-action and a bewildering realisation that things have certainly changed in the country she called home for twelve years.

“I had the pleasure of growing up in beautiful SVG, when it was a society that was very safe, a society where people looked out for each other,” she laments.

“It now saddens me to know that St.Vincent and the Grenadines is no longer as safe as it use to be, especially for women.””

It was after another high profile case in October that Nailah got the idea to advocate for change via the Internet. A budding Miss SVG contestant had gone missing under suspicious circumstances and when a female body, fitting her description, though not formally identified, was found days later, Nailah could no longer remain silent.

She created a Facebook event, urging Vincentians ‘to come together as one and really put a STOP to the increase of violence in society.’

As membership slowly rose, Nailah posted often about the need to find real solutions to the growing crime problem. The responses were promising but talk about how to turn these ideas into something concrete, was glaringly absent.

In an almost bizzare way, the appearance of Bynoe’s slashed body on Facebook walls seemed to be the spark missing from previous online discussions. Some criticised persons for exploiting the young mother’s pain in such a manner, but others seems drawn to really make a difference… this time.

A second group, “Time to Stand Together Against Violence and Crime in SVG”, was immediately formed, swelling to over 1,200 members in its first 18 hours online. The conversations ranged from the usual lamentations over the state of crime in the country to advice on personal safety, and desperate calls for actions.

One Facebooker urged the public to “start by voicing our disgust… don’t make light of matters relating to violence… let women understand it’s not cool for men to give them a slap or box now and then…”. Another said, the “country needs every hand on deck now, Government and people, ULP, NDP and any other P, it’s time we put our country first!!”

Some, unconvinced, were critical of the power of Facebook to create change, saying “if it is said that unity is strength, then ‘we’ all must do something to effect change. Don’t go to work, don’t pay taxes, don’t take your children to school, teachers don’t teach … unless the ‘unity’ has meaning then noise on FB (short for Facebook) is meaningless.”

Nailah welcomes the enthusiasm and even the criticism, saying”the idea was to bring people together so that they can discuss the reasons behind the violence and hopefully find ways that we can reduce it,” a process she says that needs to be done, if long-term solutions are to be found.

A separate virtual group calling itself OccupySVG suggests that the problems here are no different than those occurring aboard which have sparked the Occupy Movements in major global cities.

Nailah’s group may have started out as a hub to discuss ideas, but talks of setting up a formal group structure in St. Vincent and the Grenadines have already started to gain some traction.

On Day 2 of the latest campaign, local painter Calvert Jones made clear his intention to donate to the group the proceeds of an auction of one of his pieces, and jeweler Shari J. Osborne has also promised a contribution, once an account has been established.

Plans are also being made to stage regular marches in the New Year, and a petition to the government is being drafted, asking for further legislation to tackle crime, in particular domestic violence.

It’s left to be seen whether any of these plans will materialise; the shelf life of virtual groups to effect social change is still rarely chartered terriority in the region. And with the Christmas holidays upon us, there are concerns that the exuberant cries for change now will soon be stiflied by the indulgent customs of the festivities.

The more vocal members, though, have promised to work through the Christmas season, engaging victims of domestic abuse at the community level and soliciting businesses for sponsorship.

It is hoped that they can create a living breathing organisation which spans the country’s political and religious barriers and will complement the efforts of police.

It’s probably too early to judge the success of Nailah’s new group. The feverish pace at which members joined or were added to the group has already slowed a bit, with just another a hundred of so people added to its membership.

But a confident Nailah believes that Vincentians will see the purple and black t-shirts the tentative colours of the future organisation out in full force next year and as long as it takes to get things to change.

“We have a lot of work ahead of us,” she tells me, “but by God’s will, we will be successful.”

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