Battered women Home for government takeover, regularisation
To be closed for two weeks

By Miranda La Rose
Stabroek News
May 30, 2001

The Genesis Home for Battered Women will suspend its operations for a period of two weeks, beginning on June 1, to facilitate a changeover in the ownership and management of the home from a non-governmental organisation to government.

The changeover is due to difficulties encountered in effectively managing the home after two of the major sources of funding dried up.

Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Human Services and Social Security, Roopnarine Khadoo, told Stabroek News yesterday that the two-week period should be sufficient to allow for proper systems to be put in place for effective management.

For two years, since it opened its doors, the home was privately run as a non-profit organisation by an administrator who was accountable to a board of directors.

Khadoo told Stabroek News that the changeover in administration followed discussions by the administrator Carmelite Nun, Sister Jacintha and former minister of Human Services and Social Security Indra Chandarpal last August when she described a situation in which the major sources of funding for the project had dried up; and the board had taken a collective decisions to ask government to take over the project.

At the time, he said, government could not take over the project as there was no provision in the ministry?s for such a venture. However, Cabinet had allocated some $2.5 million made possible by the Guyana Lottery Commission to ensure that the home stayed in operation to the end of the year.

The ministry, he said, has detailed estimates for this year's budget and funds have been released piecemeal to upkeep it until the national budget is passed.

Asked if it was necessary to close down the operation to effect the changeover, Khadoo said that a privately run institution would have had a different management structure than government. Employees, he said, would have to become public servants and the accounting system would have to adhere to government's model. In addition, he said, it would be necessary to screen the residents of the half-way home as it was not meant to be a permanent residence for persons but for them to be counselled and rehabilitated.

The two weeks for the changeover, he said was not meant to punish or chase anyone but it was the intention to provide a better service and do a better job than the previous administration in recent times. Among the regulations to be put in place, he said, would be one that ensured that the right set of people benefited. He said that the ministry was equipped to deal with counselling as it has probation and welfare officers and social security and the Women's Affairs Bureau.

To make the home an official government entity, he said, Cabinet had to give approval. Cabinet met yesterday, but it was not certain whether the approval to takeover the home was granted. In the past, he noted, government provided a subvention to the home though it was not responsible for the day-to-day operations.

Apart from the financial problems, Khadoo said, the ministry had discovered that some of the residents did fit the criteria of battered women. If women had infants they were accommodated, he said, but it was found that there were capable women living freely on the provisions of the home.

Sister Jacintha told Stabroek News that she had handed over the assets to government early this month. The main reason, she said, was because the financial assistance which she got from the Franciscan Sisters and the Food for the Poor had stopped. Food for the Poor stopped helping in 1999 and the Franciscan sisters at a later date.

The funds, she said, were not spent only on the home but to maintain the one-mile road to the home, which was upgraded at a cost of $5 million; the trenches and to develop agriculturally and maintain the whole complex in general. Besides paying staff, she said, it took a lot of money to run the home.

Throughout the operations and after, Sr Jacintha said, Chandarpal was very supportive. The board members, too, she said were supportive and were only a phone call away. However, sources told Stabroek News that the board, which was headed by social worker Sybil Patterson, had stopped functioning a long time ago and this might have also led to the breakdown at the home. This newspaper learnt that some of the board members were not keen on travelling to the home to keep meetings where it was felt they would have had a better opportunity to assess the operations there, but were content to hold the meetings in the city.

Asked how it was that some persons who did not meet the criteria were allowed a place at the home, Sr Jacintha said that indeed there were some homeless people there who are not supposed to be there and they created the problems.

Two persons who are there right now and who did not meet the criteria to stay there, she said were homeless. She said she took pity on them and decided to help. She said that the first woman was nine months pregnant with two children including a baby 13 months old. "She was not an abused woman as such but she was homeless. I felt very sorry for her. It was only after the baby was born that we saw that she was not interested in going back to work." The other woman, she said, was seven months pregnant and had a lot of old scars from previous abuse. She had seven children and even though she had been separated from her husband he visited her there.

Sr Jacintha also noted that other cases were taken there to her by reputable people and she always tried her best to help. "Probably because of who I am," she said, she was perhaps not best suited for the job in meeting strict guidelines as to who to help and who not to help.

In spite of those cases, she said, there were many woman who were counselled and many went back to their husbands while others opted to go on their own with help from the home. In those "impossible" cases where women opted to leave their husbands, she said, the home helped some women with two to three months rent, mattresses, stoves and cooking utensils as they tried to get back on their feet after it was felt that they were capable of going back into the world of work.

The home, in West Demerara has accommodation for 20 women, kitchen and dining facilities; quarters for a caretaker and a lot of land around the home for agricultural purposes, such as cash and permanent crops, artesian fishing and poultry rearing.

The permanent secretary said that at present the ministry was looking at a detailed plan to deal for agriculture development at the home. Another building, which was set up to do pottery for craft work is also expected to go into operation once the programme gets underway once more, Khadoo said.

Stabroek News learnt that the ministry had informed the residents that they would all have to move to facilitate the changeover. Help and Shelter, another non-governmental organisation dealing with domestic violence, has offered to accommodate the genuine cases.