Mauritius: Saving and changing lives

Mauritius: Saving and changing lives

Date: April 27, 2018
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By Sheistah Bundhoo
Melrose, 25 April – “I came out of the Rehabilitation Youth Centre in 2017 after being condemned for three years given that I ran away from my parental home. I still remember the abuse I faced on the part of my step mother who always had a preference for her biological daughter. When I rebelled, she would ask my father to beat me up because I was speaking out my mind” – Saron*, Resident of Safe Haven Shelter .

In 2017, the Gender Ministry recorded 2232 cases from boys and 2854 cases from girls victims of abuse and violence. There are also cases of children aged 12 till 18 living at the Rehabilitation Youth Centre (RYC) or the Correctional Youth Centres (CYC). The Reform Institution Act and Juvenile Offenders Act of Mauritius govern the RYC and the CYC. Both centres cater for the detention and training of minors. However, at the age of 18, many of these young adults with no relatives or support system have to fend for themselves. In 2016 an investigation was done by the Ombudsperson for the Children’s Office and concluded that the conditions at both the RYC and CYC are horrendous. The children do not have adequate education or health care, meaningful recreation, leisure activities. According to the Gender Ministry in 2013 ‘Expenditure under the programme 523 – “Child Protection, Welfare and Development” totalled about Rs 98.6 million. 53 % of expenses were on children placed under safety’. This is indeed a big step towards safety of children. However, it is sad to note that the Gender Ministry itself owns no shelter in Mauritius. Charitable and non-governmental organisations operate the shelters.

Considering the above challenges, Gender Links (GL) Mauritius opened “Safe Haven Halfway Home” a shelter to help young adults with their reinsertion in society in September 2017. Watch the video here.

The Halfway home is a temporary shelter for young female adults coming from the RYC and other children shelters. These youths have been abused and rejected and yet determined to bring a positive change in their lives. The halfway home is a way to save and change lives and give the young adults a second chance by helping them with more self-esteem and proactivity; by enrolling them in different courses; by empowering them become financially independent and helping them in getting jobs and keeping a budget and applying for social housing.

From September 2017 till date there has been 10 residents at the shelter. GL have reunited five of them with their parents/ families. Five of them are residing at shelter for now; out of which three works in the hotel sector, one is doing her A-Level studies and one is starting a job in the hotel sector in the months to come. The mission of Safe Haven is to rehabilitate the young adults and empower them from a state of dependency to a state on interdependency. The future plan is to secure a plot of land to build a shelter for homeless youth and contribute in their empowerment.

The Republic of Mauritius is a signatory to a number of international treaties promoting and providing for equal rights. This includes ratification of the Optional Protocol of the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) in 2008 and ratification of the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa in 2005. Regionally although Mauritius is a party to the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Protocol on Gender and Development 2008, the country did not sign the Protocol on the basis that the Mauritian Constitution have reservations about child marriages which still remains a stumbling block. In December 2014, Mauritius signed the Sustainable Development Goal and vowing to bring about change on the status of women and girls and by eliminating poverty by 2030. However, there still remain a lot of work to be done for abused and homeless young girls.

Sheistah Bundhoo is a Programme Officer at Gender Links Mauritius. This article is part of the GL News and Blogs

*Saron  not her real name

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