During the month of March, in celebration of Honoring Women’s Day on March 8th, the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement (IFRC) launched a global competition asking members of its 191 National Societies from around the world to submit nominees to spotlight inspiring women in the areas of leadership and innovation within the Movement. Over 12,500 entries were submitted from across the globe, and 14 women were given a special Commendation Award for their work in their communities. Among them, the Cayman Islands Red Cross’ (CIRC) own Deputy Director, Carolina Ferreira, who was the only recipient from the Caribbean Region and one of only two recipients from the entire Americas Region.
“Ms. Ferreira is the true embodiment of the values and principles behind the Red Cross Movement,” says CIRC Director Jondo Obi. “She is a relentless advocate for anyone – especially children - who suffer any injustice, and is constantly working towards helping those whose voice needs to be heard. She is a true leader, and one that fights tirelessly for the Cayman Islands community.”
While the CIRC coordinated the nomination of Ms. Ferreira, the actual information and support came from outside the organization by members of partner agencies that have worked closely with her over the course of many years.
One such partner is Inspector Kevin Ashworth of the Family Support Unit of the RCIPS and a member of the Protection Starts Here (PSH) group, who characterize Ms. Ferreira as a fearless leader of the group: “She’s absolutely relentless in her mission of child protection and advocacy, and in what she’s trying to achieve, whether at the Red Cross or as part of the PSH group. She doesn’t get put off by any negativity or backs down from a challenge. If she runs into a wall, she’ll just climb over it.”
Sophia Chandler, Child Psychologist for HSA and a member of the PSH group further details: “Ms. Ferreira has been able to help organize a number of key organizations to come together and do the work that really needs to be done as part of the PSH group. She constantly observes our community – and the world around us, and leading change on a moment by moment basis, to help people and educate the community on important issues”.
Other recipients of the IFRC Commendation Awards included volunteers and staff working in war zones, with refugees and orphans, those in countries that have been hit the hardest due to climate change and who are working towards environmental sustainability, and those in some of the most impoverished areas of the world who are providing health and sanitation education to the most vulnerable. Recipients hailed from Yemen, Kenya, Namibia, Pakistan, and South Sudan, among others.
As Deputy Director and Child Protection and Sexuality Education Programme Manager Ms. Ferreira has multiple responsibilities within the CIRC, among them the coordination of the Protection Starts Here (PSH) grassroots multi-agency child abuse prevention project. The PSH project, born out of the HIV and AIDS Peer Education Program which she ran between 2002-2012, has had tremendous impact locally in furthering the awareness, education, and prevention of child sexual abuse in Cayman.
PSH created a new form of multi-agency partnership as it is prevention focused and NGO led, and its work has been receiving recognition around the world as the group was selected to present at international conferences in Huntsville, Prague and Montego Bay in 2018 alone.
The Cayman Islands Red Cross and the PSH working group have also assisted in furthering child protection measures at other Overseas Territories by helping the Anguilla Red Cross and BVI Red Cross build capacity in the area of awareness and education via the Darkness to Light “Stewards of Children” training.
Ms. Ferreira, who celebrated her 20th anniversary with the Cayman Islands Red Cross in 2017, was selected both because of the innovative work that she and the PSH working group have done as well as the leadership qualities that she continues to demonstrate as a coordinator, educator, and advocate for the most vulnerable.
“It is really humbling to receive this type of recognition, especially when you consider the barriers and realities that others in the Movement are facing- like war and starvation- which are so far removed from our reality it is difficult to wrap our heads around it,” states Ms. Ferreira. “However, I was truly floored by how much trust and faith the people that I work with have put and continue to put in me. While this isn’t comparable to war or other large scale disasters by any means, our work is still difficult work. Dealing with child abuse is heart-breaking, demanding, sensitive and unpopular work, and I’m not even at the frontlines of it. I have been so fortunate on so many fronts: at the CIRC I have a team of people who provide unconditional support and encouragement and with PSH I have found incredible professionals who are equally committed, passionate and far more knowledgeable than me who have come together to work for our children. The work that we have all done and continue to do together, that’s what’s truly commendable” she adds.
The work and stories of the 14 recipients of the Commendation Awards will be shared by the International Federation of the Red Cross at various events, exhibitions and communications around the world.