Vessels of Purpose Elite (VOPE), a girls empowerment and mentoring program is set to host its Third Annual Girls and Women Empowerment Encounter at the Pelican Bay Resort, beginning at 3:00 p.m.
Unlike the non-profit organization’s previous events, this year, founder and program director of VOPE, Brennamae Rolle-Cooper, expressed that the event will be held in the form of a panel discussion, targeting a topic near and dear to her, that of the legal age of sexual consent within The Bahamas.
“On Saturday, April 29, beginning at 3:00 p.m. at the Pelican Bay Resort, we will be hosting our Third Annual Girls and Women Empowerment Encounter. This year, our theme is ‘Sweet 16; legal 18’, with a focus on the Sexual Offences Act, where we will be looking at the age of sexual consent in The Bahamas. We will have a panel discussion with a variety of professionals inclusive of attorneys, medial personnel, youth pastors, from the spiritual aspect, social workers concerned parents as well some of our youth, both male and female for the event.
Rolle-Cooper, a social worker by profession, stated that addressing the age of sexual consent is one that needs to be amended as the repercussions of sexual activity with minors is far reaching; hence the decision to make present the issue as the core of this year’s empowerment encounter.
“This is extremely important; personally it is and as I shared with the mentors of my organization, and other persons within the community, it is a concern for many people, and, it has been for me personally for a number of years, being a social worker for the past 20 years. It is something that I believe the public needs to be sensitized and educated on it because many persons are not aware of what the present law is.
“VOPE was officially launched in September 2014. It is a girls’ mentoring and empowerment program, where we service girls who are residents of East End, or who have some type of affiliation, with East Grand Bahama. Our purpose is to expose our girls to an environment where they can grow spiritually, and emotionally, where they can be reminded that they are fearfully and wonderfully made. We are big on community service that is our platform. We encourage our girls to be leaders, empower them to lead in their churches, in the community and in their schools.”
Chairing the panel discussion on Saturday will be Ruth Cadet, Founder of Sparkles Mentoring Group and Rayette McDonald, Founder of Esteemed Productions. Panelists include attorney and VOPE mentor, Pleasant Bridgewater, Royal Bahamas Police force Officers (RBPF) Corporal Lamardo Bowe and Corporal Latoya Major-Rolle, social workers Fran Brice and Rochelle Minnis, Sister Cheryl Bain, Principal Nursing Officer at the Rand Memorial Hospital, Sister Cathy Saunders, also of the RMH.
“From a spiritual standpoint Pastors Kyle Maycock and Pastor Wayne Carey will be speaking, as well as what I call our social activist fighter, Joy Ritchie-Greene, she has been very instrumental when this law was being passed, she has a wealth of knowledge to share with us in that regard. We also have a youth, a young male, Raphael Roker, a student of St. Georges High, and an active youth member of Jubilee Cathedral. This young man is positive minded; he is going in the right direction and I truly feel that he will add a lot to this panel discussion. To top off the evening will be Pastor Valentine Johnson and Edamae Rolle-Jones, the mother of Jonquell Jones. Both of them will be speaking on the value system; if the law is 16 or if the law changes to 18, it is your choice and how you value your body, and your self worth. We want them to make the right choice. Everyone will be leaving empowered.
Additionally, VOPE Mentor Lavonia Russell, shared that a number of the mentees within the organization will receive awards for academic and civic achievement on Saturday as well.
“Our awards will be based on the girls that are members of VOPE. Awards will be presented in academics, community service, and the elite vessels award. We also held an essay competition on the topic, ‘The Sexual Offence Law and why should the age of sexual consent in The Bahamas be amended from 16 to 18 years old. The winners of the essay competition will be announced on Saturday, said Russell.
The event is open to all, however as it is the program’s main fundraiser, Rolle-Cooper shared that there is a fee, which will include a lunch. Persons can contact her at 559-3600 or on Facebook at Vessels of Purpose Elite to secure seating. Persons will also be accommodated on the day of the event, however, she encourages persons to reserve seating prior to the event as seating is limited.