The revolution does not consider age. It calls on everyone, of every strength of body to show up in whatever ways they can. For some, the revolution began on February 4th, 2021 when the body of Andrea Bharatt was found down a precipice in the Heights of Aripo, for others, it has been around, before me, before you, before any of us were gifted breath. The past three weeks saw an upsurge of this revolution, the candlelight vigils as some type of metaphor for burning, renewal and an attempt to carve out a brighter and safer future for women and girls in Trinidad and Tobago.
Nationwide, citizens took to the streets with placards, t-shirts and at night candles to make a clear statement of their breaking point. We were mourning collectively as a nation. Despite the pandemic, everyone knew how important this action meant- to be present, to make their sign, to rally together, to stand up for something. For some, this may have been the first time they protested. As a young feminist activist, this made my heart smile. I saw the same teachings and hard work of older feminist activists (who have passed on and who are still present today, carrying us all on their shoulders), plastered across pieces of bristol boards and flattened cardboard boxes, demanding better. I think about the foundation of my NGO, Feminitt Caribbean, an Intersectional Caribbean Feminist organisation that seeks to advance Gender Justice through education, social good and conversation and what this means for us. It means that we are taking a step in the right direction to bring about change. It means that we have recognised our power to speak up and make aware the extent to which we are in need of change.
This is not to be taken lightly. The citizens of Trinidad and Tobago have been made aware of the reality of the paradise we live in and how underneath all the flora and fauna, death is looming, but the sweetness masks it. This year we had no sweetness. Carnival being cancelled, may have played a part in these issues being more televised and highlighted. There was a new kind of mas, a different kind of protest and J’Ouvert this year. This was a mas where the work of many feminist activists was amplified and valued.
I think about the catalyst for the change, the groups of young women and girls who kept themselves on the frontline working towards better for all. Many protests were student led. Shania Duncan of the University of the West Indies, Institute for Gender and Development Studies (IGDS) Ignite, spearheaded a demonstration on Monday 8th February, supported by Feminitt Caribbean, Trinidad and Tobago Youth Advocacy Network, The UWI Guild of Students and the Youth Humanitarian Foundation. Most of these organisations are led by young women.
Now more than ever, we must all listen and find ways in which we can support and amplify the work of those who work tirelessly on behalf of the nation. Having young women in leadership is not just about meeting a quota, but rather understanding the meaningful contributions women and girls make when they are given a chance to lead and make decisions. Activism is a great space for this action. Women and girls can apply an intersectional feminist lens which examines the root of the issues at hand and develop solutions to deal with the problem. It is training ground for policy change and making. It offers insight into the issues that citizens face on a grassroots level allowing for greater connection.
The revolution is happening, and it includes women and girls at all stages. The Institute for Gender and Development Studies (IGDS), UWI, St. Augustine is a great resource. As part of the Spotlight Initiative, the current life skills Health and Family Life Education (HFLE) curriculum will be assessed and updated to address family violence by the IGDS. Teachers, particularly in the three geographic areas of focus (Tobago, Piarco/Tunapuna and Rio Claro/Mayaro) will then be trained to deliver the updated curriculum. The revolution begins in the classroom where boys and girls have access to the language and the tools to unlearn practices and beliefs that contribute to Gender-Based Violence.
Persons can also check out the Write Yuh MP campaign led by IGDS Ignite, that provides a letter template, contact information, the address, and areas of focus for reform for citizens of Trinidad and Tobago to reach out to their MP.
Find more information here: https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/1kNOOrAJFX5_vw9wKr733Cxbg8CnVs4vB
The revolution does not have to be loud. It can be soft and occur in the quiet of night with keyboards tapping, reaching out to elected officials. The revolution is now, and it is me, it is us, it is you.