Exercising Personal Leadership to Eliminate Violence Against Women

Today is International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. And not a moment too soon. All around the world today there will be marches, exhibitions, symposiums, all manner of important events to help bring about a better understanding of the ways in which Violence Against Women is perpetrated and the devastating effect it has on women.

Today also marks the beginning of 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence which is an international human rights campaign to raise awareness and encourage action to help end violence against women. The 16 Days begin on November 25th and ends on December 10 – International Human Rights day, to emphasize the fact that #VAW is a human rights issue.

Women have a right to be free from violence; from abuse by their intimate partners, sexual violence, trafficking and murder. But women are not only subject to violence from individuals, they are often subject to violence from the media, the legislature and even the state. 

Over the next #16Days we will discuss these various types of violence and hear from extraordinary everyday folks who are doing what they can to help end gender-based violence.

What can YOU do?

YOU can exercise your own personal leadership in helping to change the pervasive cultural inertia around VAW issues and challenge the destructive messages and thinking which blames women for the violence perpetrated against them.  

For a start you can reblog and share our posts and participate in our discussions on twitter and facebook. Moreover, you can start your own conversations with friends and take the initiative to find out and share information about Crisis Hotlines, Services and legal recourse for women and men who have suffered gender-based violence.

We also hope that some of you will be inspired by the work of our activists and discover ways to use your special talents and abilities to contribute to making the Caribbean, and the world a safer, freer and more just place for women and girls.

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OUTRAGED! Rape of a Child is NOT Entertainment!

On 25th October, 2011, the local television program “Crime Watch” which airs on TV6 at 6pm in Trinidad and Tobago, aired video footage of a 13 year old girl being beaten and raped. The host of Crime Watch, also had the child’s mother on set and asked her questions about how she felt on hearing the cries of her daughter as she is being raped by several men on the video.

I cannot sit idly by and merely shake my head at this abomination. That the rape of a child is aired on a television show that is notorious for sensationalizing, and packaging criminal activity and trauma of victims as entertainment, signals that we have reached an all new level of barbarism.

In a country where the cries of a child being raped can be aired at prime time, and then again at night, and again the next day, and again the next night – is it any wonder that we are a country whose rates of murder of women by domestic partners and rape are amongst the highest in the world?

For if we can reduce someone to a sound-bite, a headline, a statistic, then it becomes easier for us to forget they are human beings. They become ‘the other’, ‘a number’, ‘not one of us’. And when we are fed violence as entertainment, we become desensitized to the chopping, the burning, the raping. Suddenly a woman who is ‘just’ battered is no big deal.

WomenSpeak was created to give these ‘statistics’ a human face. To give women the opportunity to tell their stories of abuse, harassment, discrimination, in their own words. To encourage every man and woman in the region to take responsibility for sharing the message that discrimination against women is a disease that is rotting us from the inside out. That we stand as Caribbean men and women, boys and girls who believe in the dignity of all human beings. And we DEMAND higher standards of decency, empathy and justice for women and girls.

We each have a voice. Let us use it. If we are fed up of the exploitation, denigration and dehumanization of our women, men  and children, please exercise your conscience and let the Telecommunication Authority of Trinidad and Tobago, Crime Watch and TV6 and its affiliates know what you think of it’s degrading ratings ploys; of this violence perpetrated by the local media upon it’s citizens.


For my part, I want Crime Watch OFF THE AIR. PERIOD.

Below are contact numbers and links

Telecommunications Authority of Trinidad and Tobago  (click link for complaint form)

#5 Eighth Avenue Extension, Off Twelfth Street, Barataria, Trinidad and Tobago.

Phone : 1-868-675-8288


35 Independence Square , Port of Spain, Trinidad, WI

Telephone 1-868-627-8806

Trinidad Express Newspapers 

35-37 Independence Square, Port of Spain, Trinidad, WI


Hott 93 Office
#5 Rosalino Street, Woodbrook
Port Of Spain, Trinidad, W.I.
Phone: (868).625.8426, (868).623.7605
Fax: (868).624.3234

Simone Leid – The WomenSpeak Project


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BlogHer 2011 International Activist Panel

I recently attended Blogher11 and participated in the International Activist Scholarship Winners’ Panel. It was a wonderful and eye-opening experience. More than anything I learned that women all over the world share the same hopes, aspirations and challenges. And they are also incredibly powerful and I definitely felt that energy as 4000 women bloggers from around the world met to discuss their work, learn from each other and give love and support to one another’s projects. Women cried, laughed, danced, networked, formed alliances and shared their secrets to success. I felt grounded and inspired.

Here is a transcript of the panel discussion with my fellow panelists – Reem Abbas from Sudan who blogs about social and political issues in Sudan on her blog Wholeheartedly-Sundaniya; Elianne Ramos of Latism, who spoke on behalf of Yoani Sanchez an activist from Cuba whose blog Generation Y has earned her worldwide renown but has resulted in her being considered an enemy of the state by the Cuban Government. She was denied a travel visa by the Cuban Government to attend the event; And Cheryl Contee who moderated the panel and blogs at JackandJillPolitics.

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BlogHer 11

BlogHer 11

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Alake Pilgrim – Writing Brings Us Together

“When we realise that we share issues then we can actually think about how to change them collectively, because sometimes as an individual, things can seem overwhelming if you’re trying to address them just by yourself.” ~ Alake Pilgrim

Share Your Story and help build a community that can work towards eradicating discrimination against women. 

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What is CEDAW?

The Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) is an international human rights treaty whereby Governments agree that they will implement measures (policies, laws, resources) to ensure that women and girls enjoy the same rights, freedoms, opportunities and outcomes as men.  


The Convention defines discrimination against women as

 "…any distinction, exclusion or restriction made on the basis of sex which has the effect or purpose of impairing or nullifying the recognition, enjoyment or exercise by women, irrespective of their marital status, on a basis of equality of men and women, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural, civil or any other field.“

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Are You An Advocate? Yes, You Are!

Anyone can be an advocate. Being an advocate means

1. You feel strongly about an issue

2. You are taking positive actions to help influence change

There are many simple and creative things each of us can do to help make the world more equitable and just.

Here are some everyday things that you can do to become an advocate in your own life and for others.

1. Learn more about whatever issue you feel strongly about. Read books, blogs, newspaper articles, attend conferences and public consultations.

2. Tell your story. Let others know about your experiences; this helps raise awareness and helps others relate better.

3. Share links to articles, causes and events

4. Start conversations among your family and friends, learn other viewpoints.

5. Write a letter to the editor of a newspaper and share your point of view on a current issue.

6. Write a letter to the Management of your company if you think you and others are being treated unfairly.

7. Ensure your actions, speech and behaviour reflect your principles and beliefs.

8. Speak up when you hear friends and co-workers make offensive or derogatory comments about a group or cause that you believe in.

9. Volunteer with an organisation that supports your areas of interest

10. Encourage your Company to support an NGO, sponsor an event or special interest group

11. Believe in yourself! Your thoughts and opinions have value.

There are many other simple and creative ways we can all work towards making a more equitable and just world.

What are some of the ways you advocate?

check out our discussion on facebook 

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Trinidad and Tobago 3rd Best Place to be born a girl? What the report doesn’t say.

Plan UK along with The Royal Commonwealth Society recently released a report on the Best Countries in the Commonwealth to be Born a girl.  The top three places went to New Zealand, Barbados and Trinidad and Tobago.

Wait, what?

The study used 8 indicators to come up with the rankings

1: Life Expectancy at birth

2: Sheer Survival – Proportion of under-5 year olds that are underweight

3: Education for Life – Expected number of years in school (primary and secondary)

4: Early Pregnancy – Fertility rate of girls aged 15-19 years

5: Studying Hard -Commonwealth Scholarships and Fellowships taken up in the acdemic years 2006/7, 2007/8 and 2008/9

6: Political Participation

7: A Sporting Chance – Atheletes and Medals at the Delhi Commonwealth Games

8: The Pay Gap – Gender gap in pay

Ref – http://plan-international.org/files/global/publications/campaigns/because-youre-a-girl.pdf

What the Report doesn’t say

1. In Trinidad and Tobago DEATHS from cases of domestic violence have quadrupled over a five-year period from 2004 to 2008, while the amount of cases of domestic violence reported to police have increased by 60 percent. The number of cases of deaths in relation to domestic violence for the years 2004 to 2008 there were 9, 26, 32, 17 and 36 deaths respectively. In terms of the number of cases of domestic violence reported to the police for the same period, the recorded cases numbered 962, 1,291, 1,250, 1,356 and 1,556 respectively.

2.  According to data available from the UNODC’s Crime Trends Survey, based on police stats, three of the top ten recorded rape rates in the world are in the Caribbean. All of the island nations from which data was gathered — Bahamas, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Jamaica, St. Kitts and Nevis, Dominica, Barbados, and Trinidad and Tobago — experienced a rate of rape above the unweighted average of the 102 countries in the survey. Between 80-90 rapes were reported to the TnT Rape Crisis Society during 2004-2005. The Society also notes the increase in the number of gang rapes. Added to this many rapes go unreported.

3. Trinidad and Tobago still has no national policy on sexual harassment in the workplace.

4. In Dominica, St. Lucia and Trinidad and Tobago girls outnumber boys by a large margin in being awarded Commonwealth Scholarships. However, even though more women are earning higher degrees, women’s earnings are still below mens with ratios of 46% in Trinidad and Tobago and 52% for St. Lucia.

5. In T&T banking and financial serivces sector, 80% of employees at the lower level are female while only 25% of women reach higher managerial levels

6Women still report being victimized and discriminated against with regard to maternity in the workplace.

7. Maternal Mortality in Trinidad and Tobago (2008) is 55 deaths per 100 000 births. While this figure is far better than over half of the developing world, we can do far better.

So what does this mean for us?

I think its significant that even while women have a more public face – are participating in political life, are excelling educationally and athletically, there are still many serious issues that threaten our lives and well being. Sexist attitudes and discriminatory behaviours are still entrenched in our societies. Violence Against Women is still tolerated and often blamed on women themselves. Our countires need to do better. Each one of us needs to do what we can to stand up against such injustice. We cannot be complacent.

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