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Pressing for progress

Thursday, March 8, 2018

The Trinidad and Tobago Association of Psychologists, in recognition of International Women’s Day, extends best wishes to all groups in T&T which are involved in the continuing programmes for gender parity.

This year’s theme, #PressforProgress, seeks to equalise the divides between men and women as women seek equal pay for equal work and a reduction in violence against them.

In light of this theme, what progress has been made in T&T to date? The Domestic Violence Act (1999) has been enacted, yet women continue to experience increased stress levels and are embarrassed and humiliated when they make reports to police stations. Perhaps we can press for more workshops on this issue for service providers who are duty bound to protect and serve?

The Child Marriage Act is a significant achievement in a patriarchal society where some elders sought to stop its legislation, as they argued that it breached religious rights. The 27-year-old woman with six children, and unable to spell her name, would have possibly wished for this Act to be enacted soonest. Perhaps we can press for increased vigilance by social workers in homes and teachers in schools, when our young girls stop attending classes especially in rural and oft-forgotten areas?

There are many women who are experiencing mental distress from various situations and there is the need for mental health services to address these issues. Our women are often encouraged to speak out against sexual harassment, violence and struggles in their relationships and their families. But to who? Where can they address these concerns, in an environment that is confidential and safe? Those students who are literally dragged off the streets and gang raped by roving predators and then thrown out of the cars, who never report these issues for fear of further victimisation by schools and authority figures, where can they be counselled? Let us press for a Trauma Centre that can support our young girls and women over a period of time.

Inclusive workplaces and equal pay for equal work? Where? In this country? This is the greatest gender divide, as women have been socialised to believe that even though they do a better job, that men are meant to be in charge. Perhaps we can press for more coverage of gender disparities in the workplace by social media. Which newspaper will take up this challenge? Kudos to the high profile women executives in our organisations, those who remain humble and empathic. Let your experiences be liberating to others.

There can be no gender equality unless there is gender justice. No gender justice until women share equitably in the distribution of power, knowledge and resources. Let us press for people in this society (the 1%) who have made their wealth on the work of the less fortunate, to contribute more monies into projects for our women and into their rural communities. Perhaps they can press for less arrogance and discuss more worthwhile projects as they sip their drinks from their soft chairs, in their air-conditioned spaces, never quite understanding the links between poverty and violence, far removed from this.

Let us press for poverty reduction and increase our women’s economic security. Ensure that our girls go to school and not stay at home minding their younger siblings, as the mother leaves home at 4 am “to tend garden.” No child in T&T should have to learn to write their name at 10 years old. Make poverty a social ill of T&T’s past!

Human progress can be achieved. It is a doable action if we truly believe in the sharing of power and responsibilities within a society. International Women’s Day recognises that women continue to be disproportionately affected. Let us work towards the eradication of violence and poverty from the lives of our women in T&T. Then perhaps, just perhaps, equality may follow.

Dr Margaret Nakhid-Chatoor,
President – T&T Association of Psychologists


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