There are over 60 recognised women support groups in T&T but women continue to face exploitation, poverty and discrimination, the political leader of the Congress of the People Carolyn Seepersad-Bachan said on Friday.
Speaking at the International Women's Day seminar held at the Susamachar Presbyterian Church, Seepersad-Bachan said the patriarchal system and the socio-cultural norms of T&T have contributed to the plight of women.
She said women continue to face exploitation even though numerous laws have been passed to protect their rights.
"Many laws have been passed in this country securing property rights for women, for example, the Cohabitation Act which gives women rights to property even if they are in a common-law relationship. It is very progressive legislation yet we still have that gender gap with only 14 per cent of women owning land. Land is an economic power, so women are not being economically powered," she said. Seepersad-Bachan said single mothers continues to live below the poverty line.
"We have 60 NGO’s to support victims of rape and sexual assault yet we continue to see exploitation, abuse and discrimination," she added.
She noted that laws alone were not sufficient to advance the plight of women.
"I went through all the laws to deal with sexual offences and all those created to stop domestic violence and sexual assault. The bottom line is the legislative hammer cannot solve these problems. As much as we want to go to Parliament and pass laws, this is not the solution. The solution lies within our own socio-cultural norms. We have to break past the legacies of a patriarchal society and the norms left by colonialism. We have to think equal, build smart and innovate for a change. We have to disrupt these socio-cultural norms if we are to achieve that balance by 2030," she added.
Asked to explain how this could be done, Seepersad-Bachan said women's groups must enter into communities and break the cycle.
"We have to get community-based groups back in place to support women and find ways to support them in online learning and break the socio-cultural barriers," she added. She also said stereotypes in society have held women back, adding that in the traditional classical economic theory, women are not valued economically for their roles in caring for a family or a community.
Rev Anabell Lalla-Ramkelawan who also spoke said in some countries women were not ordained into the Presbyterian Church because of socio-cultural traditions.
She said women must work together to break the barriers of discrimination and inequality.