Her Excellency Mrs Reema Carmona Address At #LetsTalkTT Event
In Observance of The 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence Hosted By The British High Commission and The European Union Delegations At the Residence of the British High Commissioner, Maraval
When my grandmother was a little girl, she was married off at the age of 13 and never realised her dream of becoming a teacher. Child marriage has no place in any progressive society that aspires to genuine and equitable human development. Trinidad and Tobago finally did away with this anachronism in 2017.
Advocacy and actions are required to ensure that no demographic is left behind and this wonderful awareness campaign- #LetsTalkTT- will carry us forward in our march to eradicate violence against women and girls. In this fight for gender freedom and protection, we must hold hands, in the spirit and thrust of the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. As Malala Yousafzai, stated, “We cannot all succeed when half of us are held back”. Ladies and gentlemen, no one must be left behind.
We must ensure that our efforts reach the most under-served, vulnerable and marginalized women and girls, who are found in refugee camps, violent conflicts zones, areas of natural disasters and that vulnerable and exposed demographic- women and young girls with disabilities. I am genuinely appalled and concerned at the alarming murder statistics of our Trinbago women, who perish at the hands of domestic violence.
Gender-based violence, along with harmful practices, such as child marriage and female genital mutilation, are human rights violations that rob women and girls of their futures and undermine their health and well-being. Women and girls must be educated as to their inalienable human rights. An informed person is an empowered person. Social media has become a powerful tool of information sharing and enlightenment, but regrettably, in some instances, it has become an equally destructive means to perpetuate cyber violence, by “keyboard gangsters”- to quote my husband, His Excellency President Carmona. As women, we are sometimes our worst enemies- each of us in this room, may have, at one time or the other, been victim to those keyboard gangsters, who inflict pain, psychological abuse and violence, by gross untruths and malice. As women, we cannot speak of inequality to men and violence by men against women, when we ourselves, as women, are unprepared to treat our sisters and women-folk equally, fairly, with dignity and respect.
The ever-riveting performances of the 2 Cents Movements says it like it is- that violence against women need not be only physical for it to be real. We must return to the days where we were our sister’s and brother’s keeper. The 2 Cents Movement, in “Common Grounds” speak also to male dominance, abuse and harassment, as factors that heavily tip the equality and respect scale. To end the violence, it begins with simple acts of mothers empowering their man-child to be decent, courteous and respectful to women. This will, in some measure, trigger the culture shift towards equality and less violence against our women and girls. Gender equality will inevitably mitigate gender-based violence.
This year, as the 16 Days of Activism to End Gender Based Violence campaign launches, women around the world have begun speaking out against sexual harassment and assault, loudly, urgently – and, at last, they are not only being listened to, but being heard. Women have recognised that silence is no longer golden- it is not even bronze. The silence of the past is giving way to public denunciation of gender-based violence, from harassment and intimidation, to rape, human trafficking and sexual slavery. We cannot allow these transgressions to go unpunished. Legislation must be enacted; people must not be afraid to report and speak out; we have a moral duty to give a voice to the voiceless.
In this regard, I commend the work and activism of the British High Commission and the European Union Delegations in Trinidad and Tobago, as they represent an independent and global conscience to do what is right. The #BeboldforChange campaign highlighted by the British High Commission, and the #EU4HumanRights initiatives of the European Union, are empowering and inspirational in their mission to end violence against women. Your Excellency High Commissioner Tim Stew of the United Kingdom and Your Excellency Ambassador Aad Biesebroek of the European Union, your game-changing leadership stands, as strong examples, of men, who are prepared to stand up to violence against women and to gender inequality. Such initiatives will enrich us all, by ensuring that equality, genuine inclusivity and women empowerment are at the core of this Nation’s development.
Tomorrow, the International Community will observe World AIDS Day. I join my colleagues at PANCAP (Pan Caribbean Partnership against HIV/AIDS) and all stakeholders in Trinidad and Tobago, the Region and the world, in advancing the theme for World Aids Day, “Right to Health”, which relates directly to the United Nations’ Sustainable Development, Goal 3- Good Health and Well-Being.
What does this have to do with gender-based violence? Well, the right to health is jeopardized when people face stigma and discrimination, and when they lack information, services and agency. When adolescent girls lack bodily autonomy; when they cannot prevent being married off as children or protect themselves from HIV, other sexually transmitted infections or unintended pregnancies, they are denied their right to health. As a result, we see disturbing and unacceptable rates of new HIV infections among adolescent girls and young women, globally and right here, in Trinidad and Tobago.
Often, for those most marginalized and alienated in society, remaining hidden, for personal safety or because of anticipated disapproval, is perceived as the best way to live a life free from violence. In Trinidad and Tobago, this includes our women and girls living in rural areas, in poor urban communities and those marginalised and bullied in schools. This type of vulnerability means that our women and girls (and males) are often deprived of life-saving prevention, diagnosis and treatment.
The First Ladies of the Caribbean, through SCLAN- Spouses of the CARICOM Leaders Action Network, of which I am an Executive Member, are working with UNFPA- and in this regard, I will like to recognise the consistent dedication and hard work of UNFPA’s Mrs. Aurora Noguera-Ramkissoon- other UN agencies, stakeholders and partners, to advance the Every Caribbean Women, Every Caribbean Child initiative. The 4 priority action areas of SCLAN address HIV/AIDS, violence against women including human trafficking, adolescent pregnancy and cervical cancer. We are also working to scale up prevention efforts related to these areas; to empower and protect our youth with knowledge, through education, and enabling our most vulnerable to access rights-based services and fulfil their full potential.
It is no coincidence that International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women and World AIDS Day precede Human Rights Day on 10 December 2017. The health, wellness and security of our women, girls, boys and men, are fundamental human rights, that as a national and international community, we can achieve- through awareness, advocacy, action and strength in numbers.
I remain hopeful and inspired by, the dynamism of youths such as those of the 2 Cents Movement, the fortitude of the Diplomatic Community and the determination of everyone here today, who is invested in a violent-free, bright and equitable future for every man, woman and child.
I thank you.