In November 2013, the Women’s Executive Council (WEC) of the NUGFW TT observed the 16 days of activism to end violence against women and gender-based violence by focusing on the issue at its various offices throughout Trinidad & Tobago. Members who visited the union’s offices received white ribbons and information on the startling statistics in Trinidad & Tobago. In 2012 over 12,000 cases of domestic violence were filed. And without doubt, many cases are unreported. NUGFW’s members see the impact of violence and abuse on women and girls daily. Some have to counsel, treat and interact with those who are affected.
“But then we recognised that raising awareness was not enough. As a trade union we believe that we have a greater contribution to make in ending the cycle. We had to find a way to do something more,” said Jillian Bartlett, general secretary. “Many complain about our slow legal system and the fact that workers do not seem to be trained to handle cases of domestic violence. That has to change,” added Hillary Holder, president of NUGFW’s Eastern Division. And at one of the WEC’s meetings, members came up with the idea of a project involving schools – “something to get children to tell us how they feel”.
In addition to its traditional roles, the union decided to create change by breaking a cycle of silence and indifference. Arts In Action® provides ameans for children in primary and secondary schools to express their perceptions on violence against women and gender-based violence. Students from over 100 schools will compete by write slogans, poetry and essays, design posters or produce a short video.
The Ministry of Education has approved the project and the NUGFW’s partners include the Water and Sewerage Authority, M and M insurances Limited, First Citizens Bank Trustees Services, the Ministry of Gender, Youth and Child Development and the Chaguaramas Development Authority. The official launch was on Wednesday March 12 and the competition ends on April 30. The Trinidad & Tobago Unified Teachers’ Association (T&TUTA) will judge the entries.
“The project also has an outreach component where members of the WEC will visit schools and interact with students and teachers”, said Jillian Bartlett. “Inspired by PSI and its vision, I wanted to do something with a punch. I wanted to make a difference. And now this project has grown way beyond our initial thoughts. It has gone national!”