by Vernon Khelawan
I am almost sure to incur the wrath of the women’s groups that exist in Trinidad and Tobago. I write this following the many celebrations here to mark International Women’s Day (IWD) as proclaimed by the United Nations (UN).
I write this also steeped in the fact that from my teenage years I have always enjoyed the company and friendship of the opposite sex and even now after 50 plus years of marriage, I still have a large cadre of female friends. So, I am always highly offended whenever any woman is wronged in whatever manner. Worst of all, when they are victims of abusive relationships.
We have heard good wishes to the country’s women but I wonder whether these various organisations are really working towards alleviating the many abuses which befall women, or are they putting on a show for people to believe they are really working for the betterment of their womenfolk?
If they are in fact working to improve women’s lot in the country, then we can surely see that many of these organisations are in fact made up of officers who by themselves can do little to improve women’s circumstances.
We ask how can a woman exist in an abusive relationship for more than a decade, then end up taking her own life? Or how can a woman travelling in a ‘PH’ car be shot in the head and killed because, according to reports, she was carrying a large sum of money? Or we can ask, why was Dana Seetahal killed? Or why so many women go missing just like that.
Up to this date, we have had more than a dozen women murdered under all kinds of circumstances. We have had more than two dozen rapes including of elderly women. There is a total loss of respect for women who have been made to suffer untold fear and trauma when they are at the losing end of a robbery or home invasion.
Unfortunately, not enough is heard from many of the women’s groups which populate our landscape when these ‘horror stories’ fill our newspaper columns and newscasts. These occur with alarming regularity and usually the victims are the poor, helpless and the downtrodden.
Women in this country are taken advantage of in many areas: the householder that pays their domestic help inadequate wages for long hours; the storeowners who take advantage of their employees; women in food outlets; the office workers—these are all serious injustices.
So, while the women’s organisations are helpful, there needs to be more pro-active plans and solutions to the myriad problems which our women face every single day. It’s all well and good to have weekend seminars and workshops and the like, but our women are still being mistreated. What we find is a lot of rhetoric, but no action.
We need all our women’s groups to get together and do something about ‘protection orders’; for the police service to be more humane when reports of abuse are made to them. Teach women how to seek their rights, and for lawyers to help out when they are approached by victimised women.
That is what we need our various women’s groups to do. IWD must be every day.