As we mark International Women’s Day 2021, 100 Million celebrates our network of fearless female youth activists around the world with a guest article by Johannah-Rae Reyes of Trinidad & Tobago organisation, WOMANTRA
Johannah-Rae (main image: bottom left), a young feminist activist in Trinidad and Tobago, writes about the work of her organisation, WOMANTRA, to campaign for the rights of women and girls.
Caution note: Gender-based violence
10 YEARS IN SOLIDARITY
In the beginning, WOMANTRA was a small corner of the internet where Caribbean women found community and had intense debate and conversation on women’s issues and gender justice, and now we are that space and so much more. We have expanded our reach into the streets and have held several community-based actions, protests, and strategic advocacy. This year we secured funding from the Spotlight Initiative to run a legal clinic pilot. On March 1st the Elma Francois Legal Clinic was opened to survivors of gender-based violence (GBV) who wish to begin their journey to justice. Last year we produced a short film and published the Journey to Justice handbook: A guide for survivors of GBV with the support of CVCC-COIN and the Spotlight Initiative.
WOMANTRA is now a registered non-governmental youth-led feminist organization based in Trinidad and Tobago. We have come a long way from our roots as a collective but our commitment to grassroots feminism remains unchanged. We are engaged in public education and awareness-raising, solidarity-related programming, and activities directed toward the achievement of social justice and gender parity in the Caribbean, with a specific focus on outreach, advocacy, and policy development. As we celebrate our 10th anniversary and mobilize civil society on International Women's Day we do so with a solemn conviction to the women and girls of our country. We would choose no other way to commemorate this occasion.
This year for International Women's Day we organized a Walk-Out along with 17 other organizations. The event comes after a wave of protests and vigils calling for an end to violence against women and girls. The nationwide action was spurred by the kidnapping and gruesome murders of Ashanti Riley (19 years old) and Andrea Bharatt (23 years old). Ashanti went missing on 29th November 2020 and Andrea went missing on 29th January 2021; both were last seen alive taking taxis in their respective communities. Andrea’s body was found almost a week after she went missing and there have been several arrests with 2 of the suspects dying in police custody. Since then, there has been sustained action and public pressure on the government to implement legislation, policy, and systems to hopefully prevent the deaths of more women.
We are encouraging folks in Trinidad Tobago to walk out of wherever they are on Monday and join us at City Gate, the biggest transportation hub in our capital city Port of Spain and join us as we walk to the Red House, our country's parliament building, to add to the voices of those protesting to demand the integration of digital tracking technology in our transportation systems, investment in social reformation programs and the approval of the National Action Plan to End Gender-Based Violence. This period has been painful for us as a country. In 2020 alone 45 women and 2 girls were murdered and 2021 started with similarly violent cases of violence against women with 2 women being attacked by hammers by their partners in separate incidences in January, one of them succumbing to their injuries.
Some of the WOMANTRA team: (l-r) Elysse Marcelin (director), Safiyyah Acosta (outreach officer), Stephanie Leitch (director), Hannah Grosberg (legal clinic coordinator), Calive Joseph (social media intern).
It is both a joy and an immense sorrow doing this work. As a group of volunteers, we spend most of our free time remembering victims of GBV, talking about violence against women and girls and more importantly designing interventions that we can reasonably implement given the context of our time and resource pool. Many times, we over-extend and the wheels come off a little, and many times we achieve great things. We continue to work towards a better future for ourselves and the women and girls of our country.
To hear more about Johannah-Rae and her work with WOMANTRA, you can follow her on social media:
Are you a young female activist? We want to hear more stories about how young women and girls are organising and mobilising at the community level. Get in touch with us to share your story!