Andrea Project offers safety solutions to women

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Karishma Boodram, International Ambassador of Diwali, checks the clothes available at AFETT’s Suit Me Up sale, Radisson hotel, Port of Spain on Saturday. – NICHOLAS MARAJ

The Andrea Project promoted personal safety to hundreds of women who attended the Association of Female Executives of TT’s (AFETT) annual Suit Me Up sale at the Radisson hotel, Port of Spain, on November 12.

The Andrea Project is a non-governmental organisation created after the murder of court clerk Andrea Bharatt in January 2020. Representative Alyssa Ali said the NGO “has created tech-based solutions to empower people to feel safe.”

On the group’s website, videos explain how people can use their phones to send emergency messages when they feel unsafe. Videos are available in both Spanish and English. They also inform people how to use the TTPS app, which Ali said, does not require wi-fi or mobile data.

Ali said there are three initiatives of the Andrea Project in the works. A database will be created to help people identify hotspots for gender-based violence and how to exercise caution.

“A scraper will be used to scan national newspapers and gather the incidents of gender-based violence,” she said.

The second initiative is a chatbot to support victims of gender-based violence.

“There is a sort of hesitation for victims to speak to a person, because they are concerned if they’d tell somebody. So with this chatbot, you’d have that safety, if you’re a victim or a witness, it’d guide you to who you should contact, what’s the next step, how to file a protective order.”

Thirdly, plans are underway to create a digital campaign surrounding the Domestic Violence Act, Ali said.

“The main objective is to bring awareness to the act, so if you’re a victim, you’d know what is in place to protect you.”

She said AFETT’s Suit Me Up provided a great opportunity to inform young women and the public about what the Andrea Project is doing.

AFETT is celebrating its 20th anniversary and has hosted Suit Me Up for 19 years. The event was the first after a two-year pandemic-related hiatus.

Besides the Andrea Project, a number of independent organisations attended including the Family Planning Association. They were offering breast exams, Pap smears, urine tests, among other exams, for $200. Midwife Janice Sampson-Hunte said those services are always available at their offices, at that price.

Courts Optical, Eastern Credit Union and Dilmah Teas were also advertising their products.

Simone Sant-Ghuran, a previous board member at AFETT, said Suit Me Up is their signature event. The average attendance in years past was around 500, and the turnout was the same. The cost of the clothes ranged from $30 for handbags and skirts to $200 for dresses and premium suits.

Sant-Ghuran said, “The aim is to raise funds. Part-proceeds go to mentorship and personal development programmes for young women, so they can enter or return to the workforce.

“It’s gently loved, previously-owned clothes. We checked for quality, doing two to three sorts before putting it out. We got thousands of donations over the months, and spent weeks sorting.

“It wasn’t too challenging because we have such a great camaraderie at AFETT.”

She said the feedback from women was gratifying, “because the cost of executive-wear is not cheap. For them to find an affordable option, so many women have said thanks so much for doing this.”

Rosemin Sankaran said she has been attending AFETT’s Suit Me Up for around 15 years.

“I always get good things and I bring friends every time. I love it. From around June, I look to see when it is, because I know it’s usually around November/December.

“It’s lovely. I always get bargains. Sometimes I shop for friends and family. I got something for a younger employee at my office. Not being here during the pandemic, I felt lost. Most of my work suits are from here.”

Karishma Boodram, the Gopio International Ambassador of Diwali – a title she won at a pageant in Guadeloupe – said it was her first time attending. She heard about the sale when she interviewed AFETT’s president Lara Quentrall-Thomas on TTT.

Boodram said, ” It’s very affordable. They have everything sorted by size and style. It’s an amazing experience.”