Enterprise NGO fights violence with ‘Girls Say Yes’ initiative

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Girls Say Yes participants with members of the Ryu Dan Empowerment Foundation’s Young Leaders Team at the launch of the foundation’s peace initiative on July 24 at its resource centre in Enterprise. PHOTO COURTESY RYU DAN EMPOWERMENT FOUNDATION –

THE Ryu Dan Empowerment Foundation launched its Girls Say Yes peace initiative on July 24, using sport to fight crime and violence in the Enterprise community.

Ryu Dan’s co-founder and executive director Shihan Marva John-Logan said the six-month youth mentorship initiative, which is supported by the UN Development Programme (UNDP), will encourage positive psychosocial change using netball to sustainably groom its 35 participants, aged 12-20, to become “peace ambassadors” in their communities.

“In Enterprise, there are so many borderlines and boundaries and in every one of those boundaries there is a brother, sister, aunt or uncle who knows someone on the other side but can’t cross border lines.

“But if these girls come together through a sport like netball and they work together for six months, learn the sport, apply the personal development training, get conflict resolution skills and do our group dynamics and personal development workshops, we are going to break down those bridges and borderlines to foster beautiful relationships.

“We want these girls to be peace ambassadors not only with each other but also within their own homes which will transcend into their communities.”

John-Logan said after her team’s school-based assessmen, which found a lot of division between the girls, and the videos circulating on social media showing girls involved in school fights, she and her team decided to help change this negative narrative.

The foundation collaborated with another Enterprise non-profit group, the Dass Trace Youth Empowerment Committee, to create a netball team that would “bring together warring factions of the Enterprise community under one banner.”

“We know the research shows that women can play a crucial role in the prevention of crime and violence. The 35 participants hail from streets and alleys that are traditionally at odds with each other.”

In addition, she said, the young women will be mentored in areas such as anger management, team-building, etiquette and deportment and art therapy.

John-Logan said participants will work together to transform the neglected areas in the Enterprise community like Train Line Park into what will be called “Unity Park.”

“The girls will create signage and graphics communicating positive messages to be displayed on the park’s perimeter fence. This park will now represent a safe space where members of all groups within the community can harmoniously enjoy time with their families.”

Through this initiative,the foundation hopes to produce “35 peace ambassadors who will continue to break down barriers by continuously promoting peace and unity long after the formal project.”

The foundation uses a “sports plus” model that offers martial arts, netball and football in addition to services which include counselling, academic support and entrepreneurship programmes to Enterprise youth.

At the launch at the foundation’s resource centre were UNDP-assigned project coach Colin Bartholomew, councillor Jinelle Joe-Ryan and alderman Chah Stacey Mc Sween, who represented the Chaguanas Borough Corporation.