Guy-Alleyne: ‘Girls should be seen and heard’

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Supt Claire Guy-Alleyne – File photo

TEENAGE girls from schools in and around Belmont were given an opportunity to learn some practical self-defence techniques and other self-empowerment skills at a workshop hosted by the Project Phoenix Belmont and the police.

Since its launch last year, the Belmont Project – headed by councillor for Belmont East Nicole M Young – has offered life skills training and confidential counselling services for teens experiencing personal and/or mental health challenges.

Last year, Young collaborated with the police’s head of social support services Aisha Corbie, who participated in March 18’s workshop, along with Supt Claire Guy-Alleyne, head of the police Special Victims Department, who delivered a feature address.

Guy-Alleyne made an energetic speech, highlighting women in leadership positions, such as President Christine Kangaloo, Commissioner of Police Erla Harewood-Christopher and deputy Natasha George, first-division officers like herself, and the numerous MPs.

“This is an excellent time to be a female in Trinidad and Tobago,” said Guy-Alleyne, who encouraged the girls to take control of their bodies and practise their autonomy.

She rubbished a so-called adage passed down from elders, including her mother, that “Little girls must be seen and not heard.”

Guy-Alleyne said as a police officer in her position, dealing with victims, she has a different interpretation.

“I think when they said that long ago, it means that anything negative that happens to a young girl, she must not say anything.

“I say to each young girl here today, you all have a voice. You stand up for yourself and say, ‘No,’” said Guy-Alleyne, stressing that consent is key and nothing more than a “no” is needed to decline consent in private situations.

“No means no. It does not mean to convince me to try to say, ‘Yes.’”

Martial arts instructor Prof Oluyemi Mashama gave a presentation on situational awareness and demonstrated self-defence techniques.

Young, welcoming the students to the workshop, reminded them that “self-defence is not just about physical strength; it’s about courage to stand up for yourself and for others.”

She said, “We are gathered not just to learn about self-defence, but to embark on a transformative journey (with) skills, confidence and wisdom to navigate the world more safely and certainly.”

Prof Oluyemi Mashama teaches young students some self-defence techniques at the Project Phoenix Belmont’s Self-Defence Workshop for Teen Girls at the Belmont Community Centre, Jerningham Avenue, Port of Spain on March 18. – Photo by Faith Ayoung

Corbie, who also gave a short address before activities began, noted that over nearly 2,500 females, including over 400 minors, received counselling and other support services, just from the police, to deal with trauma.

She said the police are hoping for a drop in the figures this year, but noted the importance of seeking counselling for the range of issues affecting teenage girls.