Sharon Rowley: Teach gender-based violence awareness in schools

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Sharon Rowley, wife of Prime Minsiter Dr Keith Rowley, chats with Onika Mars, founder of Woman of Substance, after a gender-based violence seminar at the PM’s residence in Tobago on May 14. – Photo by Corey Connelly

Sharon Rowley, wife of the Prime Minister, has suggested that gender-based violence awareness be taught in primary schools as part of the curriculum.

She made the suggestion on Saturday while addressing a forum titled, GBV & ME: Insights and solutions from the youth of the region.

The event, hosted by the Indigenous Creative Arts Network (ICAN), was held at the Prime Minister’s official residence, Blenheim, Tobago.

It was held in collaboration with the United National Spotlight initiative, which is seeking to eliminate gender-based violence by 2030.

Stakeholders were asked to offer actionable solutions to ending violence against women and girls in society.

Rowley, who is the Spotlight initiative’s local champion, told a gathering of youth activists and technocrats, “We need to make GBV education part of the school curriculum. It must start at the primary school level.

“It must start from the time they go into that school. You have to teach them because you can’t always depend on the parents to do it. So, let us use the school system to reach that goal at whatever point in time.”

Rowley said she was very impressed with the content of the discourse and lauded the contributions of participants to this end.

The ICAN’s workshop came on the heels of the murders of four women earlier this week.

On Monday, Stephanie Calbio, 34, was fatally stabbed in Carenage during a fight with a 24-year-old woman allegedly over a man who is in prison.

A day later, Abeo Cudjoe, 31, was fatally stabbed and chopped at her home at Lachoos Road, Penal.

On Wednesday, Krishana Mohammed, 24, a mother of three, was chopped to death by a 40-year-old man known to her at her La Brea Village, Mayaro. And on Thursday, Marva Sutherland was killed at her Diego Martin home after a dispute with a man she knew.

Activist Khaleem Ali, a member of Youth Voices Matter and the Silver Lining Foundation, suggested there should be an amendment to the Domestic Violence Act to recognise abuse in relationships that are not heteronormative.

“Because whether or not you are a supporter of persons who are LGBTQIA, the reality of the situation is that gender-based violence occurs in those relationships as well and that currently there exists a legislative gap so those persons cannot seek the same type of redress that a person in a traditional relationship would be able to. So that would be my recommendation,” he said.

Describing gender-based violence as a “touchy issue,” president of the Tobago Youth Council Janae Campbell said while there may be many interventions to stop the scourge, people must commit meaningfully to ending it.

“If we as a society, have not purposed in our hearts to change wholeheartedly and eradicate some of these archaic perspectives on lives and relationships, our problems will not be solved,” she said.

Campbell said everyone has a basic sense of right and wrong.

“However, if we, as individuals, don’t make that concerted effort to do good, then we would still have the same results and so I just want to admonish us to be more serious about this particular issue.”

She observed women living in impoverished circumstances are also prone to domestic abuse.

“I, personally believe that this has a significant impact on gender-based violence. We could look at the statistics and we would see that most of the persons that are affected by violence, at least from the woman’s perspective, they are of a lower income bracket and there is that level of dependence.”