Students educated on gender-based violence

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

THA Assistant Secretary of Community Development, Youth Development and Sport, Wane Clarke, sits among students during the launch of the WOS Pass it on youth leadership programme at the Shaw Park Cultural Complex on Wednesday – Photo by Kinnesha George-Harry

Thirty students from the Scarborough Secondary School are being educated on gender-based violence as the Women of Substance non-profit organisation, in conjunction with the US Embassy in Port of Spain, has launched a “Pass It On” youth leadership programme.

In an interview with Newsday during the launch on Wednesday at the Shaw Park Cultural Complex, CEO and founder of Women of Substance (WOS) Onika Mars said the aim of the programme is to discuss domestic violence and abuse.

“Women of Substance believes in continuously creating the awareness,” Mars said.

She said one secondary school – Scarborough Secondary – was chosen to undertake a pilot project.

“One of the main objectives is that whatever information they receive and whatever they learn, they need to now pass it on to 30 other students in their school community.”

She said the youths are the future generation and hence they must be protected.

“Most of them are in abusive relationships, whether we like it or not, or they may have been exposed to some sort of abuse, maybe within their homes or in their community or even in their schools. We thought it necessary to equip them with the necessary tools in order to make informed decisions or even become an advocate.”

After the launch, she said, “We are going to have three face-to-face interactive workshops – one in January, one in February and one in March. So we would continue with the same 30 students here today and they will have an opportunity in February to come up with an idea to do a project together so that they can pass on the information they have learnt.”

The projects, she said, can be done via art, presentation or even drama.

“Whatever they choose, we are going to work alongside them to bring this project to reality.

She said later, students from other schools would be incorporated.

“This is the pilot project, and it is our aim to go in every school throughout Tobago and by extension Trinidad. The hope is that we could get into all the schools to launch this project so that the youths can be educated on domestic violence.”

She called on all principals to support the initiative.

“We need your support. We are here investing in our youths. We see the importance of creating that awareness and educating them about gender-based violence.

“So we need to work hand in hand. We don’t want it to be a situation where we’re excited about launching it in schools and we don’t have the support of the principals. We are here to help – you cannot do it on your own, we cannot do it on our own.”

She also appealed to corporate TT to join the venture.

Assistant Secretary of Community Development, Youth Development and Sport Wane Clarke told the students to let the programme be a starting point for their lives.

“Many people go through these experiences, and they never share it, and sometimes when you cover up things like that, it actually gives it room and time to grow because it’s never exposed. Don’t be afraid to share your experiences with others because it would make you better, it could make you stronger.”

Warren Tidd, a “violence interrupter” at Project Building Blocks, advised the students to be careful about the choices they made in life.

“Choices are so important, because sometimes we have to live with the choices we make, and sometimes it haunts us for the rest of our lives. I for one had made some bad choices in my life, and that bad choice is something that I have to live with until I die.

“I was a part of the problem that we are facing in this life right now – hence the reason I am a solution to the problem at this point in time, because of my bad choice.”