Assistant resident representative of the UNDP (TT) Sharifa Ali-Abdullah yesterday expressed her disgust for the manner in which some people use social media to attack marriage and family. They, Ali-Abdullah said, promote disrespect for these institutions which nibbles away and eventually leads to the weakening of these fundamental structures for a peaceful existence.
"In the past, it was jokes at weddings and that did the trick. But now with social media, especially with instant messaging, it is really disgusting that people would circulate ugly and sometimes nasty jokes about marriage and family, about men and women," Ali-Abdullah said.
She was the guest speaker at the launch yesterday of a commemorative magazine by Madinah House’s which celebrates the organisation’s 20th anniversary. The magazine is a domestic violence resource booklet which documents the organisation’s history, challenges and successes. It also commemorates International Women’s Day, which was observed on Friday. The launch was held at Prince Albert Street Mosque, San Fernando.
Ali-Abdullah appealed for social media users to delete negative messages, which may appear to be innocent and under the guise of "a bit of good Trini humour." Psychologists have explained that these messages take root and influence people behaviours, she said.
The economist, who has served in several senior positions in the public sector, said she did not want to delve in the lyrics of some music which denigrate and disrespect women and promote a culture of violence. She is a former director of the Children’s Authority.
Also present at the function was Madinah House’s president Lydia Choate, vice president Waheeda Caliph-Rajab, patron Zalayhar Hassanali and attorney Nafeesa Mohammed.
Ali-Abdullah said in 1993, the UN declared violence against women a pandemic and now 26 years later, one in three women still experience physical or sexual violence at the hands of their partner, according to the results of a women’s health survey in 2017. It means that about 130,000 people in TT have experienced from physical or sexual violence. The study also found that the respondents’ cultural beliefs, including religious, fuelled this violent attitude toward women and children.
"Other notions about how we treat each other are shaped and reinforced by the media," she said.
She quoted from Islamic texts saying Allah "has ordained that men and women be equal, they complement each other but equality does not mean sameness."
Madinah House is a temporary shelter for women and victims of abuse. According to its president, it has been caring for clients from many parts of the country regardless of race, religion or ethnicity.
She publicly thanked everyone for assisting the organisation saying it faced financial constraints and decreasing government subventions.
Choate said: "You supported us by purchasing tickets for our takeaway meals and giving your donations to keep the ship floating in the absence of government subventions which cannot be used for capital expenditure, like repairs. Many essential repairs were effected to the property that is leased from an anonymous donor."
The organisation is asking the public for a contribution of $20 or more for the magazine which will assist in caring for its clients.
"Help the women and children who have been victims of the scourge of domestic violence. Let us stop domestic violence now," Choate said.
For security and safety reasons, the location of the shelter is not disclosed. But anyone who wants to donate items or find out more about the organisation can visit St Kevin’s College at Prince of Wales Street, San Fernando.
One of the articles in the magazine includes, The importance of a shelter by Farial Muradali-Ali, and another, Understanding Trauma by Afezah Baksh-Lobban.
Mohammed was the master of ceremonies and told the audience Madinah House is more than just a shelter.
"In TT whatever sect or group, we belong to in the Muslim community, we all recognise Madinah House as a flag-bearer, as an institution that has been doing yeoman work and service."