Social activist Jaiye Melville says he is excited that gender-based groups in Tobago have responded to the call to form an umbrella organisation to tackle issues affecting men, women and children on the island.
Melville was the driving force behind the men’s march against violence against women on February 14.
The march, Tobago Men Making A Difference: Let’s Show Love to our Women, was triggered by the abduction and murder of Andrea Bharatt.
The 23 year-old court clerk was kidnapped on January 29 after boarding what she believed to be a taxi at King Street, Arima. Her body was found at the Heights of Aripo on February 4. An Arima man has been charged with her murder.
During the men’s march from Canaan to Crown Point, BMEN (Be Male Examples Now) president and motivational speaker Michael Stewart had urged gender-based groups to stop working in silos in addressing social issues confronting men and women.
He also challenged them to get together in seven days to form one body to fight violence. The group would be called the Association of Gender Support Groups (AGSG).
On Tuesday, Stewart told Newsday, several organisations have responded to the call. He said two days after the event, about eight groups expressed their willingness to be a part of the organisation.
“We have agreed on the name and we have had a lawyer come on board to tell us what we need to do to register,” he said.
Stewart said people skilled in social media and other areas have also agreed to lend their expertise.
“So we have everything ready to run for the group to be formalised.”
Pleased that several organisations have come forward, Melville told Newsday the AGSG will be the platform through which social issues in Tobago could be addressed comprehensively.
“It will not only be about abuse against women but how we treat with the development of our young men. How we treat with battered women, how we treat with single fathers. And when you get all of those persons on board, all of us will have our own little work in our own little niche to handle.
“So while I am handling the men, the other organisations will handle their own little areas.”
Melville hopes the association, when formalised, will also be able to attract funding from international gender-based groups for some of its programmes.
“It also helps us so that we can co-ordinate and utilise our resources and share resources, where we could have programmes by the different organisations throughout the year so we can have an agenda.”
He said foreign-based experts in gender relations and other issues can also visit Tobago to give lectures and other initiatives.
Melville envisages the AGSG will ultimately have its own building with conference room and therapy quarters.
“Instead of depending on the Government, we will be coming together to play our part in terms of the development of Tobago.”
Melville thanked the groups for coming on board.
“The work has just begun and we will continue to make as much strides as we could, because Tobago must set the standard in terms of how men operate and how we treat with all of our social issues.”