The fight to save our women

Paolo Kernahan -
Paolo Kernahan -

A YOUNG woman steps out of a taxi and into a drizzle in front of a nondescript house. She approaches the gate with a conspicuous waddle, cradling her pregnant belly. Appearing to have only just graduated childhood, her eyes survey the area, both absorbing information and revealing it. There's an uncertainty to her darting gaze. She doesn't know what the future holds, but what the present offers is no mystery – more abuse at the hands of a quick-tempered, older partner.

This young mother-to-be has stepped out into a rainy afternoon and into a difficult, but new, start. How long will she resist the urge to return to the false comfort of abusive love? Well, that all depends.

On March 8, the world celebrated International Women's Day. Even as TT observed the occasion, headlines continued to scream the painfully inconvenient story of how we honour women. More victims of domestic violence pay the ultimate price for what many erroneously insist are their “poor choices.” More women simply trying to make their way to work are violated en route – taken off-route from their lives by the predatory predilections of men.

Even as petitions are signed by candlelight and honest souls fight the good fight, in homes, towns, villages everywhere, the lives of women are under active threat. On a positive note, never before have there been more frank and open discussions about violence against women in TT society. Corporate TT has also gotten in on the act, drafting personalities into public education campaigns. Keeping the conversation going has never been more important. Domestic violence and sexual assault depend on silence to stay hidden – to thrive.

Still, with all the discussions to press for more aggressive action by law enforcement to prosecute crimes against women, a key part of the equation is missing. Women who want to leave, to escape family violence, need somewhere safe to go.

Delores Robinson, executive director of GROOTS T&T (Grassroots Organisation Operating Together in Sisterhood), understands all too well the cauldron of emotions, uncertainty, and doubt victims face. She was herself ensnared in an abusive relationship. Delores is quick to remind in any conversation on the subject that physical violence is only one aspect of torture that weak men wield. You ain't no damn good! What the hell you will do? Nobody will want you! Verbal abuse can be as withering as kicks and cuffs. Delores has taken her battle scars, both mental and physical, and made an armour of them. Every day she goes into battle to save lives, one woman at a time – but who will save hers?

GROOTS T&T occupies a house in Tunapuna which doubles as an office and transition home for victims of domestic abuse. As the organisation faces eviction, Delores along with women and their children who took the huge step of leaving will have nowhere to turn.

People love to ask why women don't leave, but they do. It's nearly impossible to carry on a conversation with Delores Robinson. Her phone rings incessantly; calls come in from this police station or that organisation asking if she can take on another woman fleeing a turbulent home life.

In her cluttered, tiny office the walls are crowded with certificates and plaques of recognition for the tremendous work the organisation has done over the years. None of these accolades, though, will keep a roof over their heads.

Attracting funding for GROOTS T&T has always been a teeth-pulling affair. It's cynical to say, but corporate TT typically goes for the one-time expense of a high-profile public education campaign that burnishes their brand. Getting behind an organisation that does the actual work of saving lives is always more complicated – certainly too anonymous.

Across TT there's a disconnect between what we say and what we do. Delores Robinson, however, doesn't have time to ruminate on idiosyncrasies of Trini ole talk. Every day she has to put in the work to offer escapees of domestic abuse a viable chance at a fresh start.

With each dawn, she has to feed, house and provide counsel to the women who took that leap into the unknown and left their marital abyss. Delores has started an ambitious go-fund-me campaign to find a new home for GROOTS before time runs out, which is soon. She can be contacted at 8464.

And what is to become of that young woman heavy with child walking gingerly through the rain into an uncertain future? Well, that all depends...


"The fight to save our women"

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