A Palo Seco mother of two has called on the authorities and non-governmental organisations to assist with safer transport modes and socio-economic interventions for rural communities.
Ayoka Williams, 28, whose daughter is seven and her son is three, said it has become more difficult for women and youth in recent times to use public transport.
“It is frightening to leave home, especially in areas like this its mostly private taxis that ply the route especially after 6 pm. It becomes more difficult and it really not safe to be travelling.”
She was at an outreach programme held by the Women of the Soil and Network of Rural Women Producers of TT on Saturday at Palo Seco Junction. The event was in keeping with the commemoration of International Women’s Day on March 8.
Williams recommended an extension of the hours of the bus service by the Public Transport Service Corporation (PTSC) and regularising private taxis.
“If the bus service could run a little would be a good and safer option for many who depend on public transport. Also, I do not think there should be any private taxis. I like what the drivers are doing with the use of uniforms so as a passenger you can be sure of who you are travelling with.
“Down her private taxis are a regular thing. I personally experience a driver using the child-lock on the doors and I had to stick my hand out the window to open it from the outside.”
She added that another challenge her community faces is the lack of social programmes that would allow for job creation and entrepreneurship.
She explained that in order to find opportunities they would have to travel to the main areas like Siparia or San Fernando which usually is a deterrent for many.
“To get into the good programmes. For example, braiding and hairdressing, especially for young ladies who are interested in it they would have to travel far and this leads them back to the transport issues.”
Marcus Kissoon, Women of the Soil member and research officer at the Institute for Gender and Development Studies, said too often women and youth from rural communities were left behind.
He explained that development projects, initiatives and dialogues often cater for people within in the urban areas leaving rural communities with scraps.
“Women in rural communities are affected by different kinds of systemic inequalities. We learn that young girls still negotiate marriage, sex and reproductive health as a way of surviving.
“So, there are a lot of teenage mothers coming to our centre for multiple reasons. Also, women in rural areas face transport issues so that could have links to how they report abuse, how they seek help and safety.”
He added that access to education and social services were also hampered by their distance from the main hubs in which programmes and projects were instituted.
“Even the way they access education is difficult. To get some type of tertiary education they have to travel far which means they leave home very early and come back very late, which increases their risk of danger while travelling.”
Kissoon said Women of the Soil was hopeful that there would be a more inclusive discussion in which women of rural communities were given the chance to express their concerns.