At the end of September Ashlee Burnett will leave TT for the University of Bristol in the UK, where she will study for an MSc in education, focusing on policy and international development.
She is one of two TT nationals to receive fully-funded scholarships through the UK government's Chevening international awards programme, which entitles scholars to a year of postgraduate study at a university of their choice.
"I applied to three universities and was accepted to all three, but Bristol was my first choice. It has a really amazing programme when it comes to education policy, it's very rich in culture and is a hub for vibrancy where you get to exist beyond the academics," Burnett told Sunday Newsday.
At 24, Burnett's portfolio of accomplishments is already quite impressive. The holder of a BA in English language and literature from the University of Southern Caribbean, she is a writer and educator. She has had poems published in Moko and Culturego magazines and has her own websites, with a blog for the Commonwealth youth programme. She has worked with a youth development NGO as a spoken-word poet, visiting various secondary schools across TT using spoken word to address personal issues such as gender-based violence, and teaching young people how they can use their voices to create change.
She is a member of the Queen's Commonwealth Trust Network and an adviser to the Global Advisory Committee for the Caribbean region at the young feminist fund, FRIDA. She is also the co-co-ordinator of Transform Education hosted by the UN Girls’ Education Initiative – a global authority on gender in education that promotes evidence-based solutions to drive progress for gender equality in and through education.
In 2020 Burnett founded Feminitt Caribbean with the goal of advancing gender justice in TT and the wider Caribbean.
She is also a 2020 Women Deliver young leader. Women Deliver is a global advocate that promotes gender equality and the health and rights of girls and women, in all their intersecting identities.
"For me, feminism is all about justice and equity for all people regardless of gender and sexual identities, allowing people access to opportunities, without discrimination, violence and harm.
"I grew up in a single-parent home with my mom, and she went beyond gender roles. She was always a feminist. I always thought it (feminism) was only about women; now I realise it’s for everyone, no matter your gender. It's about meeting people where they are at and creating a just world."
Burnett said under her scholarship contract, on completing her studies she is obligated to return to TT to work for two years. But, she said, that contractual obligation will be the sweetest debt she'll ever have to repay.
"My home is TT, and I need to come back here to help develop it, because it has given so much to me. I need to care about my fellow citizens, the environment, work towards ending GBV, etc. Through education we can transform the existing system. So I will be using my degree to understand best practices in policy and international development in education and see how best we can transform the education system in TT."