SHE TOOK UP many causes but, ultimately, there was one principle underlying all that Hazel Brown did. She believed a democracy is strengthened when citizens actively participate in the decision-making process.
It was a simple yet powerful belief that anchored a career in advocacy that was by any standard prolific.
Ms Brown, who died on Thursday at the age of 80, was a member of the Housewives Association of TT, a group established in 1971 to generate interest and awareness of the power of consumer action.
She was also a member of the Telephone Users Group, also formed in 1971 to represent consumers at telephone rate hearings; the Diego Martin Network of Community Organisations; the National Minimum Wage Board; and the Prices Commission, among others.
In more recent times, she had served as a founding member and co-ordinator of the Network of NGOs of TT for the Advancement of Women, an umbrella organisation formed in 1985 which involved, at one stage, about 100 affiliated entities.
At the Network, Ms Brown was the driving force behind the “Put a Woman” project which aimed to prepare women and young people for leadership positions in local government and on the national level. She lived to see this country elect its first woman prime minister, Kamla Persad-Bissessar.
Even before all of this, however, Ms Brown was a trailblazer.
She was educated at Bishop Anstey High School and St Joseph’s Convent, on a 1953 Port of Spain City Council scholarship and was one of the first graduates of the Cipriani Labour College in 1969.
She went on to work in the public service at a crucial time in this country’s history – from 1959 right up to the year we became a republic, 1976. She also worked at the Caricom secretariat in Georgetown, Guyana, from 1992 to 1994 and addressed many regional and international forums relating to gender issues, consumer affairs and governance.
As someone who had battled not only injustice and inequality but also cancer, Ms Brown also became an advocate and support for many cancer patients. She was honoured by the Guyana Cancer Society for her work in supporting Guyanese women who came to Trinidad for treatment.
Though in more recent years she had Parkinson’s disease, hypertension and diabetes, she was still said to be active in the Diego Martin Consumers Co-operative.
“There are some who wake up every day determined to make their voice count,” Ms Brown’s colleague Roberta Clarke, president of the Coalition Against Domestic Violence, said this week. “Hazel Brown was of this group.”
In a world too often filled with apathy, it’s safe to say Ms Brown was the embodiment of the very change she wished to see.