Heroes fighting to end violence, abuse

Chaguanas South Secondary School students in the Heroes Development Programme. -
Chaguanas South Secondary School students in the Heroes Development Programme. -

The Heroes Foundation and the United Nations have partnered with more than 500 local and migrant children in an attempt to break the culture of violence and abuse in their schools and communities.

In a recent media release, the foundation said projects are being implemented in 30 secondary schools and in various communities to address issues such as bullying, school violence child abuse, gender-based violence, sexual harassment and anger management.

This is being done under the Spotlight Heroes Programme, which started in April, and was designed by the foundation and Unicef “to educate and empower children and youth to lead and demand lives free from violence and abuse.”

The release said participants were trained in gender-sensitivity, leadership, advocacy, communication, technology skills, and project management, and developed project plans to address problems experienced in their schools and communities.

“To date, over 9,000 persons have been engaged in person in youth-led education and advocacy projects, and over 775,000 have been reached through social media, as participants raise their voices to inspire positive behaviour change, safety, and respect for children and youth.

“The Spotlight Initiative is a global initiative of the United Nations which has received generous support from the European Union. Its aim is to eliminate all forms of violence against women and girls.”

Lawrence Arjoon, CEO of The Heroes Foundation, said children deserve to be safe and free from all forms of abuse because violence is not a normal part of life.

“To fight the problems that continue to corrupt our society, we must ensure that children understand their rights, know how to protect themselves and get help, and have the confidence that perpetrators will be held accountable for their actions.

Migrant children do a presentation at a community workshop to end child abuse. -

“We must listen to children when they speak up about things that make them feel scared, unsafe, or at risk, and empower them to lead solutions to the problems they are unfortunately inheriting.” Arjoon said the foundation is grateful for the collaboration and support of all its partners as they work together to build a safe and sustainable future for children and youth in TT.

“To build a better future, we must do better for children and youth today.”

Education Minister Dr Nyan Gadsby-Dolly is quoted as saying, “The Ministry of Education continues to lead a collaborative approach to support the needs of students and address violence and abuse in schools.

“One of the multi-sector initiatives is that of the Spotlight Heroes Programme which allows us to leverage international best practices and local expertise and experience to directly intervene and empower students to lead the change needed amongst their peers.”

She said it is expected that the programme with enhance the ministry’s interventions for reducing violence, by empowering students to become leaders who will impart to their peers respect, and advocate against violence.

Minister in the Office of the Prime Minister with responsibility for Gender and Child Affairs, Ayanna Webster-Roy, said “multi-stakeholder collaboration is a critical part in the implementation of the National Child Policy, and we continue to lead and support work to create a better future for children in Trinidad and Tobago. We will continue to do all that we can to ensure children are safeguarded and protected and have a solid foundation as they grow up.”

Also supporting the initiative is Zorisha Hackett, THA Secretary for Education, Research and Technology.

Hackett said her division has always embraced initiatives which provide leadership training to empower student councils and student groups.

“Since the Heroes initiative aims at addressing violence against children, particularly gender-based violence, it presents itself as a timely endeavour which will redound to the holistic wellbeing of future generations.

Heroes Foundation team members and local and migrant Heroes participants with Minister Ayanna Webster-Roy and permanent secretary Vijay Gangapersad. -

“As secretary, I stand ready, willing and able to provide the necessary support that will guarantee this initiative’s success.”

Fiaz Shah, Unicef’s (Eastern and Caribbean) chief of education, said the organisation is happy to be associated with the programme because it recognises that violence, particularly in schools, undermines children’s learning, and negatively affects their education and employment prospects. “It can also constrain economic development and human capital and undermine other societal gains.

“Gender-based violence (GBV) is a complex issue requiring multisectoral collaboration for it to be tackled effectively, and so Unicef collaborates with other UN agencies and other key stakeholders involved in GBV work.

“Violence against children in all its forms is pervasive, affecting millions of children worldwide every year. Ending violence against children is incorporated into our Sustainable Development Goals...”

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Participating schools:

· Arima North Secondary School

· Belmont Secondary School

· Bishops Anstey High School East

· Bishops High School Tobago

· Chaguanas South Secondary School

· Diego Martin North Secondary School

· El Dorado West Secondary School

· El Dorado East Secondary School

· Five Rivers Secondary School

· Goodwood Secondary School

· Holy Faith Convent Penal

· Marabella South Secondary School

· Moruga Secondary School

· Point Fortin East Secondary School

· Point Fortin West Secondary School

· Trinity College East

· Rio Claro Secondary School

· San Fernando East Secondary School

· Sangre Grande Secondary School

· Siparia East Secondary School

· Siparia West Secondary School

· Southeast Port-of-Spain Secondary School

· Speyside High School

· St Joseph Secondary School

· Success Laventille Secondary School

· Tranquillity Secondary School

· Trinity College Moka

· Union Claxton Bay Secondary School

· Valencia Secondary School

· Woodbrook Secondary School


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