Samantha Juman, founder of Act To Change T&T

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The recently formed women’s rights activist group, Act To Change T&T, would be hosting a walkout on March 8, in observance of International Women’s Day (IWD), and to keep the fight for the elimination of violence against women and girls, going.

The event titled, Walk Out For Women, a call to the nation’s people to leave their homes, offices and wherever they might be, and join the walkout, which begins at 2 pm at the capital city’s travel hub— City Gate and culminates at Woodford Square, Port-of-Spain with peaceful protesting, is set to force immediate action by the State and all authorities to ensure gender-based violence discontinues.

Founder of the group and organiser of the event Samantha Juman, who was also behind the call for a nationwide strike after the murder of Andrea Bharatt, explained what she hopes would be the outcome of her group’s second call to action.

“What we hope to accomplish from this march or rally is not just bringing awareness, because everybody is aware of what is going on but we are tired of the talk by the government and we need to not just walk the walk, we need immediate action,” said Juman.

She stated it was through the twisting of an arm, that the nation began hearing plans by the Government to introduce particular mechanisms to aid in the fight against gender-based violence.

“When we had initiated or instigated the nationwide strike which led to 500 businesses shutting down, that’s when we heard the AG (Attorney General) and the Prime Minister, really come out and say ‘we are going to provide safer transportation for women and children.’ ‘We are going to implement those digital tracking systems in a few months,’ which is what the AG had said. And then the opposition passed the Evidence Bill.”

Juman with the situation faced by women in T&T, both the government and the opposition needed to settle their differences, come together and do what was right for the nation.

In the meantime, however, she said in this walkout and other events to come, her group was calling for the development of any mechanism in place to protect women and children, to be fast-tracked.

“We are calling for safer transportation, that same digital tracking system, and surveillance cameras. We are calling for social reformation programmes in schools…in public education campaigns. We are calling for approving the national strategic plan to end gender-based violence, which has been sitting in the cabinet, since 2016,” Juman contended.

She said nothing was being done with this key strategic plan the United Nations (UN) had put forward to Latin America and the Caribbean islands and T&T was the only country that had not adopted and utilised it.

While Juman currently makes Canada her home, she told Guardian when she visited T&T in November 2020, right before the murder of Riley, it was then she realised how grave the situation was in her homeland and could not sit idly by and do nothing to help fight against gender-based violence.

As such, the 25-year-old, together with her mother formed Act To Change T&T in February.

She said since the group was formed they have received immense support from other women activists groups