Ayanna Webster-Roy, Minister with responsibility for Gender and Child Affairs, in the Office of the Prime Minister.

The Minister with responsibility for Gender and Child Affairs in the Office of the Prime Minister, Ayanna Webster-Roy, is urging citizens to report all incidents of child abuse and domestic violence, saying it is their civic duty.

In an official statement, the Minister underscores the point that it is the Constitutional right of all men, women, boys and girls in Trinidad and Tobago, “to live their lives free of all forms of violence”.

“It is urgent and imperative for us all to focus on the individual and collective societal changes needed to eliminate all forms of violence in our families and within our community,” Minister Webster-Roy stresses. “All incidents of abuse must be reported; this is an individual responsibility and a civic duty.”

The Minister reminds citizens of the agencies to which such reports can be made, such as:

■     Police Service, Tel. No. 999

■     Children’s Authority, Tel. No. 996

■     National Domestic Violence Hotline, Tel. No. 800-SAVE (800-7283)

She adds: “You need to act now! Stop all forms of violence in your home and declare the right of you and your family to live a life free of violence.”

In the release, the Minister points out that the current COVID-19 pandemic has worsened the cases of violence in families and communities—namely, gender-based violence (and in particular Domestic Violence), child abuse and the kidnapping of children, and the deliberate neglect and absence of parents in the lives of their children.

The Minister warns that stereotyping is behind much of this violence and abuse and says the country must guard against it eroding “the values, attitudes and behaviour” in T&T society.

She argues: “We must discourage stereotypes with negative consequences for families and children. I recall a father on the television broadcast ‘Beyond the Tape’, who expressed the view that a man is about muscles and the woman is about caring for children. Such stereotypes of the responsibility of men and women and the behaviours which result are destructive, especially when used to justify one’s absence from a child’s life and refusal to support the child financially. Furthermore, such beliefs of men and women’s responsibility and the behaviours which result negatively impact the rights of our men, women, boys and girls. We must eradicate these negative stereotypes and replace them with thoughts and behaviours that lead to positive family habits and relationships.”

The Gender and Child Affairs Minister is encouraging citizens to make a conscious effort to avoid stereotyping and instead, “promote behaviour and attitudes which will bring about well nurtured and protected children, violent free households and equally shared household work.”

“‘The seeds this society sows today would be the harvest of tomorrow’,” she observes. “For the benefit of the next generation, we all must endeavour to sow good seeds to protect our women, men, our young boys and girls. Remember, we need each other to drive this behaviour change in order to eradicate all forms of gender-based violence and end the abuse of our nation’s children.”

Minister Webster-Roy advocates the following key practices to ensure a change in mindset, that would redound to the benefit of society, overall:

1.    Avoid silencing the victims of abuse by doubting their disclosures or blaming them for the incidents.

2.    Report all incidents of abuse to the Police, the Children’s Authority of Trinidad and Tobago and the National Domestic Violence Hotline.

3.    Ensure that our children are familiar with and can trust the adults around them.

4.    Be supportive by actively listening and encouraging victims of abuse to get immediate help through the Police, the Children’s Authority of Trinidad and Tobago and the National Domestic Violence Hotline.