International Women Human Rights Defenders Day may not be a day widely known and observed here in T&T, but it should be.

Today, November 29, is the opportunity to celebrate the women among us who are working tirelessly to make this country and the world a better for women and girls, working to end all forms of discrimination and inequality. It can be a thankless, high-risk job, and often the only reward these heroines get is the satisfaction of knowing that their efforts have saved and transformed many lives.

This is one of the significant dates in the 16 Days of Activism that began last Wednesday, the International Day Against Violence Against Women, and ends on December 10, International Human Rights Day. Full credit must be given to the local agencies and NGOs that have joined with more than 6,000 entities from approximately 187 countries participating in this very important international campaign.

However, there is a need for much more support, including from the relevant state agencies, as gender-based violence (GBV) continues to inflict a severe toll on families and communities across this country.

Every opportunity must be taken to raise awareness of GBV in its many forms, from physical to mental, as well as its long-lasting negative impact on women and girls.

A lot of attention and energy has been placed on COVID-19 over the past eight months but, according to the United Nations, the lockdowns and restrictions that have been imposed in T&T and other parts of the world have created a “shadow pandemic.”

There has been an upsurge in GBV as women and girls are forced to be in close quarters with their abusers. The cases that make news headlines are just the tip of an iceberg of emotional and physical suffering being endured in far too many households.

These 16 days of activism should not be treated lightly in this nation where at least 20 women have been killed already this year, with four recorded in just the first month of 2020. Among the victims have been members of our Venezuelan migrant community.

Over the past few days when so much attention has been focused on the migrants seeking refuge here, not enough attention is being paid to the fact that Venezuelan women are being unfairly labelled as hyper-sexual and subjected to prejudice, exploitation, discrimination, harassment, and assault.

Over these 16 days of activism, the spotlight should be put on these various cases of GBV, many of which are hidden in plain sight in our communities. Every single victim, whether citizen or migrant, urgently needs support.

For that reason, Guardian Media endorses the call by the Coalition Against Domestic Violence (CADV) for implementation of the National Strategic Plan on Gender-based and Sexual Violence.

This multi-faceted action plan must be adopted urgently and this season, in this unprecedented year is as good a time as any­­­—more than six years after the Plan was developed—to fully adopt all its strategies and proposals.