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Scores of people walk along the Criosse in San Juan during a candlelight vigil for Andrea Bharatt and other female victims of violence last night.

Over 500 businesses have announced they will be closed today as murder victim Andrea Bharatt is laid to rest.

The decision to shut down comes after over a hundred demonstrations across the country to highlight violence against women and call for legislators to pass necessary laws to cause it to cease.

Bharatt, 23, was kidnapped on January 29 and her decomposing body was found in the Heights of Aripo one week later on February 4.

The shutdown stems from a call made by a group, An Act for Change, which wanted women to stay away from work.

Other demonstrators turned it into a call for workplaces to shut down entirely.

By noon yesterday, lists began circulating on social media with the names of businesses who announced their decisions to close and by late yesterday that list grew to over 500, made up of mainly small and medium-sized businesses.

Among those remaining closed are Xtra Foods Supermarkets, auto parts stores, insurance enterprises, food outlets, cosmetic/fashion stores, hardware, medical labs and legal services. One agricultural outfit is closing for three days.

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A woman lights a candle at a vigil for Andrea Bharatt during a candlelight vigil in Freeport last night.

List compiled from social media posts

Attorney at law, Kandace Bharath-Nahous told Guardian Media she and a colleague compiled the list, taking hours to do so, using Facebook posts.

“One page had a few running posts, where the businesses were listed and they also had, for the most part, photos of messages that the businesses would have sent to them, confirming they were closing and then within the comments on those posts, with the list, other businesses have confirmed they are closing and I have also received probably 100 messages from Facebook and WhatsApp from businesses that have confirmed that they are closing tomorrow,” Bharath-Nahous said.

Asked why she began putting together the list, she said, “I think that we were all as a nation rocked by the recent events. The tipping point was the brutal murder of Andrea and before her, Ashanti. I say tipping point because this is where many people, including myself, feel that this situation cannot go on. As a woman, I do not feel safe in my country, in my home, in my office…anywhere really and I would have been the victim of crime on two occasions at least.”

She said she believes Andrea’s murder has to be the point where the country unites and puts aside its political beliefs to call for real change.

Businessman Ganesh Diptee was one of the first to announce yesterday that his business place, Diptee’s Hardware, would be closed today.

He sent out a call to the rest of the business community, saying, “I would like to ask other business people to join into this movement to keep it at the top of the agenda of the powers that be so that changes can be effected.”

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A woman carries a candle during a vigil in Penal last night.

White ribbon initiative

Secondary school teacher, Seema Suraj, who organised last Sunday’s motorcade from Chaguanas to the Queen’s Park Savannah is calling on citizens to wear a white ribbon today in Bharatt’s memory.

Suraj said she will be supporting the call to stay away from work and will spend her day in demonstrations around the Savannah and in front of the Parliament.

She said the white ribbon initiative came about as a way to show support for those who have been abused or attacked.

“I see the need for people to have a platform to be comfortable to speak about their experiences and we will be there to provide support to empower them—it’s not just for women but men and children too,” Suraj said.

She will officially launch the initiative next Saturday.

Meanwhile, one of the founders of ‘An Act to Change, Nadia Juman has sent out a call for radio stations to play uplifting music all day today.

Juman suggested among them, the song ‘No Greater Time,’ a collaborative music project created by over 35 local musicians.

“We need lyrics that have an uplifting vibe to support the movement to spread the word that we need unity to bring about change, this is a crisis of violence,” Juman said.

One man has since been charged for her murder, while two suspects have died in police custody. A woman has also been charged with receiving stolen items.