Gasparillo residents light candles to remember Andrea Bharatt and other femicide victims at the vigil held on Tuesday 9 February 2021. (Image: RISHI RAGOONATH)

Member of Parliament for Tabaquite, Anita Haynes, says the current protest demonstrations around the country for an end to violence against women and femicide, can be seen as a sign of hope.

The Tabaquite MP spoke with Guardian Media during a candlelight vigil held in Gasparillo on Tuesday night, to remember Andrea Bharatt and all the other victims of femicide in this country.

“It should also be seen as a sign of hope. Hope for a better nation as we all come together,” MP Haynes said.

“This is one community among so many around this country and that should be seen as a sign of movement, a sign for positive change.”

Noting that similar vigils will be held by communities in Tabaquite, Guaracara and Tortuga, MP Haynes said the country is saying that it is time for law-abiding citizens to be the majority in T&T.

Tabaquite MP Anita Haynes, along with Gasparillo residents at the anti-gender-based violence vigil on Tuesday 9 February 2021. (Image: RISHI RAGOONATH)

Gasparillo resident, Stacyann Kowlessor, told Guardian Media she is now afraid to leave her home without her husband at her side.  Extending her appreciation to men who respect and protect women, she said:

“I would like to take this time to say thank you to all the men who stand with the women and protect us when they can.  I also appeal to those who don’t, to be the change that we need in our little island.”

Advising the nation to pray for change, Kowlessor added: “I would love to see the death rates, the murder rates go down.  I would love to have at least two weeks, or a month pass, without hearing somebody has been kidnapped or murdered, or to go on social media and not see another missing person—not only females but again children, men, those who are missing.  I would love, love, love to see those statistics start to go down.”  

Another resident, Ava Commissiong, appealed to mothers to correct their children when they do wrong.

“Love is always the foundation and we need to get back to that,” she told Guardian Media.  “Mothers need to play a pivotal role in the homes.  All this is a breakdown in homes. They say charity begins at home. Mothers need to make a change—we need to stop being enablers of the wrong thing not because they are our children. The right thing is the right thing, and the wrong thing will always be the wrong thing.”

And taking a stand as a father, economist and university lecturer, Dr Roger Hosein, says the population is fed up and once their psyche is affected, it could have multiple ripple effects in the country.

Lighting a candle in Gasparillo during another vigil sparked by the murder of Andrea Bharatt, Dr Hosein said with a gross domestic product (GDP) of US$25 billion, the level of atrocities in the country are way too much.

“What does it benefit this country to have such a high level per capita GDP and our daughters and our mothers and our sisters cannot go to work and come home free?” he argued.  “I speak not as a university lecturer only and as an economist only, but I also speak as a father and this nonsense has to come to an end.” 

UWI economist, Dr Roger Hosein, was among the Gasparillo residents who attended the anti-gender-based violence vigil on Tuesday 9 February 2021. (Image: RISHI RAGOONATH)

The UWI economist said all the oil and gas produced in the country amounts to nothing without that right to life and free movement.  He also pointed out that the high rate of violent crimes has a serious impact on society.

“It has affected the psyche of the people and when the psyche of the people becomes affected, it will affect their productivity, so this has multiple ripple effects on the economy of T&T,” he explained.  

“We are already a battered economy.  Since 2015, economic activity has fallen about 18 per cent, the unemployment rate is on the increase, the debt level is almost $130 billion.  So, we now need to consolidate where we are.  We cannot allow crime and brutal crime and crime of this nature to just infiltrate our society.” 

Lamenting that enough is enough, Dr Hosein said people have to stand firm—not for any political party, but each other.