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Bishop Anstey High School East student Mercedes Modeste.

BOBIE-LEE DIXON

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They are only in secondary school, but Bishop Anstey High School East head girl Mercedes Modeste and Trinity College East head boy Aidan O’Garro have proven that one can never be too young to become socially conscious through the joint-creation of the pair’s gender-based violence initiative titled: “Breaking the Cycle, Being Your Sister’s Keeper.”

During an interview on CNC3’s The Morning Brew last week, Modeste said the idea for the proposal came as they observed the recent increasing levels of gender-based violence at play in the country between 2020 and earlier part of this year.

She disclosed how the proposal would work.

“The entire initiative takes a thematic approach, in that there are foundational and targeted aspects of the problem and for each term, we would be focusing on one broad theme which would then be divided into sub-themes,” said Modeste.

Some of the themes, she noted, will include social and emotional learning as well as sex education, which will be the gateway to addressing gender-based violence as an added element to the school’s curriculum.

Among its offerings, the initiative will expose students to a comprehensive overview of how to engage in positive self-development, self-love and appreciation. It will also target boys’ understanding the language of ‘No’ about sex and the empowerment of girls to speak up and speak out against abuse. Simplifying the laws of the land regarding gender-based violence, to make them student-friendly is also included in the initiative.

Co-creator of the initiative, O’Garro, added that the project was really about realising that gender-based violence could visit the home of anyone and it was about putting things in place to prevent violent behaviours.

“I put myself in the shoes of the family members of the afflicted person. What if it were my mother? What if it were my grandmother? My aunt? My sister? And it really affected me and I knew something had to be done,” O’Garro said.

He said when he reached out to Modeste and she wanted to do something similar, they decided to make it a combined effort, which resulted in the initiative. The proposal for the initiative was presented to the principal of Trinity College East and O’Garro said it gained immediate support.

“He gave the full support of the administration. The staff in administration worked along with us to develop the proposal and it was submitted to the board of management of our school and it was approved two weeks ago,” said an elated sounding O’Garro.

Their institutions are brother and sister schools and are on the same compound, although, of course, learning is now online until the COVID-19 numbers are reduced. The proposal, which incorporated the fundamentals of the schools’ motto, pillars and core values in its research, will now be implemented in the 2021-2022 school term.

Given that statistical data suggests one in every three women has experienced some form of domestic violence and intimate partner violence at the hands of their male partners, a large component of the initiative, O’Garro said, was directed to young men. He said it was imperative young men learned how to take responsibility for their actions.

“We keep trying to put this Band-Aid on the issue by making our women out to feel like they are the issue, with admissions such as ‘dress appropriately, don’t walk alone. And really like I said, we keep placing this Band-Aid instead of addressing the underlying issue, which is really the decline of masculinity in our country,” O’Garro related.

He said through the initiative, the aim is to train the young men of society on how they ought to treat women and to expose the false ideology of masculinity that is currently being practiced.