X-Tra Foods

in solidarity: X-Tra Foods Supermarket on the Chaguanas Main Road was one of hundreds of businesses that closed their doors yesterday in solidarity with the demand for the Government to act to reduce violence against women.

HUNDREDS of business doors remained closed and tears were shed for Andrea Bharatt—as well as Trinidad and Tobago’s missing and murdered women yesterday—as thousands heeded a call to shut down the country and send a message to those in authority that it is time to prioritise safety for the vulnerable.

Leading supermarket chain, X-tra Foods and the country’s globally-acclaimed make-up brand, Sacha Cosmetics, were among the businesses taking a proactive stance and keeping their stores closed yesterday.

Representatives of the companies said they believed it was important to take a “proactive” and “leadership” role on the issue currently engaging T&T—that of crime and gender violence—which allowed female employees to comfortably take part in yesterday’s demonstrations.

More businesses appeared to be closed in Central, East and South Trinidad, where candlelight vigils have been increasing and communities have vowed not to ease up on their demands that the Government take steps to deter the criminal-minded and increase crime detection and convictions.

Unconfirmed reports coming out of demonstrations, vigils and social media yesterday were that close to 2,000 businesses of varying sizes had taken part in the shutdown.

These included automotive parts dealers, insurance operations, beauty and fashion outlets, hardware stores, courier services, printeries, boutiques, some doctor’s offices and medical services and hardwares.

Several businesses told the Express the “majority” of their employees were women who relied on public transport and they had been negatively impacted by recent kidnappings and murders of women who also used that mode of travel.

One businessman said yesterday’s protest action was not without cost but “sacrifices have to be made now”.

“It was very hurtful, financially, to stay closed but we felt compelled to take part,” said a Chaguanas-based retailer of variety goods.

“The ones who would feel it are the smaller businesses. Some businesses are now catching themselves a bit but things are still very slow for some merchandisers. Most of us cannot even get foreign exchange to buy goods. However, all but one of my staff are women and they do not feel safe, they do not feel comfortable when they leave here after dark. Some women have to take more than one taxi to get home. This type of action would be very difficult for most businesses to sustain, so we hope to see some change by the Government as a result.”

Women were this week urged to stay at home and shut down the country, thereby demonstrating the significance of their role in commerce, following the kidnap and murder of 23-year-old Andrea Bharatt.

The former clerk at the Arima Magistrates’ Court disappeared on January 29 after she boarded a fake “H” taxi on the Arima Old Road. Her body was found by a scrap-iron dealer on February 4, down a precipice in the Heights of Aripo. Preceding that was the murder of Ashanti Riley, 18, who was also kidnapped after getting into a “ph” taxi in San Juan on November 29. Her body was found on December 4.

Stayed home, cried

Women who took part in yesterday’s mass protest made use of the day in various ways—some took to social media to keep with commentary, some attended vigils and protests, including a day-long demonstration outside the Red House in Port of Spain, while others admitted to “staying home and crying”.

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