Kamla Persad-Bissessar

VIOLENCE CONTINUES:Kamla Persad-Bissessar

There is still no word on when non-lethal weapons such as pepper spray will be legalised, says Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar.

“We recently learned that despite public pressure to make non-lethal weapons available, and a promise by the Government to enact the necessary legislation, there is still no word on when this will be done,” Persad-Bissessar said yesterday in her International Women’s Day message to the nation.

The former prime minister said many women no longer feel safe at home, at work, or in any aspect of their daily lives.

She added that gender-based violence continues at unacceptable levels, and in recent months the deaths of young women at the hands of criminals have caused immense grief and trauma.

Persad-Bissessar noted that the citizenry has also been spurred into demanding more of their leaders.

“We understand and acknowledge that more must be done to protect our women and to give them a fighting chance,” she stated, lamenting that there is no date yet for when legislation will be brought to the Parliament for legalisation of non-lethal weapons.

Persad-Bissessar further pointed out the pandemic’s negative impact on women.

She stated that over the past year, the impact of the pandemic on health systems, economies and education sectors around the world has been deep and widespread.

“Here in Trinidad and Tobago, we have also seen how the Covid-19 pandemic and associated lockdown measures have affected the entire population, with significant negative impacts on our women,” she stated.

Continue to break barriers

Persad-Bissessar noted the tourism and hospitality industries, which employ a high proportion of women, have been severely affected by the pandemic, and with businesses shutting down, large numbers of women have lost their jobs.

And, after several months, many are still waiting on the promised salary relief grants, she said. In some cases, women have had to leave their jobs to care for families and ensure their children are able to switch to online learning, said Persad-Bissessar.

She applauded the efforts of the women on the frontline of fighting the pandemic — as nurses, doctors and first responders. She added that women have been at the forefront of scientific research and development of the vaccines for Covid-19.

“However, in addition to the challenges of loss of income and employment, women are at increased risk of domestic violence in the pandemic, as the economic strains and restrictions have increased stress and tension in the home,” stated Persad-Bissessar.

She stated it is “painfully clear” that Government has no coherent plan to take the country out of the economic crisis it is currently facing — a crisis that began long before Covid-19, and therefore it is up to citizens to work together to effect change.

Persad-Bissessar stated that as the country goes forward in seeking to renew and rebuild, greater citizen involvement is required, and in particular, greater participation by women in the decision-making process. “We need more women rising to the challenge and taking up leadership roles in their communities, in the boardrooms, and in Parliament,” she stated.

“I issue a call today to girls and women across our beautiful twin-island nation to step up and claim your space. Continue to break barriers, continue to shatter the glass ceiling, and continue to stand proud in all your achievements,” she added.

“As a woman Parliamentarian and leader of a political party, I pledge to continue working to improve the lives of my fellow Trinbagonians,” stated Persad-Bissessar.

She said the road ahead is difficult, and the country needs each and every one to commit to doing the work necessary to get through it.

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