top of page




     Madam Presiding Officer, the Minority Councillor asked a list of questions that should I   attempt to answer all of them, would lead to an extended time for which I do  not think we are prepared today. I should let her know through you, that the   Division is currently reviewing all of its social support policies, and at   the Executive Council level, these are being discussed.

     Madam Presiding Officer, I am privileged to be - although   I have had the experience of hearing the great, late Arthur Napoleon Raymond   Robinson speak in this Chamber, and sitting in the position where you now sit   Madam Presiding Officer, reminding us of the structure of this facility and   the shape of the table. I do not know if you were born at that time, Madam   Presiding Officer, but I could let you know that he referred to the fact that   the table is designed in a horseshoe which is supposed to remove the threat of   adversarial conversation or adversarial politics. Although we are on   different sides from a philosophical perspective, we are on one side as   Tobagonians. It is a place for conversation before confrontation; it is a   place for mediation before manipulation and it is a place that puts Tobago   ahead of many political jurisdictions around the world. In some   jurisdictions, we have persons on one side telling persons on the other side,   “Meet me on the pavement outside,” but the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) is   not designed for that.

     When you do a research into Tobago’s politics and its history, you will realize that there are Jack’s on one side and Jack’s on the other side; there are Charles’ on one side and Charles’ on the other side; there are James’ on one side and James’ on the other side. [Laughter] I could say there are James that are for us and there are James’ that are against us. [Laughter]

      I want to also put into this closing conversation, a   commendation for the staff at the Division of Health, Wellness and Social   Protection, which on a daily basis meet and do assessments as to what is the best road to take in dealing with disadvantaged persons in our communities. When the Minority spoke to persons being rejected, I must say that these are not the direct intervention of the Secretaries - but based on a means assessment, one could determine whether or not someone qualifies for the assistance they request. All requests would not be granted, and I am saddened   that the Minority presents itself as being a bit gullible in believing that   everyone that presents a case to him is a worthy case that should be   honoured. Hear me carefully when I say every case is dealt with on its merit   and a decision is made. To add strength to that position, if you are not   satisfied with the conclusion that has been brought to your request, whether   it is for a food card or for whatever assistance, there is still an opportunity for you to have an extended   conversation, by going into the ascendency and speaking to those at higher elevations in the organization. There is no situation where there is no hope. As the conversation sought, as presented by the Minority, of course, this Administration has financial constraints and I would think that it might be prudent for the Minority, in its position as a friend and ally of those who holds the purse strings in Central Government, to put a word in for Tobago to ensure that we get our just due in financial remunerations. [Desk thumping]

       Madam Presiding Officer, as an island, we are in some kind   of challenges and some kind of trouble. We have reached the point in Tobago where children are using expletives publicly, and the whole world could hear.I know that there is no one in this room who is so young as to not escape the kinds of repercussion that comes with that. As a matter of fact, we know that some of us might have lost some of our dental works if we sought to use any   expletives around our parents, [Desk thumping] but we have reached a   time where Tobago, an island that was nestled and proud of its family-based   heritage - that our families are being broken up when we hear and see these   things happening in our communities. The fact is: it could create a sense of   numbness in us. Here we are seeing these manifestations of a decaying   society, and we are called as one team around this table to seek to make an   intervention. The imperfections that are a part of this Motion, should not be   the rallying cry and the deciding factor as to whether or not we choose to   support the Motion.

     The Minority Leader started his deliberations by suggesting that at some point he had brought this Motion to the fore. If he stands by that word, I expect to see him vote in the affirmative in support of this Motion, [Desk thumping] seeing that this is something that he wants. Here we are seeking to assist the   vulnerable. The Minority Councillor was not sure what that meant. I had to Google  it. It speaks to persons who are exposed to the possibility of being attacked   or harmed either physically or emotionally. When we have women and children   in a society without access to the basic things needed for their survival, it   is easy to surmise that they are indeed vulnerable.

     The vulnerable men in our society was also a part of the Minority Councillor’s concern. Just to quickly say that this particular Sitting was called with the women and children in mind. It does not close the door on an opportunity for us to discuss the vulnerable men. Here we are at a point where we should make a decision on whether or not this Motion has credibility going forward. I dare say, Madam Presiding Officer, it does have credibility. There is a need for us to address this matter, and so, as I take my seat, it is my wish and my prayer that the House will find   favour and vote in the affirmative   with regard to this Motion. I thank you. [Desk thumping]

Question put and   agreed to.

Motion carried.

1.35 P.M

Member for Buccoo/Mt. Pleasant. [Desk thumping]

1.25 P.M

    We know, Madam Presiding Officer, that some private and   non­governmental organizations may have different priorities to those of the   Tobago House of Assembly. They may have different resources and capabilities, and one has to ensure, that those objectives; those goals are aligned to each other. So the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) objectives and strategies must   align to those of the partnering agencies. This is one area Madam Presiding Officer, that I believe that this Executive needs to address as they roll out this policy. I am sure we would have all heard in various sectors, where   complaints have been made by the stakeholders that there have not been   meaningful collaboration and consultation and coordination as different   policies and activities, and events are implemented by this Administration. So I think that this ought to happen if we are to see a meaningful buy-in to this policy.

     Secondly, Madam Presiding Officer, based on the complaints   by the Executive, resource constraints and limitations may also pose a   significant challenge to implementing this approach.

     As I would have indicated, we would have heard Members on   the Executive repeatedly complaining about the limited financial resources   available to the Tobago House of Assembly (THA). So how will the Executive   manage and ensure equitable and transparent distribution of resources among   the different organizations? What mechanisms will be put in place to ensure   that this occurs?

 As I would have indicated, we would have heard Members on   the Executive repeatedly complaining about the limited financial resources   available to the Tobago House of Assembly (THA). So how will the Executive   manage and ensure equitable and transparent distribution of resources among   the different organizations? What mechanisms will be put in place to ensure that this occurs?

It is also important, Madam Presiding Officer, to ensure   that the partnering agencies are capable of addressing the specific needs of   vulnerable women and children in Tobago. Of course, this requires identifying   the appropriate organizations that have the necessary expertise, experience   and resources to effectively address the specific needs of the population.

    Madam Presiding Officer, what we are saying as well, is   that this may require ongoing monitoring and evaluation of the partnering   organizations activities, to ensure that they are aligned with the goals of the Tobago House of Assembly.

    Madam Presiding Officer, again I am asking the Assistant   Secretary, whether or not there are existing policies at the Division of   Health, Wellness and Social Protection. I am wondering whether or not a  comprehensive review of those existing policies and initiatives, currently in place to support the vulnerable   women and children in Tobago - have been reviewed to identify potential   barriers that may be hindering their effectiveness, and therefore, improve   the existing policies to better serve the persons in need.

     Lastly, Madam Presiding Officer, in relation to this   specific preamble to the whole of government approach, there may be conflicts   of interest or power dynamics among the different organizations and   stakeholders, which may undermine the effectiveness of the whole of island   approach. How does the Division and by extension the Executive Council,   intend to deal with this matter?

    Madam Presiding Officer, while we welcome this Motion as   it reads, as a Minority, I am a little disappointed with the Motion. I want   to go back to some remarks that were made by the Secretary of the Division of   Health, Wellness and Social Protection, while she was speaking at the launch  of the National Clinical   and Policy Guidelines on “Intimate Partner Violence and Sexual Violence”, on   International Women's Day 2023.

     The Secretary and Member for Belle Garden/Glamorgan, gave   a story about a two (2) year old boy whose knees were hurt, and he went to a   parent or guardian crying, the boy was told, “Do not cry, you are a boy”. That boy is now taught that he does not have feelings; he does not have   emotions; and if he is hurt, he should not express pain. Then, the two (2) year old boy becomes a twenty (20) year old or a thirty (30) year old man who cannot express pain; who does not know how to express his feelings, and then   we have to treat with the necessary situations in relation to that boy. The   Secretary goes on to say, that it is International Women's Day - we are   talking about “Embracing Equity”, and we need to seriously think about what   it takes to get us to the point. She says that equity is not just treating with women. Why I am   a bit disappointed, is because this was the remarks  by the Secretary of Health, Wellness and Social Protection at this Division   at  an ‘International Women's Day’ forum. At the first opportunity to address the issue, we have left out the men or the boys that the Secretary would have  so passionately spoken about.

     Madam Presiding Officer, my question is, what about the   vulnerable men? [Desk thumping] Even as Councillor Orr spoke, she would have spoken about her father. Madam Presiding Officer, there are vulnerable men, and the men in the society also need assistance. So what are we going  to do or what do we propose to do, to support those vulnerable men in our society? While I support and embrace providing that assistance to vulnerable women and children, I also want to embrace and ask that consideration be given to the vulnerable men in our society.

     So, Madam Presiding Officer, as I wrap up my presentation,   I have a few additional questions for the Assistant Secretary, and I hope   that he can respond in his winding up. One of them requires information about   how will the partnerships between the NGOs, CBOs, FBOs, will be established.What resources will be provided for them, and how will the effectiveness of  these partnerships be measured and managed?

     I also want to direct the Division and the Assistant   Secretary, Madam Presiding Officer, to review the Sustainable Development   Goals (SDGs) or the sustainable development principles and goals, because   this policy provides guidance in relation to policy formulation and   implementation. I think that this document will be helpful as the   Administration and the Division seeks to implement and roll out this policy.

     Madam Presiding Officer, thank you for the opportunity to   contribute.

     I thank you. [Desk thumping]

Thank you, Madam  Presiding Officer, for the opportunity to join this debate. I would like to commence my contribution this afternoon by inquiring of the Assistant  Secretary whether or not meaningful engagement took place with the stakeholders. Madam Presiding Officer, I stress on meaningful, and we really   want to know on this side whether or not the stakeholders were consulted.

     In my preparation for this debate, I would have reached   out to a few stakeholders dealing with women and children, and one of the   questions that was asked in the context of this Motion, was how do we define vulnerable women. Councillor Williams-Orr would have indicated - and she would have shared her story of how her family, her mother and herself were vulnerable. In this context, it is quite important (and I think it is a valuable Question) that we   need to define what is vulnerable, because women and children can be   vulnerable in different circumstances, and it should not be something   subjective, but it should be objective. I think in terms of the stakeholders,   we need to consult with them to identify what are some of the vulnerabilities   that they have experienced; that they face, so that as we draft our policy,   we have a clear definition of who we are catering to.

      Madam Presiding Officer, why I raised this point, apart   from the question being asked, is because some Fridays ago, someone would   have reached out to me to help a family. I said I would try to assist, so the   contact of the mother was shared. I reached out to the mother and the mother   said that she had made her last bake and butter, or whatever it was in the morning. She had used her last groceries and there was nothing in the cupboard for her to provide for her children. It was Friday. They would normally take the school feeding (breakfast and lunch at school) that is provided, but it   was Friday so there was no school feeding and there was nothing available to   her and her children. She had given up the last for her children. When I   enquired of her, “Mum, have you reached out to the Division of Health,  Wellness and Social Protection for some assistance in relation to food card?”  She said, yes.

     Madam Presiding Officer, she would have reached out.   However, after a period of time, information came that she was denied access   to the food card.

    Madam Presiding Officer, I went to the grocery and picked   up some things to help the lady for a little period. To me, when I looked at   the woman she seemed vulnerable, but based on whatever the policy that the   Division of Health, Wellness and social Protection has, she was not assisted   because to them she was not vulnerable. Again, it begs the point, who do we  consider as vulnerable women and who do we assist?

     Madam Presiding officer, the individual also went on to indicate   that she applied for other assistance from the Division. She would have applied for a fridge and other appliances - stove, but to date, she has not received any assistance from the Division. If that is a vulnerable person how are we assisting that family?

Madam Presiding Officer, I also want to look at parts of   the preamble to this Motion and it says:

“AND   WHEREAS the issue of support to vulnerable women and children is   still deficient within the Tobago space.”

    I want to stress on ‘still deficient’. My question to the   Assistant Secretary is: What does this term really mean in the context of   this Motion? It is indeed a valuable observation, and it is also a useful   starting point for identifying a potential problem, but it lacks some details   that can be actionable. Although the Member in his piloting of the Motion, would have provided some information and   statistics about the number of persons and women accessing the various   grants, what he did not provide is specific information and context to   support the claim that there is still a sufficient deficiency. Madam   Presiding Officer, I will say that this lacks some specificity. It would be   helpful for us to get some data and information to support what the   underlying factors that contribute to the lack of support are, and understand the extent to which vulnerable women and children in Tobago are impacted by these deficiencies.

     Madam Presiding Officer, in policy formulation, an issue can be defined as a problem that is of a serious nature that needs corrective   action. An issue in itself cannot be deficient. Another question, in terms of   the deficiency - it is something that creates an issue or problem because of   its effects. I am asking, Madam Presiding Officer, is it inadequate funding that is the deficiency? Is it limited human resources? Is it policy or regulatory constraints? We   would have seen some policies that were implemented by this Administration   that may cause some women and children to be vulnerable. The two (2) speakers   before me would have indicated that persons were placed on the breadline for   varying reasons. One of them was because they did not have the requisite   squared pegs in round holes, so to speak, and they did not have the requisite   competencies. Another Speaker would have given an example of where companies   were shut down and Ministries were shut down in Trinidad.

      Madam Presiding Officer, the fact remains that something   happened. A policy decision was taken that may have caused women and children to become vulnerable. Whether or not it happened in Trinidad; whether or not   it happened here in Tobago, there is justification, be it valid or not, for   that thing to happen in terms of placing persons on the breadline. It occurred, and as a result of that policy decision, persons were made   vulnerable. It does not negate from the   fact that that is the issue.

Madam Presiding Officer, another preamble to this Motion   is the requirement for a whole-island approach where all parties, including   private and non-governmental organizations actively participate in the   protection and response to vulnerable women and children. While this idea   sounds promising, I would suggest that there may be some potential challenges   that would be required to be addressed in order to effectively implement such   an approach.

Firstly, one has to ensue that there is effective   collaboration and coordination of all parties involved. We have to ensure as   well that there is effective communication and coordination between the   Tobago House of Assembly (THA), and whoever the partnering agencies are.

1.15 P.M

Councillor Benoit.

Thank you, Madam Presiding Officer. They can shop. They can be somebody. Persons under URP  could tell you, I am now getting seven hundred dollars ($700) more a fortnight.

     The vulnerability of women and children, and the exposure   to harsh, abusive conditions is not a frivolous issue. Therefore, the THA as   part of its mandate in accordance with the Fifth Schedule of Act 40 of 1996,   is determined to forge partnerships with relevant agencies, to provide   services to our vulnerable women and children. However, while the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) is carrying out its political and administrative   mandates, I plead with us as individuals to be our sister’s keeper. Involvement can be scary; it can be risky, but it is necessary. That is why the call for an island­wide approach is critical to the success of this   Motion and the Division’s mandate.

    Let us remember Tobago, the involvement of “Harriet &   Others” in the formation and operations of the Underground Railroad in the United States of America (USA). We may need an Underground   Railroad in Tobago.

I thank you. [Desk thumping]

Member, you have five (5) minutes.

1.05 P.M

     So, she stayed and   it was a recurring decimal, and there was no way; there was no support; no   government agency; family was not taking you because that was a risk in   itself. Also, families may not have been in a good place economically, to   have two (2) other mouths to feed. So, I understand the need for the support;   for a safe place for women; vulnerable women and children because that framed my life. I said to me, Certica, “Two (2) things you are going to do in your  life. You are going to get the O’ levels; you are going to get a work; and no   man...” - I had no choice as a minor. I could not have made any decisions for   my life then, but you see the day I was eighteen (18) years old, I was in   full charge. So it framed me. Probably, everyone does not have the same   strength - it does not come easily. It takes talking to self. It takes help   from others. It takes God. It takes God to put you in a place where a firm   decision could be made that it ends here.

    Madam Presiding Officer, running continues, or probably I   should say, “Women want to run, but they want to run safely”, because all of   us - every time there is another death at the hands of an estranged lover or   whatever, we pull out our textbooks and we come and we say, she should leave;   she should this; she should that. However, sometimes, I asked if the woman   comes, how many of us will open our doors and say, I am taking you in. Many   of us are afraid that the men will come. They will come; the rage will not   end. The men will come and we are not endangering ourselves and our families.   So, we only talk, but we offer no comfort to the woman who wants to run, and   wants to run safely. Women want to run with their children. Sometimes it is   not possible because of economic circumstances or even existing legislation.

    In preparing for this, I had a chat with someone who works   in Gender Affairs, and that individual said that with the existing   legislation, after age thirteen (13), your boy child cannot stay in a home, so he got to go. I stand corrected with that. So a mother making a decision to run, after age thirteen (13), where is she going? Just assume she has all boys, or even one. Where do they go?

     As we deliberate this Motion, Madam Presiding Officer, it   is important that we be mindful of the following. The issues of women must   never be reduced to only those concerning women and children. A more   sophisticated analysis is required, for there are too many serious issues of   development that are central to women’s existence that are beyond those   related to children. Women are a complexed and varied collective, and it is   necessary to understand the diversity inherent in this collective. The need   for serious and well-placed research is imperative. The failing of our   National Data Collection Services, results in the inability to base public   policy on relevant sociocultural and socioeconomic data, disaggregated by   sex.

The International Women’s Day Campaign for 2023 is ^Embrace   Equity. Equity acknowledges the notion that people do not all begin in   life at the same place, and that circumstances can make it even more   difficult for people to accomplish the same goals. People in marginalized   communities are hit the hardest by levels of inequity. It therefore means   that a measure of hope has to be offered. Regardless of the underlying   conditions that form the basis for vulnerability, our women deserve a chance   at life - a fulfilling life, a rewarding life, an opportunity to live and to   be loved.

     You know - let me go back to the Minority Leader. He talked about women in the Community-Based Environmental Protection and   Enhancement (CEPEP) and so on, being thrown through to the wolves or through the door. I would want to say to him, let us look at the women who are involved at the Lure Programme or at the CEPEP or at the Unemployment Relief Programme (URP). Did they really care about those women? When a daily wage is sixty-nine dollars ($69) or ninety-six dollars ($96), and a pack of milk is a hundred dollars ($100), you have to work two (2) days to be able to buy a pack of milk. For those women at Lure Estate, if 1 remember clearly,   the Executive Council Minute gave approval for the employment for two (2)   months in 2002, and they are still with us, and the wage remained where it   was then, till now. It took a caring Chief Secretary [Desk thumping]  to recognize the plight and the hardship that these women were undergoing; to   say, “That cannot happen under my watch. It cannot happen under my watch”.  Those groups were the first groups he has given an instruction to be dealt with. You come here this morning wanting ‘to throw shade’ according to the old people - that cannot! He made sure that those women can now live; their level of dignity has risen. Many of them are now proud to push a trolley in our supermarkets.

12.55 P.M

      Madam Presiding Officer, in October 2022, the Minister of   Labour, (and you know the old people saying, “ants guh bring he news!” I hope   somebody takes news to the Minority Leader) in this land, Mr. Stephen Me Clashie, said in the debate, in our Parliament, his Ministry has done its  part to provide employment opportunities to citizens, even though it is not necessarily its job to do so. The headline facing us the next day screamed, “It is not my job to give you a job. Has the Minority Leader chastised his Colleague?   No! if you are silent on what is happening in Trinidad, remain silent here   too.

        Madam Presiding Officer, I rise to contribute to the Motion tabled in this august House. It is unfortunate that this debate is happening a month later, but that is water below the bridge - better late   than never. In March, When the full global focus was on women, we had hoped that it would have been appropriate then, but it is what it is.

    International   Women’s Day is celebrated on March 8 every year, because many years ago-in   fact, more than a century ago, women banded together to call for an   international day to give women a greater voice in demand for equal rights -   and women, take credit, because the foundation of this is fully grounded in the labour movements in the United States of America and in Europe.

    Madam Presiding Officer, vulnerability is the human dimension of disasters, and is the result of a range of economic, social, cultural, institutional, political and   psychological factors that shape people’s lives and the environment they live in. Vulnerable women are conventionally identified based on low income   earnings, which may lead to economic dependence on others, ethnicity, educational level, locations (it may be rural and remote), culture, decision-making ability and disabilities. However, this grouping can be further expanded to include victims of sexual violence and human trafficking, migrant workers and those diagnosed with diseases like HIV/AIDS. In this context, and within our communities, it is not difficult to identify vulnerable women.

     A paragraph is this Motion reads:

“AND WHEREAS the issue of support to vulnerable women and children is still deficient within the Tobago space,”

Madam Presiding Officer, this is being honest and blunt.   This is saying it as it is, and calling for action to correct this gap. It is   saying that frontal attack is required.

     Yesterday I read  post on Facebook, and it said:

       “I wish I never experienced hurt. I used to be the sweetest girl.”

         I said to the   person who made the post. Thanks for this. I am going to use it in the House tomorrow.

     Madam Presiding Officer, one of my Colleagues earlier this   morning said - he was talking his story. In hindsight, this is probably a   Motion that I should have kept away from, because speaking of vulnerable   women and children evokes an emotion and a memory for me, that - I come here   not looking for sympathy; I come here not looking for pity.

     This is my story. I know - in fact, in my little notes I   have my story as a runner - and this has nothing to do with athletics. I   understand what being a vulnerable woman is, and we seem to think that a   vulnerable woman is a single parent woman. It is not. I did not grow up in a   household with only my mother. My father was there, but my mother was the   most vulnerable, beaten, trodden down human being, probably, that I knew of   then. I lived, until about age 16, the full, frontal abuse and knowledge of   what a vulnerable woman goes through. I know it. I lived it. I know what it is to be an unemployed   woman - my mother was. She was nifty with the sewing machine. She would plant   all her crops and so on. She had all her animals, but she was beaten   psychologically; she was beaten emotionally, and when she ran, she had to run   with me ‘pun’ she back. I know what it is to have to scramble your little   thing, and od you know what is sad about it? There was really no need for the   vulnerable state because my father was not unemployed. He worked as a   daily-rated worker and had one of the largest seine in Tobago, so there was   really no need for us to be poor; downtrodden; financially burdened, but he   was an alcoholic. His money went that way, and in smoke, and care for his   family was not number one on his agenda. When he spent all that he had, he had   to fight my mother for what little she had, and when she said, she could not,   well, everything turned ‘ole mas’. I knew a woman who had to run from her   house. Her doors were thrown open. The windows; the curtains were torn down and she had   to run outside.She would go under a tree to shelter and when he recognized she was under a tree, he would use the garden hose to spray all around, so she had to escape from the yard.

     I understand the need for this Motion and for the Tobago   House of assembly (THA), especially the relevant Division to partner with   agencies to bring hope to women. I knew my mother and I running at 11.00 in   the night to someone’s home to knock on a door to ask them if they could take   us in. All she used to ask for was a little corner that she could sit down. She did not want a bed; she did not want a chair; just a corner so that she could sit down and wait for the break of dawn, and she sat and she held little   me and she put my head in her lap and she said ‘doh doh’, it would be all   right. My mother ran for years u she never ran without me.

     In my little way, many days I would ask her why are we staying? In two (2) days he found us wherever we were and he was the sweetest chap then, but it never   ended. I would ask her, why are we staying in my little way, (I do not know   know) and she used to give me two (2) reasons.

(1) “I am not gainfully   employed, and who will take me in; where will I go?

(2) “I have you, and I do not want to take you, my girl child... (because in those days, the emphasis was on abuse of girls and girls only.

Now it is a   different story, so her response was) ... I cannot carry you by anybody else   e because I do not want you to be abused.”

     [Desk thumping]  Thank you, Madam Presiding Officer.

     Madam Presiding Officer, I do not deal well with   hypocrisy. I do not deal well with it at all. The narrative spewed by the   Minority Leader cannot be allowed to go unchallenged in this House; in this   island; in this space. [Desk thumping] It cannot! I have no issue if   something is true; it is correct; it is accurate; it is appropriate; it is   relevant. I am all in favour of that but when people come and want to be   two-faced and wear a mask or unmask themselves, when it suits their cause, I   cannot sit as a Member of this House and allow those on the other side to get   away unscathed.

     Madam Presiding Officer, before I get into the meat of my   contribution, I want to address some statements made by the Minority Leader.

     A couple years ago, on our local news at 7.00 p.m.,   the population was greeted with a sound bite, and if you were closing your fridge door - I want to say it again, “Petrotrin will not be closed down”. Madam Presiding Officer, a couple of weeks after, Petrotrin was shut down. Nobody worried or were concerned whether women were employees of Petrotrin. There  were single mothers; there were grandmothers who had their little ones to take care of. I did not hear a note from anybody under the banner of the People’s National Movement (PNM) making a claim, not even the Minority Leader. I hope he was a Member then. No one on the Minority side, made a   claim for the women of Petrotrin.

    Madam Presiding Officer, I am sorry the Minority Leader is   not here,but he cannot run and hide. This is not ducking season. If you are a man, you are a man. I wanted to ask him, to show me his membership card, because it is interesting, or it will be interesting to know when he became a Member of the   People’s National Movement (PNM). I will hope to see on that card, that it   was sometime after September 07, 2015, because his Political Leader and Prime   Minister, made good on his promise to shut down the Ministry of Tobago   Development and cast hundreds of women out on the streets of Tobago. [Desk   thumping] Not one of them had a word of comfort or support for Tobago’s   women against a Tobago Prime Minister. [Desk thumping] None of them! Do not come here today with hypocrisy filled works, hoping to decry and to demean this side - not one of them!

     I want to point the Minority Leader (probably his Colleague) to go look for the Daily Express. Check the archives, look for an article authored by Kamari Rodriguez, published first on June 12th,   2022, and updated on the 29th of March this year. It read: “The Young and the   Desperate”. It was an article that outlined the cries of young people; many of them women. They are twenty-five (25); they are university grads - no hope for them in the employment, but he did not ask the Minister of Labour;   he did not ask the Member of Parliament for Tobago West. I do not know if he asked the Member for Tobago East; I do not know if he asked any of his Colleagues what we were doing about the vulnerable women and the young ones in our midst. Go read and be educated.

      I also want to point here, to an article in the Guardian Newspaper dated March 07th, 2023, written by Joshua Seemungul. In that   article, there was a quote of the Ministry of Labour figures as at the third quarter of 2022. It said that, “Thirty-two thousand, two hundred (32,200) persons were unemployed, and of that figure, sixteen thousand, five hundred (16,500) were women”.

     If the Minority Leader is a global person and he scans his  environment, he will know what happened across the pond, will have a direct effect on us here. How has he negotiated? How has he cried? How is he alarmed over   women who are unemployed? Yet, he came here this morning to spew narrative,   nonsensical -1 do not even know what they call it. It is not figures; it is   not data; it is simply nothing! No, we cannot allow that. You know what   disturbs me? In fact, a Press Conference was called for 12 o’clock,   and the Member will probably stand on the step of this building and spew just   what you said here today. Do not fool our people. Do not do that to us.

Councillor Williams-Orr.

12.45 P.M

    So, when the Minority stands and tries to trivialize this   Motion and  behave as though it is just another talk shop - we are saying to you, Mr.  Minority through the Presiding Officer, that this Motion is of utmost  importance.

    The Minority Leader brought examples of a letter that he   said  somebody wrote to him. I would have corrected numerous essays as a standard 5 teacher and it sounded just like one of that. That sounded like  some ‘Nancy’ story, as they say in in the local palance. Let us be real, and let us look at what we can do, rather than coming here and pointing fingers, and telling us somebody came and cried to him because they were a party supporter, and they were in a position that they were not qualified for and may have been relocated - the Member is not going to say that. He came and he talked about who was sent home and who cried to him   and whatever,but let us talk the thing - how it happened. One of the   things is (and I have   said this already) if you constantly lie to people, eventually they are not   going to believe you. One of the things that I have constantly listened to  from Mr. Minority Leader, (he is not here to take his pounding, he ran  outside) is how many persons that we have sent home as an Administration,  but what he did not say, is that so many of them were in positions doing  nothing; they were being paid, and they were home, [Desk thumping] and   all  of that. Many of them were at home; they never spent a day on the job, but  they were being paid. So that Administration had a track record of paying  people for doing nothing. That was the track record of the former   Administration. This Administration will not continue with that. We   believe that competence, qualification and performance are the requisite qualities for persons to remain in certain positions - not because of family,and not because   you are wearing a certain colour jersey and that kind of thing. So we want to   put it on record, that when the Member is coming with his Nancy story and   they - be very careful.

     I do not want him attacking my Colleagues in this good   House when we would have come here to debate a noble Motion about equity and   equality for women. We would have gone out on a tangent speaking politics and   talking about who got sent home and all kinds of things, because he did not   come prepared. What I would urge him to do, on the next occasion, is prepare   him; do some research and come up with some meaningful suggestions to take   this thing forward.

    Colleagues, I want to say categorically, that the men on   this side, support this Motion.

    Thank you, Madam   Presiding Officer. [Desk thumping}

12.35 P.M

We need to look at   educating our young men, so that they can grow up with the kind of mindset   and the kind of understanding of how women must be treated in the workplace,   in their homes, and all of that.

     I want to say that women have been the backbone of our   society for many, many years. Men, I have to call us out again. I know many   of us would have had the experience of the grandmother, and we know about   that slipper we would get across our backs when we misbehave and so forth.   They were the ones who kept us straight. As a matter of fact, most of us may   not have even remember back in the days getting licks from our fathers   because our fathers would just talk and you would listen, but the women,   mothers and grandmothers were the ones who really bent us and kept us   straight, making sure that the families were well organized and so on.

     We understand the importance of the role of our women within the society. But, the point that I was making earlier about   the fact that persons who are entrusted with the responsibility to make laws to   protect our women are the ones who are perpetrating the crime - and that is cause for concern. Very many of us as men, do not call out other men when they are doing these kinds of things. I think that is something we need to stand up to and start doing. There was a time when it was the Guyanese women who were trending, then it was the ‘Jamy’. Everybody had a ‘Jamy’. Now it is the ‘Vene’, and of course, when we are having our sessions, we want to have them with three (3) and four (4) women walking around and that kind of thing; and that kind of exploitation. Therefore, we have to see that as being  a
 part of the contribution towards how women are treated and  respected. Therefore, we have to start by making our own contributions, even in our informal settings on the block.

    When we are liming with our partners; we are liming with   our friends, and these kinds of jokes are made, or even when acts of violence   are being perpetrated against women, then, we need to stand up and   say to our  colleagues, no, this is not acceptable. I have some data that I want to share   - statistics about women who were abused in Trinidad and Tobago.

     Data from the Crime and Problem Analysis Branch of the   Trinidad
 and Tobago Police Service, revealed that in 2019, women and girls
 represented seventy-seven point three percent (77.3%) of the eight hundred  and seventy-two (872) domestic violence incidents reported to the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service. What does that say? That says again, women are the main persons who are targeted in terms of domestic abuse.

     According to the study conducted by the Trinidad and   Tobago Police Service, there were three thousand, six hundred and fifteen (3,615) reported cases of domestic violence in 2020. Of these, two thousand, eight hundred and twenty-seven (2,827) cases involved women and I know that all of us  have constantly witnessed the violent, physical attacks, against our women folks. We have   witnessed and have heard on the news, in some instances, the fatal attacks,   and in many instances, these women were in possession of protection orders.

     Madam Presiding Officer, I beg to submit that even with   the confines of the law, if we as men do not change our attitude to our   women, it would be very difficult for our women to realize that kind of   safety and that kind of equity. We have to be at the fore; we have to be the   drivers to move from where we are now, so that our women can feel quite   comfortable and know that they are regarded as equals in the space called   Tobago.

     I also have with me, statistics with regard to a few of the more popular professions within Trinidad and Tobago. The reason why I am going to do this, is to show you two (2) things. Teaching which is no secret - according to the Ministry of Education, in Trinidad and Tobago, women make up approximately eighty-two percent (82%) of all the teachers in the country.

    The Police Service   - approximately twenty-three percent (23%), and might I add, that the person   at the helm of the police service right now is a woman. Fire fighters - approximately three percent (3%); lawyers - approximately sixty-one percent (61%); doctors - approximately fifty-three percent (53%). These data, in my   estimation - we need to analyze and look at these trends and see where human   resource policies and compensatory packages and so forth, are relevant to the   need of women in the modern working environment.

     The reality is this (and I often say this): women are not   less than us, but women are different to us, and I think that we need to   understand that as men. It does not mean that they are weak; it does not mean   that they are soft, but it means that we understand the differences and that   we treat them with respect; we treat them with equity, because there are many  women who within the workspace are afraid of victimization. They are subjected tosexual harassment   because of how we as men, sometimes treat them in the workspace, and sometimes by our simple language that we use, even when it is not intentional, connotes that sexual interaction and so on. We need to be mindful and we need to be educated about these things.

     Recently, we had a situation where (I would not call any   name) a prominent politician would have been in the social media space   speaking about the genitalia of a woman, and speaking about whether he wants   it; he does not want it, and that kind of behavior in the public space. I am   saying that as men, we do not publicly humiliate women, but rather, we show   them that kind of respect. Why I am saying that, is because when you are in a   position of prominence; when you are in a position of influence, you have to   be mindful of the kinds of actions that you carry out, because you will   encourage other young men to believe that that is the way you should behave   and that is the way you should treat women - so you come out in the social media space and   talk about all the graphic details that happens in the bedroom.

     Maybe I am a dinosaur, but I came from an era where women   must be respected, and there are some things that must remain behind closed   doors. We as men, need to change our attitude (that is the message) towards   women.

     In winding up - I do not want to be too long. I had a lot   of things I wanted to say about the statistics and so forth, but I know that   we were unduly delayed because of bad behavior. [Desk thumping] What we are trying to do, and notwithstanding that we were chastised by the Minority in saying that, “Well, you all are only talking,” - but at the end  of the day you have to try something. How do you move forward if you do not   propose a way forward? Is it that we should just sit and say that we are not going to do anything? We cannot, and if that was their attitude and their  mode of operation and so forth, this does not mean that this Administration is going to operate in  that kind of way.

     One of the things   that we have been constantly doing- and we did not profess at any point in   time to be perfect. We did not profess at any point in time that we have   everything working the way it should. Even what we are proposing today may   come back for review, because we may realize that there are some things that   we need to add to it; there are some things that we need to take from it and   so forth. One of the things that we are sure of, is that we have recognized   that this issue is one that must be placed on the front burner, and that is   why my good friend from Buccoo/Mt. Pleasant was the one to bring this Motion  here. It is because we recognize the importance of this Motion.

       ...only physical, but there is emotional abuse, and all the other hosts of things that we do, that we do not regard as abuse,but it has   detrimental effects on our women folk. I want to clearly and categorically   express my disappointment; my dissatisfaction at the way the Presiding   Officer was treated today and the Leader of Assembly Business by the Minority   Leader.

      If you are saying that we have been talking on this side   and we are not performing actions, your actions this morning shows us the   kind of scant courtesy and disrespect you have for women. [Desk thumping]  It has not gone unnoticed by me and other Members on my side, that (you, the   Minority Leader) your approach to our Presiding Officer, is totally different   when the Deputy Presiding Officer is in the chair. [Desk thumping] Is   it coincidental that our Presiding Officer is female and that is how you   treat females in terms of your respect? [Desk thumping]

     I am saying to this honourable House, that we as men, we   are the first to defend our women, and we should not be the ones who are   the aggressors to our women. By  your display this morning, it is by no chance or no coincidence that you were not able to contribute meaningfully to this debate, other than to point  fingers on the other side. Therefore, if we are to go forward as an island, we must be able to, at some point in time, remove the politics and be able to treat with the issues that are plaguing our citizens.

     It was mentioned by the Minority (and I do not want to go   along on this too long, but I need to address a few issues) how many women   were sent home by this Administration, but nowhere in this presentation had   he mentioned how many women were hired. [Desk thumping] So if it is that you have to do some kind of comparison, then you needed to mention how   many were sent home and how many were hired, and therefore we would know. As   far as I am aware, (and I can speak with confidence) this Administration does not send anyone home because of their gender but because of competence and capacity. [Desk thumping] If it is persons who were in certain positions were sent home, it was because we would have recognized that the previous Administration had squared pegs in round holes, [Desk thumping]  and that we had to make adjustments, and therefore, we wanted persons who   were competent and capable, and therefore we had to make decisions with regard to that. Nobody was sent home because they were women. I do not want  the public of Tobago hearing that this Administration sent home people  because they were women.

     He also spoke about employment opportunities for members   of Darrel Spring/Whim. As far as I am aware again, on this beautiful island   of Tobago, any opportunity is available to anyone, from any corner of this   island, and I am not aware (and I can say without any fear of contradiction)   that anyone in the Tobago space has been discriminated against because of   where they came from. This Administration does not operate like that, but I   know that the previous Administration - that is how they operated. They would have starved certain communities for lots of resources, because those communities were not of the Red Party, but we do not operate like that. [Desk thumping] We do not operate like that. So, the issue of talking about who did not perform or whatever, if we look at what has happened in a year and six (6) months in an objective manner, (not subjective) and we pull the numbers, it is very clear that this Administration is the Administration that cares about the people of Tobago. [Desk thumping]

      I want to go further and pay attention to the matter at  hand and what we came here to discuss today. I want to say that this situation was not by chance that we had the mover of the Motion being one of   our male counterparts, and that is very important. It may seem insignificant,but it is very important, because I think that if it is that women’s rights  and the treatment of women have to be brought to the fore, then of course, we as men must be side by side or even in front of them promoting women’s rights and women’s equity.   That is why I said to my Colleagues after the goodly gentleman spoke, I   wanted to speak, because I think that I needed to stand here and defend our   women from persons who have those kinds of attitude and behaviour. [Desk  thumping]

    So that it is very disheartening when men in powerful positions are accused of acts of violence against women and girls, and human   trafficking. We are all aware that recently in the National Parliament, there   was the accusation of a Member of Parliament (MP) who promoted human   trafficking - lots of the acts of violence against women. As a matter of fact, the statistic points to, unfortunately, that most of the acts of  violence against women are perpetrated by men. It is not a statistic that I am proud about because I am a man, but if it is that we have to reverse this  cycle, it means that our male folk must do some intrinsic thinking in the way we act and treat our women; so that we do not need to have law enforcement to tell us how we should   behave and how we should treat our women; so that our would not be seen as   our property, and they would not be treated in a particular manner. If we as   men change our mindset towards our women, half of our problem will be solved   because a lot of what happens to the women are done by men. Unfortunately   guys, I have to call us out. Right!

That is the reality.

Members, we are all aware of the Standing Orders and the guidelines. Please have your phones turned off.

Thank you.

Continue Councillor Kerr.

12.25 P.M

In my view and my estimation, dealing with matters that   speaks to equity and equality of our women is never late. [Desk thumping]  Therefore, this conversation had to be had. Although we were not able to have   this debate when it was carded to be had, we would have really done our   female folk a disservice if we did not ventilate this issue today.

     I must express my disappointment. I came here prepared this morning to add my voice to this Motion. I came here this morning   thinking that this was one topic that as we usually say in Tobago and in local palance, we would not have any ‘bacchanal’ about. I felt that this was one topic that even the Minority would have contributed and contributed   positively to, we us try to work together and not point fingers at each  other, in terms of trying to cater to the needs of our most vulnerable. I  must say that I am feeling a great sense of disappointment this morning. I am feeling a great sense of disappointment because the Minority Leader in my estimation, did not come to the   House prepared today. He came to the House and has politicized a matter that in my view should not be politicized. He said it, but in saying that, he  politicized the matter.

     As a matter of fact, I am very disappointed that on this very day that we are having this Motion, there were reports of abuse of the   Presiding Officer and of the Leader of Assembly Business by the same Minority. [Desk thumping] One of the things that I would make very clear in my presentation, is that abuse of women is not.. .[Interruption]

[Desk thumping]  Thank you very much, Madam Presiding Officer. Let me just say I am indeed very heartened to be given the privilege and the opportunity to contribute to  such a very important and timely topic. I am saying it is timely because I know this morning our Chief Secretary said that we were a bit late.

Members, we are all aware of the Standing Orders and the   guidelines. Please have your phones turned off.

Thank you.

Continue Councillor Kerr.

Councillor Orlando   Kerr.

Four (4) more minutes? ...with consulting the people, I did not hear that at all. If you are serious about bottom up, and if you are serious about involving people, then you have to talk to them. I would like in the winding up, for the Member to indicate whether this is something that has the blessings of the people for. Also in his winding up, I want the Member to indicate if he did any kind of analysis, because to just say vulnerable women - different women have different needs. Is it that he did the kinds of scientific assessment to understand   what those needs are. If you try to approach a situation in a one size fit   all, then you would end up again, leaving out people; leaving out some   children; leaving out some situations.

     Therefore, it is imperative that we do the kind of groundwork; we do the kind of background that would ensure that this approach is one that is truly holistic. It is one that is all inclusive. It involves all the electoral districts and all the Members. It is not good for you all to say you want to  collaborate with the Minority when you have these policies, but when you have work giving out, you are giving out to your friends, your family and you are leaving out the Minority.

     I thank you.

Member, you have four (4) more minutes

12:15 P.M

      We had the Women’s Empowerment Programme which would have   treated with battered women and that kind of thing; putting them out; giving   them work. Even under the last Administration, (and this is something you all are free to take up and run with) we were going to do a special programme for single mothers. So women who would have gotten pregnant (by accident or whateve), where the child was an impediment and they had to stay home to mind   the child, one could have in fact taken these children free of charge to a Day Care Centre. There would be programmes specifically geared, to these   women, to train them with skills and to give them some kind of stipend so   that they could mind the very child and they did not have to depend on any   man. What are you all doing? Where are those programmes? You are two (2)   years into your government. You all have to stop blaming the People’s   National Movement - twenty-one (21) years, twenty-one   (21) years, twenty-one (21) years. You all have two (2) years already. What   have you done? What do you have to show for your two (2) years? Women are   crying. Women are writing to me in pain. 1 had a conversation with this very   Secretary of Health, Wellness and Social Protection - and I heard the Chief   Secretary (and that is why I am saying you all are just paying lip service) talking about making special provisions for children that are differently   abled. I reached out after hearing the plight of two (2) women in one (1) morning. Hearing women crying in your ears and you are hearing the pain and   the suffering, and I took to social media doing a live. After I made that   live, I said, “Kelvon, do not just be someone who is just advocating but also   be a voice to assist and connect with those who can treat with the issues”.

     I reached out to my Colleague, the Secretary of Health, Wellness and Social Protection. I shared with her the situation. She asked me who werethe two (2) names.   I shared with her the two (2) names, and when I thought the Secretary was   understanding the emergency of the situation, would treat with the situation   on the merit of what it was, and on a case by case basis, the Secretary gave   me one (1) generic response. I would share the one, especially with this   woman who has a child that is differently abled - in fact, a child that is a   special needs child. The child has to have special milk, special pampers,   equipment to even - so you cannot use a regular pram and so forth. The child   has to have special care. When I shared with her the name, (and I would not   record the name) her response was, (name mentioned) currently receives six   thousand, eight hundred dollars ($6,800) in grants from Social Welfare. Her   Ministry of Social Development food card was taken away early this year as   part of the Ministry’s streamlining process - and in bracket, “once you get   other support they stop your food card” all fair and well. Listen to her   completed response to me:

“Her current circumstances do not allow her to be qualified for the Emergency Food Card from the Division.”

I am telling you, here it is, a single mother with about   four (4) children, with a special needs child - she has to get special milk.   You all know how expensive milk is, and because she is getting six thousand   eight hundred dollars ($6,800) in grants from the Government, you are saying   automatically, she is disqualified from getting a five hundred dollars ($500)   food card to buy food for the same special needs child, that my Chief   Secretary is saying requires special attention. So you understand how this   Administration - what they are saying and what they are doing, just does not   match. It is like oil and water; it runs off from one another. You all just   cannot live up to your words.

    If anybody requires  an Emergency Food Card, it is a case like this. I am saying yes, you would  have systems, and the systems, if you take it on the very surface  level, may push out people. The system does not always get it right, because the system does not take into account the human circumstance, and it is  therefore on all of us here as legislators and you all as policymakers, to ensure that the system does not leave those vulnerable people behind. If we are talking about vulnerable, I do not know who could be more vulnerable than a single mother with four (4) children and one of them being a special needs child.

    Madam Presiding Officer, I continue to say that when it   comes to treating with social problems, we have to remove politics from   people. If you keep politics in treating with human; social needs, you would  continuously be creating a revolving door. What do I mean by that? It means  that if politics is at the play and at the fore, the people who need the assistance the most, will always be put aside by whether they are red, yellow   or green, but if we put the proper systems and treat with the situation and see people, then we   will get to those who need it the most. Therefore, this arrangement - I am   still to hear from the goodly Assistant Secretary. I hope when he winds up,   he will indicate what level of consultation he would have embarked upon. I   heard him call the names of some non-Governmental organizations (NGOs), and   while saying you had a conversation with one (1) or two (2) NGOs - but if you   want a whole-island approach, you have to go to the people. Did you speak to   the Tobago people on this? Did you go village by village; NGO to NGO;   stakeholder to stakeholder? Did you talk to the people in Black Rock? Did you talk to the people in Castara? Did you talk to the various Women’s Group? Yes, you talked to the Women of Substance which is one of our most prominent   groups, but there are people doing a lot of work quietly. Did you talk to the   village Councils? Who did you talk to? Yet you would say you are a Government  bottom up. I did not hear the goodly Assistant Secretary indicating that this arrangement was one that was done with the blessings of the people...

      The relevance is   that we cannot trust that this programme that this Administration says that   they will treat with vulnerable women, that they would actually do it,   because in the past, everything they have said, they have not done. That is   the relevance of referencing those past misdemeanors.

     Madam Presiding Officer, but I will move on. I want to also treat with the whole issue of inequity, because it speaks about a whole of island approach. This Administration likes to talk about Tobago. In fact, I see they had just launched a party and they put Tobago at the front, but is this Administration truly about Tobago? When I say Tobago - all of Tobago. If they were truly about Tobago and equity, then the women in Darrel Spring/Whim would   be given the same kind of consideration for employment as the women in   Speyside, the women in Belle Garden, the women in Canaan, and the women in   Mason Hall but you know what is happening, Madam Presiding Officer? In one   (1) Division, they have hired over four hundred and fifty (450) people and   about two hundred (200) of them were women. You know up to this day, they   have not hired at least on the recommendation of this Area Representative,   one (1) woman from my electoral district not one single one.

      I do not know about the Member for Roxborough/Argle. I cannot speak for him, but at least in the electoral district of Darrel Spring/Whim, they have not hired one. Do you know what is unfair about that?It is the fact that the process is not a process where it is random selection. You go through, you go and  put down your name in Health and then they would just pull names. What they have been doing as an Executive, is calling all of their friends, and all  their lackeys, and all their supporters, and they are employing them. So, I   want to ask, “Is this all of Tobago approach only for the supporters of this   “TPP”, “FSP” or whatever “P”, that you all are?” Do the jobs in Tobago only belong to the people who support this Administration, and if you do not   support this Administration as a woman, you cannot get a job? If we are really true to form and really true about a whole of island approach, then   the fair thing would have been, to at least engage all Members, and have all   Members make recommendations. Why it is only the Members from the Executive   make recommendations? Why it is only the Members from the Executive’s  electoral district are getting jobs? What about the people in Darrel Spring/Whim? Are they not Tobagonians too? The women in Darrel Spring/Whim, are they not vulnerable? Do they not need money to  buy food for their children; to buy pampers and do all other things that women require? Are they not Tobagonians too? This is why I am saying that Tobagonians are fed up with the talk. Tobagonians are fed up with the games.  Tobagonians are fed up with the deceit. Tobagonians are fed up with the deception. To be honest, Tobagonians really do not want to hear you all because all you all come here and do, is talk; put down fancy things; talk about policies.

     We came here and talked about a policy; an approach where   you all were doing a one-stop-shop; where you all would assess vulnerable  people. Where is that policy today, my good friend from Buccoo? Where is that   policy?

      I have persons even as we speak now - I just received a   call while we were on the break - a woman was telling me about a situation   where she applied about two (2) years ago for household appliances - to get a stove to cook food and to  boil water to give her children some tea, and all your Division is telling her, is that it processing, it is processing. How long should a process take to give somebody a stove to boil water and make tea for the child? You want to come here and just talk. I fed up of the talk. When you all are ready to do things that are meaningful and beneficial to Tobago, we would sit down   with you all, but until you all prove that to me, I am not wasting time with you all just like the rest of the Tobago population. We are fed up at the talk. Too much talk! Tobagonians want you all to start to act and start to do things that are beneficial to them.

     Madam Presiding Officer, when we talk about programmes -   where are the programmes that underpin this whole of island approach? I have   not seen this Administration implement one (1) new programme to treat with   the empowerment of women. Not one (1). Under the People’s National Movement (PNM) we had the REACH - The Realization of Economic Achievement, and that programme was to enable women, single mothers,  and that kind of thing, to use entrepreneurship as an avenue to step up in life.

Minority, relevance.

Thank you, Madam Presiding Officer. Before I was interrupted, the point I was making is that knowing now what exists, and knowing the commitment that was given to some of these people being women and vulnerable at that, that is, even if they were not successful during the restructuring process, they will find comfort in being redeployed to some other part of the Tobago House of Assembly. When the Member speaks, if he would give persons like that young lady I just referred to, the assurance that they would be redeployed - because from my check, it has now been close to a year, since these persons were sent home, with no kind of compensation and nothing else to do. If we are talking about treating with vulnerable women, there can be no better show of gratification and better show by way of living up to what you said.

     One of the challenges Tobagonians are having with this  Administration, is the fact that what this Administration says they are going to do and what they actually do, are completely at odds. They cannot trust  you all to do the things that you say and because they cannot trust you all  to do the things that you say, they are telling me this Motion is a waste of time. They do not expect anything to come out of it. We know. So, we hear all  the platitudes; we hear all the fancy words; we hear all the talk, but is this Administration willing to walk the talk? The history has shown that you have not been willing to walk the talk. You have promised peopleex gratia, and they are still waiting. Christmas will come and they will still be waiting on ex gratia. You have promised us a reshuffle... [Interruption

Thank you, Assemblyman for Bethel/New Grange.

I am going to caution all Members that we are guided by the Standing Orders of this House. We are in this too long to not know what these Standing Orders are. Please be guided accordingly.

Minority continue.

It cannot be accepted in this House, and I want him to take that back because he knows very well, that there are administrative

matters that I have no control over. He knows that.

Okay, now I understand.

Is it imputing improper motives?

Madam Presiding   Officer, I am actually rising on 45 (1). The Minority Leader has no history   in this House of presenting accurate information. That is the first thing. So   even the email that he is reading and all of that, I do not know that   anybody could trust anything that he says in this House.

     Secondly, to somehow attribute what happened to that   particular lady (if that happened or not to me personally) and to try to   attack my character... [Interruption]

Joining together the performance of an elected individual   has nothing to do with wearing a religious collar,and trying to marry both that profession with what is held   within this House.

Can you say what the point of order is?

Madam Presiding Officer, on a point of order. Madam Presiding Officer, it is really unfair to sit here and allow the Minority Leader to make spurious accusations.

Madam Presiding Officer, let me first start by apologizing to you   and the Leader of Assembly Business. If the words that I would have said made   you feel under threat, that was at no point the intention of the Minority   Leader. It was to avoid conflict in the first instance, by asking the Leader   of Assembly Business to leave me alone.

     As we go forward in this Motion, it is one that firstly   speaks to vulnerable women and children. We would recall that it was this   Minority who first raised this issue in this very House when we brought a Motion calling on the Administration, coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic, to put systems in place to treat with our vulnerable children and our women. At   that time, from the records, I remembered there were a lot of castigations, a   lot of chastising of this Minority for seeing the value in such a Motion. Today, we are here discussing the very thing that was rejected a couple of months   ago, but as they say, hindsight is 20/20, and I am happy that we are here today to have this conversation.

     Madam Presiding Officer, Tobagonians are fed up of the lip   service. Tobagonians are fed up of the talk and the pretense. Tobagonians are   simply fed up of the games. Here you are, as an Administration, talking about  treating with the challenges of vulnerable women and children, but just a couple of days ago, we had our children out in Jamaica on the verge of being kicked out from school. How more a neglect that can be of Tobago’s children;   Tobago’s students; Tobago’s scholars, and that is on your record. That is not   the People’s National Movement’s (PNM’s) record. The PNM’s record is one that   would have supported students from 2001 to today. In fact, the PNM supported the Leader of Assembly Business; the PNM supported the Chief Secretary, and of course, the Deputy Chief Secretary. All of them benefitted from the programme without prejudice. I am sure none of them could say with any fear   of contradiction that there was a period they had to call home and begged for their tuition to be paid.

That was not the  record of the PNM.

     Madam Presiding Officer, it is quite hypocritical of this   Administration to come here today and talk about vulnerable women and   children. In fact, I want to share with you - because this Administration is   talking about women. The record of this Administration - the CEPEP monthly   paid unit that they closed down, out of the forty-one (41), twenty- five (25) were women. When you look at the Ministry of Education (M and E), out of the  twenty-one (21), about twelve (12) of them were women. When you look at the number  of persons who would have lost jobs under this Administration, my record shows that sixty-five percent (65%) of those persons were women. If they are   really serious about what they are saying, how come the record shows this   wanton attack on women? Here it is, we are talking about a Motion to treat with vulnerable women. When you send home women that have children to mind; to take care of - and basically, theyhave their rent to   pay. They have their bills. They have their children crying they are hungry;   they do not have anything to go to school with. When you send home these  women without any opportunity for advancement, what do you expect? When you  took that policy decision, are you not putting those women as vulnerable? Are   you not putting those women in situations to experience domestic abuse? Are   you not putting these women to be dependent on men? Some of them are   dependent on men. It means that they therefore have to stay in situations   that they may not at all times deem tenable. When you take those decisions, you are in fact part of the problem. Again, I am saying it is therefore hypocritical.

     I want to share with you an email I received from   one such woman.The email is   one that reads - I need Tobagonians to understand the kind of pain being inflicted on our women by this Administration.

     “Dear Mr. Morris, I am writing to you today with a heavy heart to share my recent struggles and  the impact they have had on myself and my three (3) daughters (not just woman, but woman and children; three female children; three (3) daughters). Since July 1st’ 2022, I have been going through an incredibly difficult time. I was unjustly fired from my job, and to make matters worse,   it seems as if I were blacklisted from the Tobago House of Assembly (THA).The sense of betrayal and hopelessness I felt in that moment is hard to put into words.

     I had dedicated ten (10) years (I want this Secretary of Community Development, Youth  Development and Sports especially to hear this) of my life to CEPEP going  above and beyond my duties to ensure projects were successful; working  tirelessly to provide for my family, and suddenly it was all taken away from me. I am an educated professional with years of experience in field work and I cannot even get my name on a shortlist for the positions we were told to reapply for. We are still waiting to be redeployed by the THA since that was  a promise made to us. I have tried to visit several of the Assemblymen for assistance - so many calls go unanswered and not returned. I was denied a food card and never went back to face any more embarrassment. I am already facing enough   embarrassment from the bank and “Courts” on a weekly basis.

      The consequences of  losing my job and being blacklisted have been devastating, that I am no  longer able to afford basic necessities of life, such as food and shelter for myself and my daughters. We have been forced to be separated for now. My   daughters are staying with godparents as I am begging a lodging on a friend’s couch. I thank God for these people. The constant uncertainty and instability  have taken a toll on us all, but especially on my children. They are constantly worried, anxious and unsure of what the future holds. The emotional toll of our situation is just as devastating as the financial one. I am heart­broken as I cannot provide for my girls in the way that they deserve.

     I am their mother, and it is my duty to take care of them; to provide a safe and stable home for them to grow up in, butinstead, we are living at various locations and it breaks my heart to see the toll it is taking on them. I know that life is full of ups and down, and that everyone goes through difficult times at some point, but it is hard not to feel like I have been dealt an unfair hand. I have worked hard all my life, and yet, I find myself struggling to just get by. All I want is to be able to give my children a better life and to provide for them and to see them thrive.

      I am reaching out to you today in the hope that you might be able to help us. Any support you could offer, whether it be a job, financial or emotional, would be greatly appreciated. My girls and I have been through so much in the past few months, and we need all the help we can get. I am determined to get back on my feet and provide for my family, but I know that I cannot do it alone.

    Thank you for taking the time and for considering how you   might be able to help.


(And the name is there.)

     Madam Presiding Officer, this is the record of this   Administration, bringing pain and grief to our vulnerable woman, and do you know what is ironic about all this? The Division to which this woman would  have experienced such wickedness, such evil, is led by a Pastor. I do not know, knowing now what I have read, if this Pastor is willing to live up...

Before the debate   continues, I would like to make a statement, and that is the absolutely last   time I am ever going to make a statement like this.

     On a day when this honourable House is debating a Motion   dealing with vulnerable women and by extension children, I have to inform   this House of the sordid behavior of a Member of this House.

     As you are aware, the House was deemed suspended for five   (5) minutes to allow for a meeting in my chamber with the Minority Leader.   The Minority Leader claimed that there was no clear communication between the  Assembly Legislature and his office. The Clerk of the House was also present at this meeting and confirmed that the information was fully communicated to the office of the Minority Leader, via digital email of the Order Paper on April 18th, 2023, and by a physical copy of the Order Paper, which was sent on the 17th.

      Added to this, the Minority Leader was part of a three-way   conversation between the Leader of Assembly Business and myself. In fact, it was the Minority Leader himself who asked for a morning Sitting. When I thought that this was the end of the conversation and there would be a return   to civil behaviour, the Minority Leader resumed a verbal attack on both the Leader of Assembly Business and myself, which resulted in the intervention by members of staff. Both Leader of Assembly Business and myself felt under threat. This is one thing that I am not going to stand for.

     Moving forward, I would ask that all Members, both Executive and Minority, please adhere to the Standing Orders of this House.

     Thank you. [Desk thumping]

     Minority Leader, you may resume.

11:55 A.M

Sitting resumed.

10:55 A.M

Sitting suspended.

This House now   stands suspended for five (5) minutes.

Thank you, Madam Presiding Officer.

At least the last   time I checked, there was one (1) Presiding Officer in this House. [Interruption]   [Crosstalk]

On that note, I   want you to call the elections. If you are big and you are bad, call the   elections. [Crosstalk]

This issue would be   dealt with in my chamber.

Minority continue.

Thank you, Madam   Presiding Officer.

On a point of order. I would really like to know the   relevance of that statement (the Standing Order speaks to relevance) to the   Motion under debate at this time.

This is not a   debate Members. [Interruption] [Crosstalk]

The Member rose on a point of order.

Madam Presiding   Officer... [Interruption]

Have a seat, or give way.

Minority Leader, I am still the Presiding Officer here.

Madam Presiding Officer, what is the point of order, because I am on my feet?

Minority, we will also have this conversation in chamber. Continue.

Thank you, Madam Presiding Officer.

     Before I start this debate, I would just like to place on   the record especially for the people of Darrel Spring/Whim and the people of   Tobago, the fact that this Minority is a Minority that takes the business of   this House extremely serious. This Minority is a Minority that is always here on time and ready to execute its function, and it appears to me that something is amiss in the organization of this House, in the administration of this House.

I look around, and there is absolutely no police officer here. I look

around, and I am seeing a lot of disorder. This Minority   will not be a part of this disorder going   forward. In fact, I will be bringing a Motion at the next Sitting to treat with the disorder going on in this House.

Member for Darrel/Spring/Whim.

...cover up the   indiscretions, and let them know that they must be part of the solution and   not part of the problem. We have to suspend some of our very highfalutin   preaching in our churches and sit down and have heart to heart conversations   and work out solutions in the community, because keeping Tobago the paradise   that it is, requires that we see family as an important facet worthy of   development and worthy of our work.

     I pray God that this is something that we can have collaboration with the Minority on. As I would have said it in my presentation, I blame all ofus collectively,   that we are not yet where we should be on these matters. We need to get there   post-haste. We need to get there so that we can treat with some of the social   issues that pop up as a result of not treating with vulnerable women and  children.

      Thank you, Madam Presiding Officer. [Desk thumping]

Member, you have five (5) minutes.


      Soon after, we have   issues of truancy and punctuality; we have increase in school dropouts   happening. All of these things are correlations.

     So, when we come to the House today and we are saying that   we are discussing vulnerable women and children and meeting their needs, and   making a commitment that we will do more than we have done in all the   previous years of the existence of the Tobago House of Assembly (THA), and we   are going to do more to get the society uptalking and involved, is because we   want Tobagonians to understand how massively important a Motion like this is;   how important it is in ensuring that we can actually have solutions to some   of our social problems.

      I will end on two (2) points. The first is that we see   what is happening in Trinidad insofar as the levels of criminality. We see   where it is. It feels as though Trinidad is just explosive, as if you could   be a regular citizen going about your regular business and the chances of you being impacted is greatgreat. We are seeing all sorts of statistics - sixth in the world for murders - all sorts  of things. We have a responsibility to safeguard Tobago from that and part of the solution to safeguarding Tobago from that, is treating with these issues   that is part of the solution - has to be part of that solution.

     The final point I wish to raise, speaks specifically to children, but not just any child, but children who have special needs,  because I feel as a society we have not always paid sufficient attention to   those with special needs, and we have not always provided sufficient   opportunities for them. Look at where their school is, not the best   environment. We are still working on that and trying to get the lands   prepared at Signal Hill and so on, to build adequate facilities, but then,   when we look at our school system, (and I believe Assistant Secretary Kerr is   to speak) are we prepared for inclusion in the classroom? What will it take for us to have inclusion in the classroom for   those children? What about employment opportunities for them?

     Well, I am happy to end my presentation by saying that   this Executive sat down and this Executive has made a decision that in every   single Division of the Tobago House of Assembly, in all of our main offices,   we are going to employ at least one (1) special needs or differently abled   adult to work within the Tobago House of Assembly at our offices. [Desk   thumping] We would move from at least one (1) in each of our head offices   to perhaps two (2) - three (3). Some Divisions can do more than one (1). Some   Divisions like Education already have persons working there, and we have   communicated this with those in the special needs community, and we are going   to give them tasks as they are able to manage. Even if their task is to help   us move documents and collate folders, and do our filing systems; even if it   is to work along with the Secretary, it is a commitment that this Executive is actually   making good on. We have to take care of those among us who are not like us.   It is a critical component.

That is why this morning, Madam Presiding Officer, I was   sort of torn; torn in that, I said, “Okay, I have to come to the House, and I   have a function at Happy Haven. I really want to go to Happy Haven because   what we are doing there with the Digicel Foundation is important, but then I   had a lot of questions on the Order Paper to try to answer. I do not want   them to be postponed”. I said, “You know what? Let me come here first, get   the questions out of the way, and then visit those at Happy Haven and join them  in the programme”. I came. The questions did not happen, but I am happy that   I have the opportunity to contribute to this Motion. I will join them at   Happy Haven, but note that this Executive sees this issue as being massively important; as one that we have to work with Tobago on.

We are to have the very hard and difficult conversations with the population. We   have to even make some unpopular decisions. We have to hold the hands of   NGOs. We have to talk, perhaps harshly (Member for Bethel/New Grange) to those Faith-Based Organizations that sometimes... [Interruption]


In fact, the International Best Practice is not that the   State should be building halfway homes and building residences for women, and   for children. The International Best Practice is that the State provides   subventions and support so that people in the private sector can do it and do   it efficiently. Our children’s homes are running out of space. They do not   have sufficient spaces. In fact, at the last check I made, there were about   one hundred and twenty-six (126) children that the Children’s Authority want   to find placements for; that the court would like to have placement for but   we just do not have enough spaces for them.

The fact that in 2023 we are not just now debating it, but   looking at the solutions that we could have, I think that this is an   indictment on all of us. I myself will take some responsibility because I am   asking myself as a teacher, did I do enough for my charges to treat with this   matter? We also have to bear in mind that as a State, if we were to treat   with some of the social, deviant   behaviours that exists, we have to find a way to treat with the issues of   family, and what do family means, and securing families.

      Of course, that has been part of our ethos. That is why,   when we came into office, we did not hesitate and we did not waste time to   raise the income for workers in the Community Environmental Protection and   Enhancement Programme (CEPEP) and the Unemployment Relief Programme (URP).   The majority of those workers are in fact women, many of whom are single   women and leading women, running households trying to pay bills, make   groceries and build a home. I do not know how they do it. When you look at   their income, and look at the food inflation that has happened and worsened   by COVID-19, one would have to understand how they manage that.

     The reason why we decided to raise the income in parts was   because we recognized that we have to give those women more, so   that they can be empowered; so that   they can be independent; so that they can manage their households better; so   that we can treat with some of the education of our children; so that we can   treat with some of the deviant behaviours; so that we can ensure that   communities are more socially coherent and that people are living in a much   more harmonious manner.

      Many of us sitting in this august Chamber today, have in   some way, form or fashion, witnessed first-hand or indirectly, some form of   abuse upon our women and children. Some have heard the stories; some have   heard all kinds of stuff. But unfortunately, Tobago is the place where   sometimes people - and I must say, sometimes men folk do things to women and   they end up becoming Chief Secretary years after (not me - the whole of   Tobago knows whom I am talking about) [Desk thumping] and things are   swept under the carpet. That is why we could understand why little was done   over a twenty-one (21) year period because some who were stewards for the majority of that   period, really had no interest in protecting women and children, but rather   destroy them. It is time we start talking the truth openly. Shame the devil   if we have to. There is work to be done by us.

      A part of the challenge, Madam Presiding Officer, is for   us men folk to speak up and do something. We have to speak up and do   something as men, and I am going to touch on a very touchy subject matter   which is a part of this abuse. Part of the mistreatment of some of our women   folk and children, might actually be related to how us men folk go about   treating with our sexual partners, and how many we have. In fact, being a   ‘gyallis’ might actually be the antithesis of women development in some   instances. I know it is a conversation that we men folk are probably not   ready to have yet, but allow me to talk my own business.

    My grandfather had twenty-seven (27) children and counting. In fact,we met some of them even when he was in his dying days. People were popping up as   children. Some he owned as godchildren and only when the father on the birth   paper died, they were told who their real father was - twenty-seven (27) (it   is my story so I can talk it) but only four (4) with his wife, my   grandmother. Imagine that! The first of his children is a few months older   than the first with my grandmother, and the last is a few months younger than   the last with my grandmother. So essentially, twenty- six (26) of those   children were born in and out, and in between that marital relationship.

     I am not here to judge any man who like extra-curricular   affairs. That is their business. I never realized the impact that it had on   my grandmother until she was dying. She had acute symptoms related to   diabetes, and one knows with diabetes, if the blood sugar becomes too low,   one becomes delirious. In her vulnerable moments at the hospital, the nurses   were reporting that she was there in the night talking about all the children, all the ‘horn’ she took and   the fact that she worked so hard.

    This was a woman whom if you wanted a perfect housewife,   it was that woman. She could have sewed, baked and cooked. Before my   grandfather awoke in the morning, his breakfast was on the table, covered   with a well-starched kitchen towel that she made herself, which she   embroidered with her hands. When he came home from the rum shop (because he   was a bus driver first, then he owned a rum shop upon retirement) his dinner   was there prepared - and she prepared everything.

       She went to the garden - and there were times as a youth, I used to rebel because I did not know why this woman was forcing me to go to the garden with her. I wanted to go on my own business; I wanted to go to the sea. Why was she forcing me to stay in the house and learn to cook, bake, and wash? Where did she get this notion that men must be able to take care of themselves?   Really and truly, she was trying to save the next generation from what she   experienced.

       The reason why I am telling that story, is for us men folk   to get an appreciation that this issue, treating with vulnerable women and   children require even us men folk to do some introspection and to look at how   we manage our own families. It is a discussion that we have to have with each   other. Again, I am not passing any judgement on anybody who has a passion for   extra-curricular activities. To each their own. You and God will work that   out, but we have to understand that what we do in and out of the family has   an impact on our women folk and on our children. It impacts!

     Basic Arithmetic;   basic home economics - if one has five (5) children,five (5) different   baby mothers, one has to buy five (5) different packs of milk; five (5) different set of clothes; five (5) different set of books. Long time parents   used to be happy to take hand-me-downs, and they even used to take hand - me-down   books during the July/August holidays. The new age parents now do not want   any hand-me-down for their children. If you had the five (5) children in a   single household, you could have bought one (1) pack of milk and everybody   swizzle the same milk and drink. You have to now spread it five (5) ways, and   then you struggle to meet the demands at the courthouse to try to mind the   child.

       The child is not getting the proper maintenance. The child   is going to school sitting among peers, cannot get the textbooks required;   cannot get the resources to complete homework and assignments, and projects.   Daddy is not there; mummy is frustrated because she is trying to do two   (2)/three (3) jobs to make ends meet, and then the thing just spirals out of   control. Poor teacher - trying to impart knowledge and does not understand   the dynamics happening at home. The teacher at best - dishing out suspensions   left, right and centre, because they do not know how to control this child   who does not understand how to treat with his or her emotions, or what they are experiencing in the household.

[Desk thumping] Thank you, Madam Presiding Officer.

     Madam Presiding Officer, I was not initially slated to   speak on behalf of the team, but our Deputy Chief Secretary fell ill this   morning and could not make it to lead the command on this Motion, so to   speak. I believe that her Assistant Secretary, Member for Buccoo/Mt. Pleasant  did an excellent job in providing solid data and statistics for us. [Desk thumping]

While this Motion, Madam Presiding Officer, is a month   late owing to circumstances beyond the control of the Executive, I believe   this Motion is an extremely important Motion, and I want to speak from that   perspective. Sometimes, Madam Presiding Officer, we are guilty as a society   of putting issues surrounding gender violence; surrounding women; surrounding family, as not being as important as other issues. The truth is, if we grab a hold of this issue, we can see ourselves treating with other social issues, such as crime and poverty, and some of the social deviant behaviours that we see popping up on the island from time to time.

The Motion   essentially ask us to be resolved to do two (2) things:

(1) To develop a whole of   island approach when it comes to dealing with vulnerable women and children;   and

(2) It asked that we resolve   to work closely with agencies through partnerships and provision of resources   to ensure that the needs of vulnerable women and children are met.

I want to early on, share some positive statistics.

In this House that we sit, we must be mindful of the fact   that globally only twenty-six point five percent (26.5%) of Parliamentarians   in lower Houses or what is known as Legislatures (we are not talking Senates   now appointed, but elected Members) - only twenty-six point five percent   (26.5%) globally, are women. In Trinidad, in the National Parliament,   twenty-eight point six percent (28.6%) of those in the lower House are women.

When I campaigned in the election, I made it a point to have as many women as possible on the slate. I did publicly say to Tobagonians, that it was purposeful, that we were coming to them with   thirty-three percent (33%) of the slate being women, because we wanted it to  be above the global average for women parliamentarians. Today, while we are seated inthis House, forty   percent (40%) of this House is women. [Desk thumping] So that is a   positive step when it comes to the leadership of the island.

     It gives me hope, Madam Presiding Officer, that girl dads   like myself, could potentially see their daughters sent to places once   thought only possible for men. The reality is, Madam Presiding Officer, that we live in a world that is not level. In Tobago, there's an adage. Coined politely, it says, “Donkey said the world is not level”. That is the reality.   He said, “The world is not level”, and for us in Tobago, there are some gender issues that I think we have just placed on the back-burner for far too  long, simply because we do not think those issues are as important as other   issues. For me, as the person leading the charge currently in the Division of   Finance, I could tell you that perhaps more important than balancing the   budget, is balancing justice when it comes to our women folk.

     When you look at the United Nations and their pronouncements, and their statistics, they would tell you that if you want to treat with poverty, treat with women, because most poverty globally, tends to   occur in women- led households. If you want to treat with criminality, treat with our women folk, because the key to solving a lot of our social issues must be with and through our women folk. Despite forty percent (40%) being in the House today - and we have had women in leadership roles. We have had women  before as Deputy Chief Secretary. We have had women contenders to be Chief   Secretary. I mean, granted, God nor the people were in their favour, [Desk thumping] but the mere fact that we had such bold moves - and it is not the first, because the first would have been Mrs. Deborah Moore Miggins who   would have contested to try to be Chief Secretary of the island. The fact that that has happened on this island more than once, that is a positive step. It is a positive sign.

     However, there are some issues, Madam Presiding Officer,   that we have neglected for far too long, and when I say we, I am talking   about the society collectively. I am hoping today that we can get support   from the Minority on this Motion, and I hope that this Motion is not   trivialized. I mean, I understand why the Member for Roxborough/Argyle is not  here, because given his history with women, he perhaps is the least qualified   to speak on this Motion.

     Madam Presiding Officer, we live on an island, where many   of our women folk still have to line up by the courthouse, checking every   Friday to see if the maintenance money came inside the courthouse. Sometimes it is a little kakada that they are trying to pull together to mind the children. For me, it is as if this society; the churches; everybody just sitting on their hands, keeping their mouths shut and not talking about that being a problem for our society. How could we be okay with that?

     We are still living on an island, Madam Presiding Officer, where there are instances of incest happening, and it continues to be a   well-kept secret. Despite best efforts to try to unmask the thing and treat   with the thing, somebody would just come and try to keep covering it up. This is the paradise Tobago that we live on. We still have instances of domestic violence happening and despite that, in 2023, we do not have adequate facilities for women to run to.

     The last Administration tried giving a non-governmental   organization (NGO) a property in Plymouth to develop a facility that women  can run to. The property is not developed yet, because there are some other   challenges there on the property that we are trying to resolve now. The basis   for this Motion is to say, look, since the Tobago House of Assembly; the State has not provided adequate enough facilities and resources to treat with the issues that affect our women and children, let us also make a   concerted effort to do more in giving to NGOs and support groups to do the work   for us.


Member for Parlatuvier/L’Anse Fourmi/Speyside.

In my capacity as Assistant Secretary in the Division of Health, Wellness and Social Protection, I meet and interact with women from throughout the length and breath of Tobago. I am compelled by simple respect to keep their struggles confidential. I could only say the struggle is real.

When my good friend from Darrel Spring/Whim expresses his

empathy for Tobago’s people; how much they are suffering and starving, I must let him know that the present situation did not happen over the past year or two (2).   This scourge has been perpetrated on Tobago’s people for some time now. The gross unemployment; the negligence in creating a strong private sector; the creation of vote banks has come home to roost.

        In the face of what is without doubt, the most challenging   rendition of the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) that began after two (2) years of the COVID-19 Pandemic; a rendition that began after years of   mismanagement, we stand before you in this House today, with a commitment, without fear or favour, to fix the challenges that we face. [Desk thumping] We on this side remain committed to the task at hand.

      Thank you. adam Presiding Officer, I beg to move this Motion in my name.

    Thank you. [Desk thumping]

    Question proposed.

Madam Presiding Officer, could I repeat my last paragraph?

10:15 A.M

     Women continue to be the biggest sect of the population   that require intervention from the Social Protection Department. As   illustrated in the CSSU Grants Report of 2022, the grants with the greater   number of applicants are: food support; rental assistance; medical assistance   and basic household appliances. Seventy-four percent (74%) of the applicants   for food support were female; seventy-one percent (71%) of the applicants for   rental assistance were female; seventy-three percent (73%) of the applicants   for medical assistance were female; eighty-one percent (81%) of the   applicants for basic household appliances were female.

     Tobago is a matri focal society where women are at the epicenter of family development. Data has shown that when women carry the   burdens of providing financial, as well as emotional support for their   families, they most times leave themselves undone.

     Though there are cases of under-reporting in men, the data   shows that women are applying more for medical assistance, and seventy-three   percent (73%) of the applicants for medical assistance are women, and this   percentage is positively correlated to the poor quality of life that most   women in vulnerable positions live.

     When the families break down, the women are placed at risk   in more instances, and they require the intervention of the Division of   Health, Wellness and Social Protection to access shelter. Social issues such   as domestic violence continue to affect women at a higher percentage than   men. Women who experience social crises associated with domestic violence,   experience chronic financial challenges that affect their ability to meet the   nutritional needs of their families.

     There are children in Tobago suffering from diabetic complicationsdue to the   overconsumption of what we call ‘sweet drinks’ and ‘snacks’.

Madam Presiding Officer, women are faced with a myriad of challenges that result in them and their children being placed at the risk of homelessness. As a result of the  breakdown in families, more single parent homes are emerging. I quote from Rense Nieuwenhuis Laurie C. Maldonado ed. 2018:

“Single-parent families face challenges that are   constantly evolving, and in relation to these challenges, they are more   likely to experience periods of impaired wellbeing, compared to, for   instance, coupled- parent families.”

     Single parents and their families lack the additional   resources of a partner who live in the household. The lack of a potential   second earner makes it more difficult for single-parent households to have   adequate earnings, but also makes the single-parent household more vulnerable to the consequences of temporary unemployment. Resources, employment and policies are all consequential for single parent wellbeing. In isolation, and particularly in relation to each other, the Division of Health, Wellness and Social Protection, collaborates with other Tobago House of Assembly (THA) Divisions,   as well as non-governmental agencies, to ensure that the needs of their   clients are met.

     Agencies such as the St. Vincent De Paul; Woman of   Substance; Tabitha’s House, among others, have assisted in providing   assistance to women placed in vulnerable positions. There is still a great   need for more collaborations with non-governmental organizations (NGOs),   churches and community groups to ensure that no one slips through the cracks.

     Many women are primary caregivers for their families, and   they

receive little or no support. Women often face different   mental health challenges than   men. Women have higher risks of anxiety and depression, which can be related   to physical health factors. Emotional support is an important protective   factor for dealing with life’s difficulties, and women often lack this   support. Tangible and emotional types of support services are most needed and   valued by women, and therefore, there are opportunities to expand the   services accessible to women by expanding collaborations with   non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in the communities.

     Partnership with NGOs in the communities will help to   reduce the burden on the human resource of the Divisions, but more   importantly, the safety net of the clients is expanded as more persons on the ground are better equipped to provide the assistance.

      Madam Presiding Officer, in the areas of concern, let me   share some figures with this   House. For rental assistance in 2022, of the fifty-eight (58) applicants, forty-one (41) were women. For medical assistance, of the forty-eight (48)   applicants, thirty-five (35) were women. For basic household appliances,   among the twenty-seven (27) applicants, twenty-two (22) were women, and for   Emergency food support, of the four hundred and forty-three (443) applicants   received, three hundred and twenty-seven (327) were women.

     Madam Presiding Officer, our women and children did not   just land in this predicament that has now become more a challenge. It did   not happen overnight. In my capacity as Assistant Secretary in the Division   of Health, Wellness and Social Protection, I meet and interact with women   throughout the length and breath of Tobago. I am compelled by simple respect   to keep their struggles confidential. I could only say the struggle is real.

When my good friend from Darrel Spring/Whim expresses his empathy for Tobago people; how people are suffering and  starving, I must let him know that   the present situation did not happen over the past year or two (2). [Desk thumping] This scourge... 


[The Minority Leader enters the Chamber]

A pleasant good morning to everyone.

Let me hasten to say thank you to the people of Buccoo/Mt.Pleasant Electoral District [Desk thumping] and the residents of Canaan, for electing me to this distinguished position.

The Motion reads:

“WHEREAS the 2023 theme for International Women’s Day spoke to embracing   equity, which focuses on all entities actively supporting and embracing   equity within their own spheres of influence;

AND WHEREAS the issue of support to vulnerable women and children is   still deficient within the Tobago space;

AND   WHEREAS the Tobago House of Assembly is responsible for Social   Welfare in accordance with the Fifth Schedule of the Tobago House of Assembly   Act 40 of 1996;

BE IT RESOLVED that a  whole-island approach, where all parties, including private and non-government organizationsactively participate in the protection and response to   vulnerable women and children.

AND BE   IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Tobago House of Assembly works   closely with these agencies through partnerships and provision of resources   to ensure that the needs of all vulnerable women and children are met.”

Madam Presiding Officer, this Motion was originally pegged   to coincide with the celebration of‘International Women's Day’. A celebration  that has gone by more than a month now, but we on this side think it is such  a relevant discourse, that though time has lapsed, we think it prudent to still bring it for the consideration of this House and for the listening of the people Tobago.

      Madam Presiding Officer, from time immemorial, women and   children have been challenged. Despite their challenges, women in particular   have risen above immense levels of abuse to take their place in society; in a   world where they have endured physical, emotional, sexual, mental and   intellectual abuse, among other challenges. They have risen through the ranks   to succeed in fields traditionally dominated by men.

      As an island, Tobago has had its share of males reaching   the heights of success. Right here in these two (2) islands called “Trinidad   and Tobago”, we, Tobago boast a small portion of the population. Yet, we have  produced two (2) of our first seven (7) Prime Ministers and one of our first   seven (7) Presidents.

Madam Presiding Officer, I have been reliably informed by   my friends in Port of Spain, that in short order, subject to the declaration   of the date for Regional Corporation Elections, there is a possibility that Roxborough,   Tobago, might very well produce the next Mayor of Port of Spain. [Desk  thumping] [Laughter] The men are doing well per capita, and it is no secret that we as an island can do a lot more for the leadership of this   country.

     The women of this two (2) island country have held their   own as well, with one of the first seven (7) Prime Ministers and two (2) of   the first seven (7) Presidents. Even in this august Chamber, every woman  seated here needs to be commended for excelling to become leaders of   compassion, integrity and vision. [Desk thumping] Sadly though, Madam Presiding Officer, many women in our great island called ‘Tobago’, still function below the ideal as reference in the theme adopted for International Women’s Day - “Embracing Equity”. In Tobago, women are forced to endure the   messy end of the proverbial stick, even in areas where they signed up   willingly to joint partnerships in bringing children into the world.

     At the Division of Health, Wellness and Social Protection,the data supports the need for Tobagonians to feel a sense of responsibility   for the present state of affairs as it relates to the women and children in   our communities.

     The Social Protection Department envisions the creation of   a system of social services delivery, guaranteeing Tobagonians, freedom from   poverty and a high quality of life, manifested in healthy people, in decent housing, in socially integrated communities, and with the needs of the vulnerable, equitably and efficiently addressed. Women and children continue to comprise the majority of the most vulnerable in the population of Tobago.

      In 2022, the Social Protection Department within the   Division of Health, Wellness and Social Protection, spent a total of two   point zero four, four million, four hundred and sixty-nine dollars and ninety-five cents ($2,044,469.95) on   providing support to vulnerable persons in Tobago.

Thank you, Leader of Assembly Business.

Member for Buccoo/Mt. Pleasant, Assemblyman Sonny Craig.

Thank you, Madam Presiding Officer.

Madam Presiding Officer, there are two (2) Motions placed   on this Order Paper. However, Motion one (1) standing in the name of Assemblyman Sonny Craig, Assistant Secretary in the Division of Health Wellness and Social   Protection, would be debated at today’s Sitting.

Motion No. 2, would be debated at a subsequent Sitting.   Our next Sitting is April 27th, 2023.

Thank you, Madam Presiding Officer.

16th Plenary Sitting Tobago House of Assembly 2021 - 2025 Session


20 April 2023
bottom of page