Posts Tagged ‘ECH’

Invaluable lessons outside of the classroom

October 13, 2015 | Melissa, Trinidad and Tobago, MAC, The Women’s Institute for Alternative Development, Disarmament Program Support Officer

So far, my experience in Port of Spain has been eye-opening. The NGO I am working with is focused on promoting equality and the reduction of gun violence in T&T, as well as promoting a more collaborative governance structure in the country. Working with WINAD has given me exposure to the violence that I have learned about in the classroom in the Conflict Studies and Human Rights Program. This experience is allowing me to fill gaps in my classroom education, especially regarding violence on a personal and local level. In my classes we have often discussed civil conflicts as ethnic or political issues but the reality today is that there are a large number of conflicts that are closely tied to the illicit drug trade. From my discussions with colleagues and my own research I have come to learn that this is the reality in T&T and many other places. My work has helped me to begin to understand the impact of criminal activity on perpetuating local violence in a way that the classroom never could.

WINAD does amazing work and I am so grateful for the opportunity to support the work of this organization. The theory of the classroom can only teach you so much, but immersing yourself in the reality on the ground is a fundamental component of the learning experience. The organization engages in conversations with women in different areas of the nation and asks them to share their experiences. This helps to create an open dialogue that explores the direct and indirect effect of violence on women, given that many of these women have lost sons, husbands, brothers, fathers, etc. to gun violence. The uncovering of this information provides essential evidence, which the organization can use to support its mandate and find solutions to social issues.

The work I have done with the organization has also allowed me to witness the passion for social change, and the tangible possibilities of making this happen. WINAD is a member of a wide and collaborative network of NGOs that support each other to enact positive change in T&T. Their energy is focused and as a result the government is more pressured to listen to the voices of civil society. Canada is so large that change on the federal level is sometimes difficult to perceive, but in Trinidad and Tobago it appears it may be more of a tangible possibility! It is so encouraging to see passionate people working hard to better their country and I am so grateful for the opportunity to support their hard work.

In sum, so far this has been an incredible experience with new challenges and exciting opportunities. It’s hard to believe that a month has already gone by! When I first arrived I felt as though three months would feel like a long time, but now I am certain that it is going to fly by. Thankfully, I still have quite a few more weeks here and I am beyond excited for the new challenges ahead!