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Honour for all women

By Miranda La Rose Wednesday, August 31 2011

click on pic to zoom in
SOCIAL ACTIVISTS, Hazel Brown, the first recipient of the new national award, Medal for the Development of Women (gold), for their outstanding contrib...
SOCIAL ACTIVISTS, Hazel Brown, the first recipient of the new national award, Medal for the Development of Women (gold), for their outstanding contrib...

Three women’s activists — Hazel Brown, Diana Mahabir-Wyatt and Brenda Gopeesingh — are to receive the inaugural Gold Medal for the Development of Women in the sphere of community service on the occasion of the country’s 49th Independence Anniversary today.

The three are “very honoured” to be among the first to receive the award. They now hope that women’s issues, including violence against women, women’s rights as human rights, and the empowerment of women would be given more recognition.

When offered “Congratulations” on her most recent award, Brown’s response was, “What have I done now?”

Told about the award, the founding member and Coordinator of the Network of NGOs for the Advancement of Women said, “I am happy. It’s for women.”

The Network for NGOs was formed in 1985 to present TT’s position on women at the end of the Decade for Women Conference held in Nairobi, Kenya.

Brown has received many awards in her lifetime, including from the Guyana Cancer Society and the Diego Martin Regional Corporation, which she especially values, but this most recent, she said, was in honour of women.

“I hope it helps to encourage and empower women to develop themselves, and the national interests. Certainly we don’t work for awards, but an award at this level in the cause of women’s rights is timely and appreciated.”

Brown has spent most of her adult life as a consumer and women’s rights advocate. She is a board member and former chair of the Diego Martin Consumer Co-operative Society; a founding member of the Telephone User Group formed to represent telephone rate hearings in 1971, and a member of several local social action groups including the Housewives Association of Trinidad and Tobago (HATT).

At the regional and international levels, she is a founding member of the Caribbean Institute for Women in Leadership; and a former secretary general of the Commonwealth Women’s Network.

Wyatt, Founder of the Trinidad and Tobago Coalition Against Domestic Violence (CADV), knew she was nominated for the award. Called for her reaction, she said, “Hmm. I haven’t prepared any response.”

When prodded, she said, “Of all the awards I have been given, I am most grateful for this one because it is for advocacy on human rights, particularly women’s rights.”

When the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights was being drafted, she said, former US First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt failed to get the drafters to include women’s rights as a special right.

Mahabir-Wyatt founded the CADV in 1988. The CADV is a 45-member organisation working on issues of domestic and social violence and child abuse. In 2000 she founded PLUS (Peace, Love and Understanding in Schools) to help teachers to deal with anger management; and in 2001 she founded Stop Elderly Abuse Now (SEAN), as well as Childline (TT) — a hotline for children at risk.

A pioneer and volunteer in many professional, service and non-governmental, non-profit organisations, Mahabir-Wyatt, is also a member of the Caribbean Feminist Research Association (CAFRA), Network of NGOs, National Organisation of Women, an executive member of the Trinidad and Tobago Coalition on the Rights of the Child, and the Caribbean and Latin American Rights of the Child Association.

On the award, Gopeesingh, an executive member, past president and past public relations officer of the Hindu Women’s Organisation (HWO) said, “I am really pleased that some of the work we do is being recognised.”

“I hope that the women’s award will bring into focus the scourge that is domestic violence and help to raise the

consciousness of men and women in the fight to eradicate violence against women.”

Gopeesingh, who is currently a director of Regal Products Limited, is a founding member of the HWO.

The HWO was established in 1987 to deal with women and children’s issues. It conducts a number of programmes, including educational, for underprivileged children.

She is also a member of CAFRA and the Network of NGOs. She has networked with the Canadian International Development Agency and UNIFEM (United Nations Women’s Fund) on issues of violence against women.

In March, Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar appointed Gopeesingh and Brown as special envoys to look at women and children’s issues in the Caribbean.

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