Health, crime issues high on needs list for women
By Tiffanie Drayton Sunday, September 8 2013
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Women shop for bargains on Charlotte Street, Port-of-Spain yesterday. ...
Women are seldom the focus of the national budget despite society’s growing economic dependency on them as not only primary child caretakers, but also, in many cases, the sole household breadwinners.
Not having many expectations about the Government’s ability to effect change or provide assistance have led to many women becoming jaded when it comes to discussing their needs but still they hope someone might heed their cries for help.
“Right now, as a woman, I work like a man,” said Jackie Garraway a 36-year-old clothing store attendant, “Whatever they (the Government) do, you still have to work hard to make ends meet.” Garraway, who has two school-aged children and describes herself as an “almost” single parent, believes one of the biggest unaddressed women’s issues is the need for better healthcare, especially in the maternity wards of the country’s public hospitals.
“The service at the hospital is terrible,” she said,”You could die or have a baby right there before someone even come over to help you.”
Other women have similar concerns. Nikisia Drayton, an expectant mother, worries that the country’s public medical facilities are underperforming and putting patients’ lives in danger. “I have a friend who has had a lump in her breasts for about two months now and they keep pushing her surgery date back. They don’t even know if it is cancer or not,” she said.
Violence is also a major concern for many women who fear that their families may be caught in the crossfires of the gun violence plaguing communities such as in East Port of Spain.
The pressing issue of crime has been addressed in previous budgets with very little to no progress made in decreasing the nation’s crime-related deaths. As of 2013, the murder rate continues to be driven by gang and drug-related activity, despite last year’s concerted effort to crack down on crime. Crimes related to sexual assault and domestic abuse have also been on the rise. Since 2008, there has been a steady uptick in sexual offenses from 692 to 1,020 in 2012.
“There was a time when everybody felt safe walking down the streets, but now I feel like if I always have to look over my shoulder to make sure I’m safe,” said Candice Greaves, another working mother.
Although social issues are the points of interest for most women, for others, the concern is economics.
One woman, a small business-owner on Charlotte Street who didn’t want to be named, believes the Government has unfair sanctions that hurt people like herself.
“Small businesses are being treated real badly,” she said, “The Government charges us VAT for any merchandise we buy to sell, but when we look to sell it, we cannot charge customers VAT and that’s not fair.”
The new budget may address some of these issues indirectly, but many feel legislation should be drafted that specifically targets the needs of women, as well as the community at large.
“Trinidad needs to make its women a priority because we are doing everything these days: we are working in and out of the home and many of us looking to start our own businesses. We need all the support we can get,” Miss Garrison urged.