Leadership in the Church
November 22, 2019
Action towards a nuclear-weapon free world
November 22, 2019

Eliminating violence against women

By Leela Ramdeen
Chair, CCSJ & Director, CREDI

How I wish that all of us would hear God’s cry: ‘Where is your brother?’ (Gen 4:9). Where is your brother or sister who is enslaved? Where is the brother and sister whom you are killing each day in clandestine warehouses, in rings of prostitution, in children used for begging, in exploiting undocumented labour? Let us not look the other way. There is greater complicity than we think.

Pope Francis, Evangelii Gaudium, para 211

CCSJ Social Justice Education Committee

On November25, the world will observe International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. “Violence against women continues to be an obstacle to achieving equality, development, peace as well as to the fulfilment of women and girls’ human rights. All in all, the promise of the Sustainable Development Goals—to leave no-one behind—cannot be fulfilled without putting an end to violence against women and girls” (UN). Such violence manifests itself in physical, sexual and psychological forms.

Nineteen-year-old UWI student, Coryal Sylvester, placed third in CCSJ’s and CYC’s Spoken Word Competition. Her poem below is worth reflecting on as we strive to promote justice for all:


by Coryal Sylvester


Her eyes were an empty canvas,

Blank…as she stared

And my authoritative words continued to fall unto deaf ears

Because she was tuned into another frequency,

One which I could neither speak nor understand…

since my tongue was of an English not a Spanish motherland.

But body language was a universal translation

And blank eyes transformed into tumultuous turrets of terror-induced tears,

From thoughts of traumatic events too fresh to be healed by time.

So in my human nature, I reached out to her

And I felt the quick beat beat beating of her heart

As if she feared another beating

From the dead-beat dad

Who left his family to form another familia with her

Only to leave her with bruises the colour beetroot

Taking advantage of her uprootedness

Because her roots weren’t of this soil

And even though they were replanted

It was only one generation deep.


She came from a land rich in gold.

Black gold.

That was now worth nothing

Meant nothing

When compared to a simple toilet paper roll.

She was willing to trade guns to fill her empty stomach

Because to her a belly full of food

Was worth more than a potential body full of bullets.


Bullets that she herself had seen far too often

From the people meant to protect and serve her.

Bullets that pierced the walls of her heart when she realised that she was no longer considered

human but was rather objectified and labelled ‘Venezuelan’

She wasn’t raised to live like this

She didn’t expect this

She didn’t just want to just exist

For some other man’s pleasure

For she was an A-class scholar

But that didn’t matter

When all anybody ever wanted from her

was her garden’s flower.


She had to work for pittance behind closed doors

Because her status was still illegal alien

Even though her work was definitely invaluable

It was made very clear to her that she was replaceable

But she didn’t want to be continuously exploited by some handsy employer

For she still had some dignity left in her.

And there was no use working a job that couldn’t fill your belly

And she needed to make money so she turned a blind eye to her new job’s legality.


Now her entire future was held in my glove-clad hand

I was the God of her situation

Silently seeking her sincere supplication

Because mi casa no es tu casa

My house was not hers

Even though she wanted it to be

And like many, I didn’t wish to share my space with this supposed exotic kind

Of curvy, caramel-skinned, coffee-eyed, cardiac myopathy inducing creature of God’s artistic creation.


She was in immigration detention, illicit arms found in her possession

Never in her wildest imagination

Did she expect to be this close to incarceration

But I saw her desperation

Having been betrayed by her family, not just her nation

Trafficked by her own blood relation.

Now with no-one to trust

She was thrust into the world of being a refugee

Living illegally

Desperate for some semblance of normalcy

And I was about to send her back to her personal hell

Where her survival wasn’t a guarantee

Or… well…. she could stay in this country

But be constantly at the mercy of people who would blame her for their own failed relationships

Or be used and abused by both men and women taking advantage of her lack of citizenship.

Because she would never be considered a Trini.

Her story, sadly wasn’t even a unique one, I’d heard so many just like it

So I couldn’t play favourites

The law dictated that deportation was her verdict

So even though she cried and cried and cried

I simply handed her her plane ticket.