By Amílcar Sanatan
CCSJ Board member
Outside of formal duties, community workers provide social support for the least served needs of people. This can take the form of transporting children home at the end of a programme, purchasing books for students at the beginning of the school term, constructing small hampers from groceries bought the week before to a family in greater need, and editing copybook pages, typing, and printing CVs and resumés for youth in search of a job.
When community workers go beyond their job scope and work hours, they begin to have a deeper understanding of the pain and intersecting inequalities that shape people’s lives.
Social interventions may do a good job to untangle a thread of misery in an individual’s life, but they cannot untie the web of oppression they endure. People do not just “have it hard” – their rights are denied and violated. Government agencies serve the public, activists serve social groups and communities, politicians serve constituents, and religious leaders serve souls. Regardless of the subject position someone occupies, they have rights that need to be protected and enhanced within their homes, communities, and institutional levels.
When people are prevented from asserting and enjoying their rights, their lives are at risk, they are perpetually dissatisfied, and they are denied peace.
Recently, I was put in contact with a member of one of the communities we serve in East Port of Spain. The person in need is a young woman in her twenties seeking any support for her family in the process of a relocation. Though she is not a participant in one of our programmes, she is a human needing support.
The father of her first child was convicted for homicide. Then, the father of the second child was charged for the possession of an illegal firearm.
Both relationships were filled with abuse and contestations for power over cooking, the way she dresses, her communication with other men and duties as a mother.
Her life was threatened by one of her partners from prison and she took the necessary steps to leave her home and relocate for the family’s personal safety. What does running away mean for a young mother? It means consistent emotional care and support for children who are managing the change; it means purchasing curtains, glass sets, plates, a kettle and sleeping on a second-hand and stained mattress; it means quietly mobilising a network of trusted people who care and make calls for used household items, assuring others it is not a scam by saying, “we eh need money, we just need little tings for de house, to put up and set up de children for school.”
People in difficult circumstances who prove their resilience may also prove their faith. “We going with God,” the young woman and her close friends say. And, many of us who may not be in a similar situation of hardship, should also be driven to “go with God” into our society.
Risk, uncertainty, and doubt are always part of our life. In Trinidad and Tobago, violence is omnipresent and very much a part of our lives. Community workers, believers and the faithful, should “go with God” to ensure the rights of all people in our society.
Fundamentally, the young woman was denied her human rights to safety and a life free from violence. By extension, she was denied the right of motherhood which would guarantee a social, environmental and policy space that provides women with the resources to contribute to healthy families in a safe society. When women do not have equal rights in the home, negotiate everyday life in abusive relationships and even engage in exploitative transactions, we have failed to empower women and girls.
Limited mobility and resources for women who are survivors of violence are the markers of a society that has not invested resources adequately to intervene into the social problems.
My conscience is no clearer after the small assistance I rendered to the young woman’s relocation to a safer home. The risk is not eliminated.
Many women and mothers suffer from violence. Where are we going with God?
SOCIAL JUSTICE QUOTE FOR THE WEEK