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Trinidad and Tobago YWCA looks for new blood

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YWCATT is pursuing its vision to increase membership while retaining current members. To this end, it started a volunteer membership drive by participating with other NGO’s in a Volunteer Fair organised by Volunteer Connection in collaboration with Cradle Initiative, to help these organisations increase their membership and volunteer base.

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The Young Women’s Christian Association of Trinidad and Tobago (YWCATT) was first established in Port-of-Spain in 1943 with the assistance of Ruth Cowdrey of the YWCA of England, under the auspices of the World YWCA. Today there are three local associations in Port-of-Spain, San Fernando and St Augustine, a group in Tobago, while an attempt is being made to re-start the Point Fortin Association.

Although membership has fallen off in recent years, YWCATT is pursuing its vision to increase membership while retaining current members. To this end, it started a volunteer membership drive by participating with other NGO’s in a Volunteer Fair organised by Volunteer Connection in collaboration with Cradle Initiative, to help these organisations increase their membership and volunteer base.
YWCATT continues to fulfil its mission: “To build a fellowship of young women and girls possessing self-esteem, strong values and leadership skills by providing opportunities for their personal, spiritual, intellectual and physical development.” One of the organisation’s main goals in executing its mission is “to be a voice for women and girls in Trinidad and Tobago on issues that affect them.”

Three very busy young women who are heavily involved in the planning for the 23rd Biennial Convention: Deborah Thomas, president of YWCATT for the past three years, Roxanne Brathwaite, general secretary, and Khadija James, secretary of the St Augustine Association.

Thomas, a town planner, is managing director of the East Port- of-Spain Development Company Limited, a new special purpose State enterprise charged with the responsibility of securing economic, social, and physical regeneration of an area extending from Charlotte Street to Lady Young Road. Thomas made it quite clear that the highly provocative east Port-of-Spain project which occupies a small portion of this wider area, is being undertaken by an entirely separate organisation, the Housing Development Corporation.

Brathwaite is a sociologist with experience in youth work in TT and in the wider Caribbean, and James, who is awaiting A-level results from St Augustine Girls’ High School, plans to further her studies in management.

Approximately 100 women are expected to attend the upcoming meeting which starts with the convention at 9.30 am, which will be attended by the Y’s patron, Her Excellency Dr Jean Ramjohn-Richards. A representative of the United Nations Development Programme will speak on the theme “YWCA of Trinidad and Tobago – Our brand, Our action.”

“This year we will rededicate ourselves to the mission and purpose of YWCATT, looking back at what we have done and helping to chart the organisation’s course forward. However, no formal business is conducted at the convention. That period is used to exchange greetings from NGO’S and government officials, and to improve our networking especially with our kindred organisations which we have partnered with in the past and hope to continue partnering as we work on similar issues,” Thomas said.
In the early years, the YWCA traditionally placed emphasis on vocational training, such as, cooking classes and sewing. This is no longer its role, mainly because government now offers these classes on a wider and cheaper basis so although there is still some vocational training, a new niche has to be created for women which includes a very successful geriatric nursing programme in Port-of-Spain. In San Fernando an early childhood education programme provides support for working mothers which allows them to feel comfortable in the workplace while their children learn in a safe environment. One hundred and twenty infants graduated from the kindergarten one week ago. Computer training and access to the Internet is also offered for underprivileged youth. At St Augustine, says James, “a total image workshop for young adults is offered, and we also have done a lot of work in HIV and AIDS awareness and education.”

Says Brathwaite, “At National Level on Cipriani Boulevard we offer safe and affordable accommodation to young working women or those pursuing an education, in and around Port-of-Spain. This is an area where we feel there is room for expansion but we are limited by the available space, and to this end one consideration would be the development of a property at Flagstaff Hill.

“Everyday we get new demands for accommodation, such as those who reach the age limit in children’s homes and cannot afford normal market rental rates. The staff of these homes feel these young women should remain in semi-supervised surroundings rather than live on their own.”

“ Flagstaff would benefit the youth and elderly, or anyone looking for sheltered housing. We have to turn away young women with children because the hostel does not afford that kind of housing, and sometimes they have to stay in less than suitable accommodation.”

At the world YWCA level, Trinidad and Tobago will be represented by delegates and observers when the World Council meets next year July in Nairobi, Kenya. The theme is “Changing Lives, Changing Communities: Women’s Leadership and HIV and AIDS.”
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Angela Pidduck, Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

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