By Denisha Ramdhan
It is truly nerve wracking being a woman living in Trinidad and Tobago presently. We are sick, disgusted and tired of the current state of affairs in our country, our homeland.
Just recently, two Barbadian friends, Ronelle King and Allyson Benn, started the #lifeinleggings movement aimed at highlighting women's sexual assault stories to show men that the experiences are not just experienced by a few. Some chose to make fun of the movement, stating what response do we expect if we wear leggings in the first place, which is ludicrous, being that the stories shared were not about a piece of fabric in the first place.
We needed a movement such as this, as it gave us some sort of hope that all men would understand our plight and know that our race, nationality, religious beliefs or financial status doesn't matter; we face a challenge daily simply by being a woman.
From being verbally abused, to sexual harassment on the streets, while taking public transportation, on the jobs, being victims of domestic violence or just violence on a whole and sexual assault to name a few; we are a constant target and we get no days off from this life. Believe you me when I say it can be very challenging and exhausting.
To add to this just recently an incident occurred that rocked the citizens of Trinidad and Tobago, mainly our women. It left us not only fed up but traumatized. The glass was already full; we had already reached our limit. To then throw an ice-cube in the glass just had our emotions over flowing.
Citizens expressed grief, shock and horror as a woman's body was found covered with boxes in a storage room of a reputable store in the middle of the country's capital Port of Spain. This could have just been one of those incidents that would soon be forgotten and swept under the carpet just like the others. But what was different about this incident? Why did it seem to hit home so hard? Why did it stand out from the rest? Some argued that it was because of her complexion or the fact that she was beautiful and had long beautiful hair. But I can assure you that it was neither.
Shannon Banfield, a 20-year-old Republic Bank employee, was reported missing on Monday, December 5, 2016, just under a week ago. During the days that followed her face was plastered over various media platforms just like any other missing person. But no sightings of her were reported anywhere.
Later that day calls made to her phone by a worried mother went unanswered, all except for one. Someone finally answered her phone, probably by accident because her mother said she heard men in the background who allegedly had Jamaican accents.
Sherry Ann Lopez said she would normally drop her only daughter to work and pick her back up every afternoon. But on that dreaded day Shannon opted to travel home. Which is nothing out of the ordinary for a 20-year-old trying to establish some sort of independence in this world. She called her mother promptly around 3:30 pm and told her she would be heading to two well known stores on practically the busiest street in Port of Spain – Charlotte Street. That would have been the last time she spoke to her child.
Three days later she received the most dreaded of all calls. A body was discovered in the storage room of one of the stores that Shannon said she was going to. Can you imagine the feeling of dread and despair she was going through? We can only imagine that she was clinging on to any ounce of hope she could find that it would not be her daughter, her only child. How she must have felt to have those hopes shattered. The body was finally identified as that of Shannon Banfield.
The moment the news was released to the public, cries of pain, anguish, hurt and depression were expressed across the county. Why, you may ask. For the simple reason that it could have been any one of us. Shannon was not somewhere where she wasn't supposed to be; she was doing the most mundane of activities, simply shopping. Yet she still managed to turn up dead, not in a ditch, not in some remote part of the island, not in a barrel with her head severed like the others before her. But she turned up dead in the stockroom of a store that she ventured into to purchase some items.
Some may think we weren't outraged before, what they don't understand is that we have reached our limit and what they see as rage and anger is actually coupled with underlying desperation and fear. Why shouldn't we be spiraling in a fit of panic?
Out of the 45 women that have been missing for the year thus far, how many of them have been found? How many of them have turned up dead, mutilated, burned beyond recognition? How many persons have been apprehended, tried and convicted of these crimes? What about those that are still alive and are victims of severe domestic violence, or victims of rape?
Petitions have been started to bring back the death penalty but what good is that when we live in a country that has an almost nonexistent conviction rate well a little less than ten percent to be exact. Who are they actually going to put to death?
To the men of Trinidad and the Caribbean, it is nerve wracking to have to be on your Ps and Qs at all times. Why should we be afraid to leave our homes? Why can't we walk the streets without being harassed and having you make mention of our body parts? Is it even possible to go to a party with our friends and not have you un-invitingly gyrate on us and even if we refuse does it have to mean that we are pompous? Do you have to resort to name calling and insults because your advances were rejected? Do you have to try and pass your filthy hands on our legs and make it look like an accident while taking public transportation? Why should we have to worry about cars pulling up next to us and forcing us to get in never to be seen again? Or being told that we are lucky because we weren't the type you were looking for that day? Will we be your type on another day at another time?
Please, we beg of you, just stop. Place some value on our lives, make us feel safe again. Fight for us, protect us, stand up for us, be our keepers. And yes, all life matters; yes, 400-plus men were killed for the year and you may argue that it’s a drastic contrast compared to the handful of sisters we have lost. But we don't participate in gang wars, we don't fight for control of turf and drug blocks, we don't go and shoot up a block and claim more lives because we lost a sister. We don't go around killing each other because we were disrespected or our egos were bruised. If that were the case the death toll would be doubled.
I don't just speak for the women of Trinidad and Tobago but for women across the globe. We are tired, we are tired and afraid, and we need to get back some form of normalcy in our lives. From our homes to the streets make us feel safe again. We are your sisters, your daughters, your mothers, your aunts, your cousins, your grandmothers.
We are tired.
A Heartbroken Sister
Denisha Ramdhan was born in the capital of Trinidad, Port of Spain. She enjoyed writing from a very early age, hence short stories and poetry became a favourite pastime. She is currently pursuing a diploma in psychology after which she hopes to pursue her Masters.