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Rights activist seeks help to fund studies

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Published: 
Monday, June 19, 2017

Sherna Alexander has spent years fight­ing to put an end to vi­olence against women and girls in T&T. Her NGO, Organisation for Abused and Battered Individuals (OABI), has worked with nu­merous NGOs and in­stitutions both local­ly and abroad to raise awareness and funds to invest in preventive programmes, safety homes and education to empower women and girls.

She has steadily done this all for the love and passion which came from real life experiences that has made her a proud survivor of domestic and child sexual abuse.

Now she is wearing the shoe on the other foot, in need of your help. Ear­lier this year Alexander was awarded a double scholarship from St Francis Xavier University in Canada to complete a programme in leadership, peace building and gov­ernance. The programme will cover crime pre­vention and analyses; learning to create safe, inclusive spaces for di­alogue and analyses; build conflict analyses to address root causes of family, community and work-based con­flict; learn non-violent communication and me­diation skills; design and deliver conflict transfor­mation and peace-build­ing programmes; gain knowledge on non-vio­lent techniques for trans­forming intra-commu­nity and organisational conflicts; examine gen­der-based violence at a family, community and national level; and gain the ability to contrib­ute to global networks for conflict resolu­tion, reconciliation and peace-building, com­munity development and development leadership, to name a few.

Since February, the 43-year-old said she has been knocking on doors within her own country and externally to raise the desired funds to be­gin the programme which began this month.

Alexander is the first woman advocate from the Caribbean to receive a double scholarship from this university; it includes an 85 per cent bursary. The remaining 15 per cent is what she needs to raise, inclusive of funds for incidentals and other costs, while she resides in Canada for the duration of the 11 month-long programme.

The human and wom­en’s rights activist said she thought she would have been granted some assistance weeks ago, but has come to realise how much of a challenge it is getting support from your own home.

With this reality, Alexander said about two weeks ago a friend launched a GoFund Me Campaign to assist her in raising funds.

“I had to put all shame and self-pride aside to ask globally for support,” she says.

The deadline for pay­ment passed on May 31, but favourably, Alexan­der was granted an ex­tension. The university has also affirmed a travel award to Alexander and is covering accommo­dation and meals. Still, she is seeking 50 people to donate US$250 or 25 companies willing to do­nate US$500 for her full participation. She said:

“As a Caribbean wom­an of African descent , I experience the conse­quences of the develop­ment opportunity gap which many women face. I also have to fight harder, not because of the colour of my skin, but because of the conse­quences of being a victim of severe childhood and adult abuse, which I have never allowed to cripple me. I have rather used it as an instrument to push myself—and thousands of other women facing similar shame and con­sequences.”

“For way too long the negative consequences of abuse continue to mar the lives of hundreds of women in the Caribbean. We must all work togeth­er to change the present course. The following research only speaks of what many of us working on the ground continue to see, along with many more horrors.”

She said if given the opportunity, she would be more than willing to give back in service to the donor organisations or individuals who assist.

“I will also be docu­menting my progress through the programme with blog and video posts and publicly acknowl­edging all donors.”

The Diego Martin res­ident was also recently granted a full scholarship from the Inter-Ameri­can Development Bank (IDB) to pursue its pro­ject management asso­ciate programme. Upon successfully passing all course tests and activi­ties to complete this pro­gramme, Alexander will receive the internation­al certificate of project management associate (PMA).

“It really isn’t about me,” she says. “If you help, you are not only assisting me but the thousands of lives that will be saved through this opportunity. While international organ­isations see the need to invest in me to help me advance the cause for nation building and for sustainable devel­opment, I pray that my Government, national entrepreneurs and the common man can also see the value and the returns of this invest­ment.”