Seven-year-old Kaylah Burnley was born to be a dancer. She is currently the youngest ballet dancer en pointe in T&T; she started pointe when she was six in 2017.
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Intervene earlier to protect our girls
As T&T joined the international community in recognising the International Day of the Girl Child, advocate Hazel Brown said violence and abuse and the lack of initiatives remain two of the biggest challenges facing girls.
She said not enough was being done to prevent and safeguard girls against violence and abuse from being violated and abused even from their own relatives.
She said a project titled "Girls at Ten" was expected to be launched soon aimed specifically at targeting girls at a young age.
"Our analysis of girls at ten shows that intervention must happen at an earlier age and such intervention must allow them the kind of needs that are equitable in society.
"A lot of projects start at 14 and 15 for girls but this is not always practical because measures must be put in place for girls and at an earlier age because they are facing challenges and sometimes they are serious challenges," Brown said.
Brown again renewed her call for a national gender policy which she said had fallen on deaf ears for far too long.
"Apart from not enough being done there is the urgent need for a national gender policy that will provide the kind of laws and programmes to benefit girls but years have passed and we are still waiting on this," Brown said.
Counselling psychologist Anna Maria Mora said society must play a greater role in preventing girls from having children at an early age.
"We still have a lot of problems helping our girls understand their fertility. We do not teach them to respect that ability to reproduce and understand that function as mothers. So when they reach puberty, life becomes very difficult for them because they have all these influences and they don't know what to do," Mora said.
She said another issue was that in many cases girls, even those in primary schools, were looked upon merely as girlfriends, even by "big men."
"I don't think girls get the respect they need as far as being individuals and being somebody of character who has the potential to be anything she wants to be," Mora said.
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