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Today November 20th is Universal Children’s Day. Listen to how these kids are using their organisation - Random Acts of Good Deeds- to raise awareness about child sexual abuse in Trinidad and Tobago.

The Feminisation of HIV refers to the increasing prevalence of HIV among women worldwide and the ways in which gender discrimination - both social and institutional- contribute to women’s increased vulnerability to HIV infection. 

In the Caribbean, women make up 53% of the population living with HIV. And young women between the ages of 15-24 have three to six times higher incidence of HIV than young men the same age range.

High rates of violence against women; poverty and economic dependence on men; early sexual initiation, multiple partners and cultural attitudes regarding relationships and sexual behaviour; and inadequate access to reproductive health services, all contribute to the increasing incidence of HIV among Caribbean women.

Another feature of the feminsation of HIV in the Caribbean is the predominance of women’s role in ‘care’ responsibilities for family members and others in the community who have HIV and AIDS.  

This short documentary titled "Invisible: Children living with HIV" by Elspeth Duncan, shows the social, financial and psychological challenges that HIV presents not just for HIV infected mothers but for their children as well.

How can understanding the nature and impact of gender inequality in the Caribbean help us address the feminsation of HIV in our region?

Women Of Antigua is a group of women who use the performing arts and theatre to raise awareness about issues of violence against women. Created in 2008 as a response to the increasing reports of rape in Antigua, the group which comprises 4 women - Linisa George, Thomasine Greenaway, Zahra Airall and Greschen Edwards - donate all the proceeds from their productions to women’s groups in Antigua.

The video is directed and edited by Floree Williams, information compiling was done by Joanne Hillhouse and video production by Jon Whyte.

Gary Acosta is a 24 year old spoken word poet from the republic of Trinidad & Tobago. Artistic expression and performance has always been a passion of this young Caribbean wordsmith. On November 20th, 2011, Gary along with his longtime musical collaborator Til Shiloh released their music video “Broken One” to help raise awareness about domestic violence and it’s devastating impact on women, children and families. The WomenSpeak Project spoke to Gary about his journey with “Broken One”.

What motivated you to embark on the Broken One project?

Til Shiloh mentioned to me that he had been working on a song called Broken One close to 3 years but just never could put the words to the music. When he told me the idea of the song it struck close to home for it was not only one week before when a close friend of my family was brutally murdered by her husband. 

Due to the fact that the case is currently before the courts it will be remiss of me to go into the details of the crime as I would not want to prejudice any decision, however, hearing her stories of domestic abuse was horrifying. Additionally, it was a wake-up call to me personally because I would have never guessed she was suffering through this. I decided then and there that I had to do my part in my own way in spreading awareness of Domestic Violence

How did the process of writing the song and making the video impact you?

Writing this song and producing this video was an emotional roller coaster. I submerged myself in all these stories that I would have read on the newspaper, internet and as well from one-on-one encounters with survivors. My idea behind the writing was to tell the story of my family friend as if she was experiencing it herself without being too literal and glorify the actual abuse.

The video was a tedious process from creating a screenplay - which Steven M. Taylor (Director) and Stephanie Matadeen (2nd Asst. Director) has to take a lot of credit for – to casting of the roles to actually shooting and editing.

While on set and having to recount these experiences internally is somewhat like putting myself into these women and men’s positions. At times to be honest I became extremely depressed and was unable to properly function during the day. That in itself gave me more motivation because if I could feel like this just thinking how they felt then what’s to say how it is in reality.

What has been the response to the video? What were your expectations and have they played out thus far?

The response to the video by the general public has been amazing, Within one day of releasing the video there were hundreds of people (literally) sharing it with their friends on facebook. Additionally we had excellent support through Rhonda Alfonso and Priya Ganness-Nanton working behind the scenes to get the message further.

Before the release, as early as August 2011 we approached various Government Ministries, Corporate entities and organizations that deal with issues such as Domestic Violence. To be frank we didn’t get any support from them which is why we are so thankful for the WomenSpeak Project for supporting us!

My expectations or my wishes for Broken One is that it can be used not only in Trinidad & Tobago but as well internationally as a tool to assist in the counseling of men, women and children who are either current victims or survivors of domestic abuse. Additionally, I hope that it can also be used as a tool to spread the awareness of the issue to a wider public.

The theme for the 2011 commemoration of International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women is ”Youth leadership in Preventing and Eliminating Violence Against Women. In what ways do you think young people, and young men in particular can demonstrate such leadership?

A simple act such as speaking out is showing the courage and leadership to take up the fight in the elimination of violence against women. There are several youth organizations which can lend in this cause, and as well can allow young men to show their leadership in the fight. 

We are sometimes brought up thinking that some are born leaders and some are born followers but to me it is not so. A simple thing as speaking out about domestic violence is pioneering. Being forthright and letting their friends, family etc know that they are definitely against the violence against women is a form of leadership that is rare in society. To me that is most important, first and foremost. 

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I recently attended Blogher11 and participated in the International Activist Scholarship Winners’ Panel. It was a wonderful and eye-opening experience. More than anything I learned that women all over the world share the same hopes, aspirations and challenges. And they are also incredibly powerful and I definitely felt that energy as 4000 women bloggers from around the world met to discuss their work, learn from each other and give love and support to one another’s projects. Women cried, laughed, danced, networked, formed alliances and shared their secrets to success. I felt grounded and inspired. 

Here is an interview I did along with my fellow panelists - Reem Abbas from Sudan who blogs about social and political issues in Sudan on her blog Wholeheartedly-Sundaniya; Elianne Ramos of Latism, who spoke on behalf of Yoani Sanchez an activist from Cuba whose blog Generation Y has earned her worldwide renown but has resulted in her being considered an enemy of the state by the Cuban Government. She was denied a travel visa by the Cuban Government to attend the event; And Cheryl Contee who moderated the panel and blogs at JackandJillPolitics.

"When we realise that we share issues then we can actually think about how to change them collectively, because sometimes as an individual, things can seem overwhelming if you’re trying to address them just by yourself." ~ Alake Pilgrim

Share Your Story and help build a community that can work towards eradicating discrimination against women. 

"If we don’t tell our story then we have nothing to justify our anger. And we should be angry because there is alot of discrimination against women in the Caribbean and globally" 

Tiphanie Yanique

The choice to write, sometimes even about personal issues, that is a political act and it’s symbolic of the refusal to remain silent and the refusal to accept discrimination and injustice. ~Tanya Shirley (Jamaica) 

Vernice Philip (Trinidad and Tobago) tells why she is excited about The WomenSpeak Project

"Writing is at the same time the most selfish and the most generous thing you can do"

Acclaimed Caribbean Women Writers at the Bocas Lit Fest 2011 in Trinidad and Tobago talk about writing as a tool for personal growth and processing difficult experiences and for creating social change. More in depth comments from these writers to come in future videos.

Learn more about How/Why to Tell Your Story at http://womenspeak.tumblr.com/yourstory