Delores Robinson has a passion for helping others, especially women. “My roots are within the bowels of the women’s movement,” she said. A victim of domestic abuse, Robinson, who came to T&T in 1986 from Jamaica, said as soon as she married her husband, “it was a licence” for abuse.“It meant you are now mine,” she added.
She believes if she can rise out of an abusive relationship, any woman could. “I am telling you. If I can do it, so can you. I was a young woman starting off but I was conscious enough to know that this was not right in a relationship.”
On Friday, Robinson, 57, officially launched the T&T local chapter of Groots International at its Niles Street, Tunapuna office. She is the executive director. “It’s not about the dollar sign. It is about helping and reaching out to that sister out there who needs help.”
Groots T&T operates with 18 members; five volunteers; two regional consultants; a five-member board; and four smaller organisations within this group. Groots represents Grassroots Organisations Operating Together in Sisterhood. Its global vision is to develop, over time, a movement giving voice and power to grassroots women’s local visions and initiatives attracting long-term partners and creating new policies to expand and strengthen their leadership.
Robinson has been affiliated with Advocates for Safe Parenthood: Improving Reproductive Equity (Aspire) for a number of years, is a council member of Women Working for Social Progress and worked alongside Diana Mahabir-Wyatt when she formed the T&T Coalition Against Domestic Violence.
In an interview with the Sunday Guardian, Robinson said it was important for abused women to understand that they needed to put themselves first and make a concerted effort to leave the abuser. Recounting her own experiences, she said she had to find safety at a shelter with her then ten-month-old son. “I spoke to a friend about what was happening and I ended up going to a shelter. I stayed there on and off.”
As her son grew older, she had to explain to him that despite his parents being separated, they loved him. She said her son asked her to not divorce his father. She obliged. Her husband, now deceased, was an alcoholic.
Help is just a call away.
Since she was a teenager, Robinson tried to raise awareness and champion causes. However, she said domestic violence was an issue that was “near and dear to my heart”.
She said, “I would advise any woman in an abusive relationship—do not stay. It is not worth it. You might stay and stay because of your children but there will come a day when there will be no you for the child or children you are staying in the relationship to protect. Help is sometimes just a phone call away. You just need to tap into the right resources.”
And Groots T&T can be the answer to many vulnerable women’s calls. Robinson hopes to start a hotline number in the near future so women can have “a listening ear”.
“I think that would help, especially when you see statistics that show that domestic violence takes place mostly on the weekends. I think GROOTS T&T is blessed with a core group of women who is willing to go the distance...to take your hand and guide you.”
She said it was not just another women’s group and was formed because of the high cases of abuse against women. “People just talk but they need to walk the walk,” she said. Even though Groots T&T was incorporated on June 9, 2016, it has been working silently throughout the country making inroads in rural communities.
Among Groots T&T services are counselling, empowerment sessions, sexual and reproductive health and rights, mental health awareness and HIV/Aids. She said the organisation wants to have support group meetings, lecturers and seminars on mental health and at the same time provide a hot meal for its attendees. Robinson said, “A significant project we did was in Guayaguayare to commemorate International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. We partnered with the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Toco Foundation. We took a bus load and went down there.”
She visited the police and questioned them about domestic violence cases and was alarmed when told there was an average of three reports a day. “There seems to be a disconnect... they (victims) go to report it but the police can’t do the follow up.” Robinson said she realised an intervention was needed and subsequently held discussions with a social worker, Justice of the Peace and a nearby school.
“That’s where you start to hear the horror stories,” she said. She said women needed to start thinking about themselves, not be selfish, but to simply focus on them. “There are people out there willing to help, just make the right connection.”
More about Groots
Groots operates as a flexible network linking leaders and groups in poor rural and urban areas in the South and the North. To nurture relationships of mutual support and solidarity among women engaged in re-developing their communities, the network is open to grassroots groups and their partners who share a commitment to four basic goals:
1. To strengthen women’s participation in the development of communities and the approaches to problem solving.
2. To help urban and rural grassroots women’s groups identify and share their successful development approaches and methods globally.
3. To focus international attention on grassroots women’s needs and capabilities.
4. To increase the opportunities for local womens’ groups and leaders to network directly across national boundaries.
Author: Rhonda Krystal Rambally
Publish date: Sunday, June 11, 2017
Publish by: The Trinidad Guardian