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  • 12 May 2021 2:00 AM | Kennedy Maraj (Administrator)

    LINKAGE Q1 (2021) - Choose To Challenge


    by Patricia Ghany - President of AMCHAM T&T

    It was the former U.S. First Lady Michelle Obama who once said, "the measure of any society is how it treats its women and girls". I believe those words strongly resonates today as we find ourselves at a crisis moment where once more the lives and livelihood of women and girls are threatened.

    As you know, 2020 brought many unprecedented challenges that have pushed back the progress the world has made on women’s rights. Long before COVID-19 became our norm, we already knew that women were making less, saving less and those working in the informal sector had less secure jobs.

    From education and healthcare to job security and childcare, women and girls around the globe have been overburdened by the social and economic impacts of COVID-19. This past year alone UNESCO estimates some 11 million girls may never return to school because of the pandemic whereas a recent McKinsey report noted that 54 percent of female employees lost their jobs across all industries.

    Perhaps this is why some are calling this the “she-cession” era with so many women either out of work or having to leave or take reduce paid work citing burnout due to company inflexibility, caring responsibilities and stress brought on by the pandemic. Such impacts risk erasing the already fragile progress that women have made in the labor force over the past decades.

    Yet as we navigate our recovery from the pandemic and beyond, we have a unique opportunity to redefine leadership, reconstruct workplaces, and create an equal, inclusive and resilient society for women and girls. Employers will need to look at more flexible working arrangements, gender-blind hiring, mentorship and more childcare support for women returning to work. Therefore, a post-pandemic world needs to see women treated more as essential workers regardless of where they work or their positions in the organisation because we know that when women are absent from the workplace, our economies do not grow.

    &quot;Remember, your ATTITUDE will determine your ALTITUDE.&quot;

    The McKinsey report also estimates that if no action is taken to ensure women’s full participation back in the workplace, global GDP growth in 2030 may decrease by $1 trillion. Therefore, we need to ensure that the ‘she-cession’ doesn’t set back 30 years of progress. Waiting for 250 years to dismantle the systemic barriers that make women more vulnerable in a crisis and their leadership ascent steeper is not an option. Because we know that when more women are seated at decision making tables, better decisions are made for the benefit of everyone.


    We must embrace these challenges today to create the changes we want. And that’s exactly what we did at AMCHAM T&T. WE CHOSE TO CHALLENGE. Even in a highly challenging year, we were able to secure gender parity on our board. Over the past three years, our Women in Leadership Mentorship Programme has shown increased participation rates. Our annual Women's Leadership Conference is now in its 7th year and this year's virtual event was attended by over 300 participants. And most recently, AMCHAM T&T launched an Anti Gender-Based Violence Workshop because we know that not only do we (the business community) need to do more to protect our women but protecting women at the workplace means providing increased opportunities for women to succeed not only in their careers but in their lives.

    To fully address gender-based violence in our society we need stronger, bolder, and tougher action from the state, law enforcement, the business community, and civil society to treat this serious issue as another deadly pandemic that demands urgent relief and support. And, we also have to create a space for men to understand that it is acceptable to show expressions of fear, sadness, vulnerability and pain without acts of violence.

    As we go forward, we must ask ourselves the question ‘What can I do?’ While there have been cracks in the glass ceiling and tremendous strides, we need a better understanding of what equality looks like and what you can do as an organisation (and as an individual) to help. It can't just be about the government creating change. The onus lies with each of us, both government, companies, NGOs and society working together to help realize the dream of equality for all.

    "Let us all challenge ourselves to own our value more fully, to defy our doubts more often, and to dare to make the difference our difference makes."

    My journey as President of AMCHAM T&T and as a woman in a leadership position has been filled with many triumphs and challenges. Over the past two and a half years, I have often asked myself: What can I do, now that I have this position?

    Whenever I am faced with this daunting question, I usually find comfort in the words of Mother Teresa who once said: “I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.”

    Many of you are already on your own personal journeys and you’re probably already leaving many small ripples that are creating major impacts on many persons far from where you stand. But wherever you are on that journey, I want you to remember the following:

    (1) Challenge the doubts that fuel a sense of inadequacy

    The gender confidence gap is real. While not all women lack the confidence to achieve what they want, many do. This is something that even I had to face. And here’s a little secret.. it’s something I still struggle with, to this day. But we must dare ourselves to challenge the negative noises in our head. Those critical voices urging us to think small and play safe. Remember, your attitude will determine your altitude.

    According to Oprah Winfrey,

    "You can either waltz boldly onto the stage of life and live the way you know your spirit is nudging you to, or you can sit quietly by the wall, receding into the shadows of fear and self-doubt."

    (2) Challenge the limits and labels others put on you

    We all know that women can be labelled bossy for acting with equal assertiveness to the men beside them. Or, that the word ‘ambition’ is negatively correlated for women (but not for men). I however want women to be equally praised for their praised for their assertiveness and their compassion. This is what makes women so powerful. Our ability to be strong yet sensitive are the secret weapons that allow us to move mountains, calm storms, and create the change we desire in our world.

    As Vice President Kamala Harris said last November:

    “Dream with ambition. Lead with conviction. And see yourself in a way that others might not see you, simply because they've never seen it before.”

    (3) Challenge other women when they disempower themselves.

    We also need to proactively go out of our way to lift other women up – to challenge how they see themselves, how they speak about themselves, and what they see as possible for themselves.

    So, let us all challenge ourselves to own our value more fully, to defy our doubts more often, and to dare to make the difference our difference makes.

    In the words of poet Amanda Gorman,

    “We will keep fulfilling this path until the world goes still to say, ‘where there’s will, there’s a woman. And where there’s a woman, there is always a way."

    Remember, together we can all choose to challenge gender bias and inequality everywhere and create an inclusive world for all!

  • 12 May 2021 1:45 AM | Kennedy Maraj (Administrator)

    LINKAGE Q1 (2021) - Choose To Challenge 


    By Nirad Tewarie - AMCHAM T&T CEO

    Welcome to this issue of Linkage in which we shine the spotlight on Women’s Leadership. This year, the call-to-action from the global women’s movement has asked us to “Choose To Challenge.” The belief is that actively challenging forces us to be more alert and prepared to stop gender bias, violence, and inequality as it happens.

    Individually, we all have a part to play to prevent the abuse and discrimination to which many women and girls are often subjected simply because they were born female. We can start this culture of change and healing by simply challenging our own beliefs and actions and comparing these against how we perceive and treat women and girls in our society.

    By now, I am sure you have heard the statistics and read all the reports and studies that highlight the many challenges women have to face in our world simply to survive. It’s an unpleasant story that has become an all too familiar reality for many women and girls in recent years. Just a few months ago, our country was plunged into a state of mourning over the senseless murder of one of our nation’s daughters. The memory of Andrea Bharatt, Ashanti Riley before her and so many others before them, continue to highlight how much more we need to do.

    To us, in tackling this issue, we have to also address leadership. Leadership play a role in perpetuating inequality. It can also be instrumental in reducing it. Therefore, we believe that we have to simultaneously work on changing the mindset of leaders while at the same time creating more opportunities for female leaders.

    But we can’t just wait for change to occur. We must choose to challenge and be change agents. We have that collective power if only we tap into it by making the small, individual, and everyday decisions to challenge ourselves and change the culture.

    We can probably start by choosing to challenge our own definitions of masculinity at an early age. An ideal starting point would be to teach our sons to be good, caring, and non-violent men. We don’t even need training on this because we can lead by example. However, creating a culture of non-violence and compassion also helps.

    "We can’t just wait for change to occur. We must choose to challenge and be change agents."

    Let’s lead with more emotional intelligence so that our young men can find healthy and non-violent outlets to express their emotions and effectively deal with their feelings of fear, anger, hurt and rejection. Teaching through art, music, drama, gamification and greater utilization of experiential learning as opposed to primarily through blackboards and whiteboards, really is a must.

    Let’s also speak about our own experiences and challenge discrimination when we see it. Even if that means calling to attention our own misconduct or highlighting sexist remarks made by our friends or reporting harassment.

    The business sector can also do its part by creating a culture of greater inclusion and diversity in the workplace. Gender parity should not just be a goal but a priority to conducting business in 2021. Companies should have no excuse today for not having gender parity at the C-suite level or on their boards. There are a number of highly qualified women who have earned the right to these senior-level positions and we must ensure that we are creating a space for their contributions.

    "Gender parity should not just be a goal but a priority to conducting business in 2021."

    I don’t need to list the number of reasons why this is a good idea. We already know the value that comes from adding diversity to senior positions in our organisations and in this issue of Linkage, you will meet some of these women who are doing incredible things within their respective fields. We cannot lead if we aren’t setting the example so you will also hear how AMCHAM T&T is walking the talk through our efforts to advance opportunities for women in business and in our society.

    I hope this issue offers you many insights and a little more hope concerning how we can each choose to challenge and make this world a safer and more equal place so that women and girls can find their voice, contribute successfully and succeed in life.

  • 12 May 2021 1:28 AM | Kennedy Maraj (Administrator)

    LINKAGE Q1 (2021) - Choose To Challenge

    BRAND "YOU" 


    By Golda Lee Bruce

    Four years ago, former news anchor, Golda Lee Bruce experienced an internal shift. She felt called to do more but had no idea how to answer the call. It so happened that personal branding was a good place to begin. Here’s her story.

    I just had this overwhelming feeling that I had to do more. For many years I had found purpose in media, but a bout of anxiety and depression changed how I thought about my life and work. I suddenly believed there was a part of my potential that was going untapped, and I wanted to use all of my talents and influence. It was a scary feeling. There were times when I actually longed for the contentment I had before. But it was gone, and a new path lay before me.

    So, the question was - where to begin? I started jotting down things I could do to live more purposefully. I wrote down my strengths and weaknesses. I wrote ideas for content I could create, videos I could make, events I could host and books I could write. But there was one beautiful paradox. Life in media had given me a platform, but it had also shaped how I was perceived by the public. I got my first job in journalism at 20 years old and so, to many people, I was and would always be the “News Lady.”

    I forged ahead and decided to build a website. It seemed like a good plan. It would serve as a repository for all the inspirational and motivational content I planned to create. And then I set out to find someone who could help me to build my website. And that’s when I met the consultant who told me “we’ll eventually get to the website, but what you need is rebranding.”

    Up to that point, I had never thought about branding outside of the news brands I had worked for. I certainly had not thought about a personal brand. And so, it was hard for me to answer the difficult questions that were being asked, such as: Who are you? How do you want to influence others? How do you wish to be perceived?

    It turns out that I also thought of myself as only a news anchor and I had to dig deep to find the rest of who I was. After months of searching, I made a discovery: I was a storyteller and I had always been. I realised that at the very core journalists are storytellers. But even before the media career, I enjoyed telling stories. As a child, I wrote songs and I participated in storytelling competitions. Constructing narratives has always been part of my life. So now I know that whether I am in a newsroom, on a stage motivating young people or working in international development, my stories are my superpower.

    Now, allow me to share with you the four most important lessons from my leap.

    1. Believe in your brand. The first step was that I had to begin calling myself a storyteller. I headed off to social media and I edited my profiles. It was terrifying. I was worried that people would think of me sitting under a tree telling stories to children. And maybe some people did. But as I began to call myself what I was, most people believed me.

    2. You are your brand. You’ve probably heard this before. That’s because it is absolutely true. The world’s best marketing cannot conceal a misalignment between who you are and who you say you are. Be honest with yourself about yourself. We all have something to offer to the world, ensure your personal brand tells the truth about what you are offering.

    3. Establish targets. What are you trying to achieve? How will you know when you have achieved it? Targets are important for keeping us on track and personally accountable. As a wise person once put it - what gets measured gets done.

    4. Appoint a brand board. This sounds much more complicated than it is. Find four of five people in your life, who know you and your goals. Ask them to keep track of your progress and to be honest with you about what you’re doing well, and areas for improvement. Ask them to tell the truth, even when it is hard to do. As you begin to take your personal brand seriously, opinions are likely to come pouring in, don’t incline your ear to everyone. Trust your brand board.

    When we talk about branding many people think about logos, colour schemes and photoshoots. That was my mistake too. But before all that comes the acknowledgement that each of us already has a personal brand. It’s up to us to develop our brands and use them to impact the lives of others.


    Golda Lee Bruce wants to leave the world better than she found it. She believes in the power of stories to motivate people and transform lives. As a journalist and news anchor for over a decade, Golda told the stories of the people of the Caribbean. She continues this work as a Development Storyteller and Communications Specialist.

  • 12 May 2021 1:06 AM | Kennedy Maraj (Administrator)

    LINKAGE Q1 (2021) - Choose To Challenge

    Women Challenging The Status Quo

    The involvement of women in development has increased slowly but steadily over time

    By The Telecommunications Authority of Trinidad and Tobago

    The involvement of women in development has increased slowly but steadily over time. Transformation in medicine was aided by the input of Marie Curie, 1867–1934, who founded the new science of radioactivity and her discoveries led to effective treatment for cancer.

    Amelia Earhart 1897–c1937 was the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic while the courage and grit of Rosa Parks, 1913–2005, sparked the civil rights movement in the United States of America.

    Katherine Johnson, born in 1918 and often referred to as a human-computer, helped NASA place an astronaut into orbit around the earth and subsequently a man on the moon, while the first and only female Prime Minister of India Indira Priyadarshini Gandhi, was known for her political astuteness.

    In Trinidad and Tobago Audrey Jeffers founded the Coterie of Social Workers and this country continues to recognize its first female and Prime Minister and President of the Republic, Kamla Persad Bissessar and Paula-Mae Weeks respectively.

    The emergence of women in influential positions internationally had been increasing over the centuries around the world and became recognisable at the turn of the 20th Century.

    There was growing evidence of the bold emergence of women on the first International Women’s Day on March 8th, 1911. This notable event is highlighted in a UN Women online publication states on that day, approximately one million people across Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland had their voices heard on women’s suffrage and labour rights.

    UN Women is the United Nations’ entity dedicated to gender equality and the empowerment of women.

    It has been recognised, that while women today can be found in almost equal numbers to men in the workplace, some areas remain male-dominated. One of those areas is Information and Communications Technology.

    To address this global challenge the International Telecommunications Union, the United Nations organization specialized agency for information and communication technologies (ICT) instituted “Girls in ICT Day” to be observed annually on the fourth Thursday in April.

    This initiative was announced on 8 April 2011 and the aim was to celebrate girls’ interests and strengths as well as to encourage them to choose a career in ICT.

    According to the ITU, Girls in ICT Day “is the direct result of the adoption of Resolution 70 by ITU’s Plenipotentiary Conference in Guadalajara, Mexico, in October 2010.”

    The ITU on its website states that the Resolution, “Gender mainstreaming in ITU and promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of women through information and communication technologies”, resolved to incorporate a gender perspective in the implementation of all ITU programmes and plans.

    ITU member countries are encouraged to hold meaningful events to commemorate Girls in ICT Day in a manner that leaves an indelible impression in the minds of the female participants.

    The Telecommunications Authority of Trinidad and Tobago (TATT) from inception, in 2011, held initiatives to commemorate Girls in ICT Day, based on the themes determined by the ITU.

    2021 marks the 10th anniversary of Girls in ICT Day and it is themed Connected Girls; Creating Brighter Futures.

    To commemorate the event this year, TATT in collaboration with the Ministry of Public Administration and Digital Transformation (MPADT), CANTO, GSMA, Verizon, Equals Global Partnership, Restore A Sense of I Can (RSC) and Tobago Information Technologies Limited (TITL), hosted an online workshop titled Tech4Girls: Connecting Girls, Creating Brighter Futures!

    Young female entrepreneurs were invited to participate in the workshop, which took place on Saturday, April 17th. The participants, all between the age of eighteen to twenty-five learnt how to design and create their online stores using Shopify.

    The interactive workshop provided an opportunity for the approximately 100 participants to explore some of the technologies and tech skills required for e-commerce. Some of the specific areas of focus were.

    • Selecting and customizing their Shopify themes

    • Designing their home pages

    • Creating essential pages

    • Adding products in their stores

    • Adding discount codes

    • Setting up payment systems

    • Making their Shopify stores live and ready for customers

    In Trinidad and Tobago, women hold top positions at ICT related organizations and companies. Some of these women addressed the girls at the start of the workshop. The women were Senator the Honourable Allyson West, Minister of Public Administration and Digital Transformation, Assemblyman Marslyn Melville-Jack, Secretary of Education, Innovation and Energy, the Division of Education, Innovation and Energy, Tobago House of Assembly, Ms Teresa Wankin, Chief Executive Officer of CANTO and Mrs. Cynthia Reddock Downes, TATT’s Chief Executive Officer.

    Senator West emphasised to the girls the importance of gaining knowledge in ICTs, which she pointed out will inevitably become a valuable skill-set in their futures regardless of their chosen careers.

    Mrs. Downes told the girls that the workshop is an initiative that “promotes the development of entrepreneurial skills and provides a pathway to the successful expansion of the operations of small and micro-businesses in Trinidad and Tobago.”

    Twenty of the workshop participants will be selected to receive Shopify Licences as prizes based on skill displayed in developing their virtual online shop fronts.

    TATT joins the rest of the world in celebrating women who chose to challenge the status quo in a cross-section of sectors and careers and succeeded… in particular those who choose the challenge of following pathways into the ever-evolving arena of ICTs.

  • 11 May 2021 10:49 PM | Kennedy Maraj (Administrator)

    LINKAGE Q1 (2021) - Choose To Challenge


    Securing a Safe Trinidad and Tobago for Women

    by Jeanelle Pran and Fanta Punch

    Despite its small population, Trinidad and Tobago continue to experience high levels of violence against women, with the severity of crimes having escalated over the past few years. In early 2021, the country was rocked by the senseless murder of 23-year-old Andrea Bharatt, which occurred just one month after the gruesome murder of teenager Ashanti Riley. For many, the criminal justice system including our country’s legislation, law enforcement and courts have failed Ashanti, Andrea, and women at large.

    &quot;In answer to the cries of the country, the Government has taken certain steps to ensure a greater measure of security for women and citizens at large.&quot;

    Recent months have seen a strong public outcry over the violence against women, where citizens have shown a united front by staging peaceful protests and marches throughout the country. In answer to the cries of the country, the Government has taken certain steps to ensure a greater measure of security for women and citizens at large. Two initiatives proposed by the Government are further amendments to the Sexual Offences Act. Chap. 11:28 (the ‘Act’) and the intention to allow pepper spray to be used by citizens subject to a permit. The following article will explore these changes which are on the Government’s agenda.

    Sexual Offences (Amendment) Bill 2021

    The Sexual Offences (Amendment) Bill 2021 (the ‘Bill’), which had its first reading in the Senate on 23rd March 2021, seeks to amend the Act in the following main ways:

    (a) Under the Act, Part IV is titled the “National Sex Offender Register”. The Bill proposes to rename this as the “Sex Offender Registers” to reflect the intention to establish not just a National Sex Offender Register but a Public Sex Offender Website. To this end, the Bill proposes to insert a new Section, Section 46A which will provide for two Registers to be known as the “National Sex Offender Register” and the “Public Sex Offender Website”.

    (b) In its current form, Part IV of the Act (which deals with the National Sex Offender Register) only applies to convictions of registrable offences by Courts in Trinidad and Tobago. The Bill proposes to amend Section 45 of the Act to provide that Part IV (which will be amended to apply to both the National Sex Offender Register and the Public Sex Offender Website) shall apply, among other things, to a sex offender who is convicted of a registrable offence within or outside of Trinidad and Tobago. Registrable offences include offences such as rape, grievous sexual assault, incest, indecent assault, and abduction of a female.

    (c) The Bill proposes to repeal and substitute Section 47 of the Act in order to provide that the National Sex Offender Register shall not be accessible to the public and that it shall contain the information listed in Schedule 3 of the Act (which includes the sex offender’s name, former name and aliases, date of birth, place of birth, country of citizenship, place of employment, passport number, acquittals or pardons etc). Additionally, the Commissioner of Police will be given control and custody of the National Sex Offender Register and shall be responsible for:

    • Maintaining it;
    • Ensuring that the information is entered in accordance with the Act and any other written law;
    • Ensuring that the information therein is accurate; and
    • Making reasonable security arrangements to protect the information contained in the National Sex Offender Register against unauthorized access, collection, misuse, alteration, disclosure or disposal.

    (d) The Bill proposes to repeal and substitute Section 48 of the Act in order to provide that the Commissioner of Police shall have control of a website known as the Public Sex Offender Website. Unlike the National Sex Offender Register, the public will have access to this website, which is intended to set out specified information on the sex offender (such as his/her name, former names and aliases, date of birth, photograph, the locality in which the sex offender lives, and convictions of registrable offences committed by the sex offender including the date of each conviction). The Commissioner of Police will also have the same obligations and responsibilities in maintaining the website as it does in relation to the National Sex Offender Register (as set out in (c) above).

    &quot;The Commissioner of Police shall have control of a website known as the Public Sex Offender Website.&quot;

    (e) Under the proposed amendments to Section 48, the website would contain a notice warning of prosecution for the intentional and unlawful reproduction, sharing or use of information published on the website. Further, a person who intentionally and without lawful excuse or justification alters, disposes, reproduces, shares or uses any information published on the website commits an offence and is liable on summary conviction to a fine of $25,000.00 and to imprisonment for three (3) years.

    (f) Section 49 of the Act will be amended to provide that where a person is convicted of a registrable offence, the Court shall order that the person report to a police station for the purpose of registering as a sex offender. This is subject however to the convicted person making an application under Section 61 of the Act to be exempt from registering or reporting. Additionally, the Bill proposes to provide that where the person appeals his conviction for a registrable offence, the Court shall, pending the outcome of the appeal, withhold to make an order with respect to registration and reporting requirements.

    (g) Section 50 of the Act will be repealed and substituted with a new Section which will provide that where a person appeals his conviction for a registrable offence and the conviction is upheld, the Court shall order that the specified information on the sex offender is published on the Public Sex Offender Website within seven (7) days from the date the conviction was upheld. Where however a person has not appealed his conviction, the information is to be published on the Public Sex Offender Website within thirty (30) days after the date of conviction.

    (h) The proposed changes to Section 50 will also provide that, where a sex offender is convicted of a registrable offence, he/she may apply to the Court to be exempt from having the information published on the Public Sex Offender Website. Before making a determination on such an application, the Court may request a mental health assessment report from a psychiatrist and shall take into account the following factors:

    • The findings of the mental health assessment report;
    • The nature and gravity of the offence;
    • Whether the sex offender has been charged or convicted of any other registrable offence;
    • The risk of reoffending;
    • The risk of harm to the victim or any other person;
    • Whether the victim was a child or a person with a mental disorder;
    • Whether the sex offender was in a position of care, authority or supervision of the victim;
    • Whether the employment and residence state of the sex offender are stable; and
    • Any other compelling reasons in the circumstances of the case.

    Notably, the Data Protection Act Chap. 22:04 defines ‘personal information’ as information about an identifiable individual that is recorded in any form including information relating to the criminal history of the individual. In addition to this, information about a person’s criminal record falls within the definition of ‘sensitive personal information’. Accordingly, under the Data Protection Act, such information should be treated in accordance with the General Privacy Principles which include, among other things, that the knowledge and consent of the individual are required for the collection, use or disclosure of such information. Having regard to this, there is a risk that the publication of information about sex offenders on the Public Sex Offender Website without permission of those persons could result in a violation of the Data Protection Act. Notwithstanding and in any event, the enforcement provisions under the Data Protection Act are not yet in force and therefore there are technically no penalties at this time for failure to comply with the General Privacy Principles.

    There are also certain other provisions in the Data Protection Act that deals with the treatment of personal information by public bodies (and in some instances in the context of law enforcement). However, these provisions have not been proclaimed and are therefore not yet in force.

    Use of Pepper Spray

    In or around February 2021, the National Security Council of Trinidad and Tobago signalled its intention to allow pepper spray to be used by citizens provided they are in possession of a permit. Currently, no legislation and regulations have been approved to regulate the use of pepper spray and it has been reported that it is still in the drafting stages. As such, the scope and extent of the pepper spray legislation is unclear at this time.

    Given the lethal effect of pepper spray, some of the issues which we anticipate that the legislation will cover include:

    • The entity which will be responsible for the distribution of pepper spray and the granting of permits in relation to same.
    • The limitations on the use of pepper spray (e.g. a minimum age for obtaining a permit or the permitted dosages).
    • The measures that will be implemented to ensure safe and reliable use of pepper spray and to prevent it from being abused or used in the commission of an offence.

    At this point in time, neither the pepper spray legislation nor the amendments to the Act are in force and it is only until these are fully enacted would citizens reap the rewards. There is therefore a long road ahead to ensure that women in our country feel safe and secure. However, as the saying goes, the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. These proposed measures to be implemented by the Government are therefore a step in the right direction in instituting not only strong penalties for violence against women but also placing stringent safeguards.

    The information provided in this article does not and is not intended to constitute legal advice. All information is provided for general information purposes only. Specific advice should be sought from your Attorney-at-Law on any issues raised herein, as necessary.


    Jeanelle Pran is an Associate Attorney-at-Law at M. Hamel-Smith & Co.

    Fanta Punch is an Attorney-At-Law and Partner at M. Hamel-Smith & Co.

  • 11 May 2021 10:32 PM | Kennedy Maraj (Administrator)

    Linkage Q1 (2021) - Choose To Challenge

    Tech For Safety

    Using Technology to Save Women and Girls from Violence

    by James Walker

    Violence against women and girls is a global issue with which many societies are struggling. Within the last few years, Trinidad and Tobago has witnessed an increase in the number of reports of women and girls of all ages and backgrounds being abused or killed. No matter how many times these incidents occur, the impact is always the same. Citizens around the country have expressed their anger and condemnation over these senseless acts of violence mainly perpetrated by men.

    The data seem to back up the collective concern. A Women’s Health Survey funded by the Inter-American Development Bank in 2017 estimated that 100,000 women in Trinidad and Tobago between the ages of 15 to 64 have experienced one or more acts of physical and/or sexual violence perpetrated by male partners. And that’s just women in relationships. Clearly, there is a lot more we could be doing to protect our women and girls.

    &quot;The Andrea Project shows how we can transfer pain into purpose to not only save lives, but to create a safer society for all citizens.&quot;

    Experts point to a range of interventions that could enhance safety and protection for women and girls through the implementation of awareness campaigns, universal access to sexual and reproductive health, specialised training for hospital staff to screen for violence during routine services, and greater social support services for survivors and their families, inter alia. Some of these interventions require a systematic and long-term approach, and their delivery requires support from government, business, and the established social sector stakeholders. Nonetheless, there is a quiet ground swelling of activity in Trinidad and Tobago, comprised of individuals and groups looking to make a difference in a way that excites them. We see this manifest today through technology-enabled interventions that can provide support to victims and go a step further to prevent violent acts from occurring in the first place.

    Andrea Project

    The Andrea Project is an example of one such group that shows how community-based intervention can create the necessary changes we want to see in our society. Born out of the pain and tragedy stemming from the brutal murder of an innocent young woman in early 2021, over 25 individuals representing a broad range of sectors and professional backgrounds came together to identify how a range of tech-infused opportunities can help keep women and girls safe in our society. The group generated ideas that ranged from creating a crowdsourced registry of public transportation vehicles to gamified training for young people to recognise and address abusive situations.

    The Andrea Project is currently focused on building awareness through the creation of stimulating videos that highlights simple features that already exist on our mobile devices to enhance the safety and security of women and girls. It's a known fact that most people aren't even aware that these features already exist on their mobile devices nor is it activated. The good news is that some of these features don’t even require a data connection, which can be a lifesaving measure for someone trapped in a dangerous situation.

    The Andrea Project shows how we can transfer pain into purpose to not only save lives, but to create a safer society for all citizens. Yet, they are but only one group. There are many others that have mobilised recently in the wake of such heart-breaking tragedies to combat violence against women and girls. Many of the persons involved nationally are young people who were raised in a tech-enabled and mobile-first environment. They have seen the impact of data, connectivity, social networks and media on our day-to-day lives.


    One such individual is Joel Houlder, founder of TTWeSafe. As a recent graduate of the University of Greenwich in Electrical Engineering, Joel was motivated after seeing a post by a young lady on social media, suggesting that female commuters should take photos of taxis before entering them. Joel relates, “I thought her idea was great, but I felt that our Trini culture may make taking pictures of cars awkward for the user. I figured there was a better way. I used to work in a gym where we would scan QR codes affixed to the equipment which would bring up information relevant to the machines. I was able to make that mental link to use a technology that is widely available to quickly verify and validate a taxi.”

    Joel Houlder, Founder of TTWeSafe

    Joel then went on to develop TTWeSafe, a commuter safety and security mobile application that allows the commuter to verify the taxi driver and the vehicle before entering the vehicle. Commuters can do so even without having data or Wi-Fi on the go. Commuters can share information about their rides with their emergency contacts, such as the time and location they entered the taxi. Commuters can also share their live location with their contacts if they have access to data.

    During the commute, the user can program in and receive safety prompts. When a prompt is received, the user will be asked to respond updating their safety status. If the user doesn’t respond within a set amount of time, a message would be sent to their emergency contacts. Another feature is the panic code whereby the user can respond to the prompt with a panic code that alerts her emergency contacts. A panic button built into the app also triggers these alerts. For those without data on the go, an estimated commute time can be input, and the app will prompt the user to confirm that the commute has safely ended.

    &quot;I used to work in a gym where we would scan QR codes affixed to the equipment which would bring up information relevant to the machines.&quot;

    Key to the success of any development in technology is knowing your user base and forging partnerships with key stakeholders. In this case, the TTWeSafe team has developed deep relationships with the Trinidad and Tobago Taxi Driver Network, which comprises approximately fifty taxi associations and represents more than half of all registered taxi drivers. According to Joel, “taxi drivers are interested because they too recognise the challenges faced by female commuters and want to make them feel safer in their vehicles. By now, I have met with hundreds of taxi drivers and I am amazed at how committed they are to protecting the wellbeing of their female customers. Furthermore, the app is also designed to protect the taxi drivers and there are many female drivers out there who will benefit.” The TTWeSafe team is also focused on educating “PH” drivers on the process and benefits of becoming a registered taxi.

    Joel is an example of a young entrepreneur who has been able to see an opportunity and quickly move from idea to concept design to build and (soon to) launch. The very process of looking first to where technology can be applied to solve even complex social problems bodes well for Trinidad and Tobago and for our business and societal landscape going forward. We have a cadre of engineers, scientists, project managers, IT professionals, lawyers, creatives who are pivoting into tech. Our economic diversification and job creation in an “Industry 4.0” landscape depend on continued pivoting and growth for our micro, small and medium enterprises.

    What Business can do?

    The business community in Trinidad and Tobago can play its part too. Businesses can support the entrepreneurs and companies behind the pro-social developments that we critically need. Many of these "early-stage" companies require funding and/or the collaboration and endorsement of a bigger, more recognisable brand. Supporting these initiatives also means promoting the deployment of the technologies among their staff, suppliers, customers, and community stakeholders. For example, once fully launched and operational, businesses could partner with and promote a safe commuting app amongst their employees who take public transport daily.

    Ultimately, what matters most is keeping us all safe as the apps, website, games and campaigns that individuals and groups are working on will benefit not just women and girls but society at large. I am personally excited by the developments happening in our own society amongst concerned citizens and the way in which a new cohort of entrepreneurs are turning first to tech solutions to address the sticky and complex issues that our society faces.


    James Walker is the Business Development Leader at Heritage Petroleum Company Limited. Prior to joining Heritage, he was a consultant at McKinsey & Company based in London and Panama and worked in a range of sectors around the world focusing mainly on strategy, transactions, and operations. A development economist by training, he is passionate about social justice and education, and founded a social enterprise focused on youth leadership and volunteering called Marti Expeditions building off his experience on similar projects at National Geographic.

  • 11 May 2021 10:11 PM | Kennedy Maraj (Administrator)

    LINKAGE Q1 (2021) - Choose To Challenge

    Emotionally Intelligent Leadership & COVID-19

    The Three Shifts That Will Maximise Team Synergy and Productivity

    by Tony Ragoonanan

    Life has a way of throwing challenges at us from time to time, and I agree that managing ourselves through times like these can be quite the test. However, Covid-19 has now presented a worldwide challenge that has forced us to make adjustments as we navigate our way through it.

    For organisations, there continues to be a relentless drive to deliver on results and to maintain relevance, accountability and organisational culture. When pressure mounts, the threat is that our focus goes to results, no matter what. The danger with this scenario is this: if how we achieve those goals does not matter, as long as they are achieved, much damage can be done to the sustainability of the results or the commitment of our employees, resulting in resentment, higher levels of turnover, and a poor working environment.

    While I agree that organisational strategies and planning will continue to be important, the one thing that I hope will be more evident than ever, is that organisational capability culture requires that attention be given to maintaining quality connections between leaders, individuals, and teams.

    “....culture doesn’t exist within walls; it exists within people, so you have to build culture through people, wherever they sit."

    Becky Frankiewicz and Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic - "The Post-Pandemic Rules of Talent Management” (Harvard Business Review)

    The key to this, from a leadership perspective, is rooted in Emotional Intelligence (EI) which is the ability to understand and manage one’s own emotions, and having mental and verbal agility to influence others while getting things done.

    With this in mind, I want to focus on three key shifts that drive emotionally intelligent leadership:

    1. What leaders should DO - Have the Conversations

    2. How leaders should BE - Be Genuine

    3. What leaders must CREATE - Create Psychological Safety


    One of the major reasons that relationships fall apart in the workplace is when we don’t have conversations. Conversations allow us to share information, express concerns, develop others and to give and receive feedback. For some, the fact that these conversations are not actually face-to-face and the verbal and psychological cues are now filtered due to working remotely due to COVID, makes it both challenging and necessary. In addition to the quality of these conversations, frequency is another important criterion, especially for those working from home.

    These conversations fall into two categories: Individual and Group Conversations

    The Individual Conversations: These include firstly, the immediate conversation about goals and objectives. Have they changed due to COVID? This would depend on the nature of the organisation. Nevertheless, a conversation is required so that there is clarity from the employee’s perspective. This helps to drive motivation. A lack of clarity can lead to resistance.

    &quot;The enemy of accountability is ambiguity.&quot;

    Patrick Lencioni, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable

    Secondly is the conversation on expectations from the leader’s perspective, as well as that of their employees. What are the expected behaviours? What are the priorities? How are we going to deal with collaboration, deadlines, and conflict? Questions must come freely from both sides. These are the immediate conversations that will serve to clear up doubts and to maintain accountability.

    Within individual conversations, there are also ongoing conversations and these will include coaching, feedback, performance conversations, conversations on employee well-being, and giving feedback to the leader. The fact that we are in a pandemic doesn’t mean that performance management should be put on hold, even if we are working from home. These conversations facilitate continuous development, improved relationships, and will serve to drive the alignment of skills, behaviours, and goals.

    The Group Conversations: The intention with group conversations is to encourage and achieve synergy, which is really about creating a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts. These conversations must involve support for, and a focus on the “big picture”. This means having shared business knowledge, a shared vision and sense of direction through planning and organising, a shared belief in the values that are important to the organisation, and a shared feeling of support to make decisions about our life, work, and the future, especially as a team. This helps to define the “what” we are going after, its purpose, which is “why” we are going after it, and “how” we will do it.

    Together, these conversations help employees to get clarity and to take ownership of what needs to be done. It also helps leaders to develop closer interpersonal relationships and create a more empowering work environment.


    While we have these conversations, it is critical that leaders “show up” in a way that will have the impact it needs to have. Simply having the conversations is valuable, but it’s not enough to just go through the motions. In order to demonstrate qualities that are associated with Emotional Intelligence, you have to be genuine.

    Being genuine means that a person is true to themselves in the way that they think, feel, and communicate. It means that they have the ability and confidence to express themselves freely and clearly, and includes an element of psychological maturity, meaning that they are also willing to admit their challenges and limitations (vulnerability). It relates to EI, in that, it requires that self-awareness and self-regulation be used to manage oneself and others in a variety of situations. A willingness (motivation) to do this will open the door to the demonstration of both social skills and empathy for others.

    &quot;Being flexible with who you are is okay. It is not denying or disrespecting who you are.&quot;

    William Fleeson (Professor of Psychology at Wake Forest University)

    Being genuine during our conversations lets your employees know your thoughts and perceptions. This is critical because Covid has created a situation where there is, understandably, some level of fear, uncertainty and mistrust among staff. The fact that leaders are more genuine means that they are more adaptable and more empathetic. This is especially helpful during regular conversations, coaching sessions and performance conversations because it creates an environment where an employee will feel more comfortable taking an active part in the conversation.

    The flip-side of this is that when an employee doesn’t speak up, critical issues may not be addressed and because of this, leaders may think that everything is okay which will, in fact, be inaccurate.

    Therefore, don’t pretend to care. Show your intent with your interactions. Employees will know when you are being genuine. For example, don’t give generic feedback. Be specific with it. Even if negative feedback is given to an employee, it should give the impression that you, as a leader are on their side.


    So far, we have explored what leaders should DO and how they should BE. These open the door to where psychological safety becomes possible.

    Psychological safety describes a team environment where individuals feel that they can speak up, offer ideas, and ask questions without fear of being judged or ridiculed by their leader or members of their team.

    In his book “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable”, Patrick Lencioni talks about the “Absence of Trust” as being the first dysfunction. What creates this is an unwillingness to be vulnerable within the group as a whole, not just with individuals (remember that this is a part of being genuine). Think of a leader who creates an environment of fear. Would employees feel comfortable expressing their opinions to that leader if they had an issue? The leader may think that all is well when it is actually the opposite. Without trust, people don’t voice their opinion for fear of creating conflict. There will be a form of artificial harmony. What this eventually leads to (according to Lencioni) is a lack of commitment, avoidance of accountability, and inattention to results.

    &quot;Low levels of psychological safety can create a culture of silence.&quot;

    - Amy C. Edmondson

    Even though a leader must set the vision and strategy, manage priorities, and communicate clearly, their willingness to express their own limitations will create an environment that will encourage others to do the same (leading by example). Employees will be more willing to speak up on the team because of higher levels of trust and psychological safety. This creates more commitment from the team, higher levels of accountability, and a higher level of focus on what they need to achieve.

    One important note is that even though trust may exist between certain individuals, psychological safety involves the entire team. It creates the thinking that we are all in this together.


    Leadership defines culture, and if leaders want to get the best from their people and maintain the right organisational environment during Covid, it starts with having the right conversations, being genuine, and valuing psychological safety for those on their team. All of these happen simultaneously, and having consistency with them is the essence of Emotionally Intelligent leadership. This serves to achieve clarity, to inspire, and to create a sense of accountability when striving for both synergy and productivity.


    "Tony Ragoonanan is the Founder of V-Formation Training & Development. As a Trainer, Mentor and Performance Management Advisor, he helps individuals and businesses to align skills, behaviours, and outcomes. Outside of this, it’s all about family, football, and fitness!"

  • 9 May 2021 1:30 PM | Kennedy Maraj (Administrator)

    LINKAGE Q1 (2021) - Choose To Challenge

    AMCHAM T&T Hosts Third Annual Women in Leadership Mentorship Programme

    by AMCHAM T&T Staff Writer

    At AMCHAM T&T, we do everything to ensure we are building a progressive and democratic society, where every person has an equal and fair chance to succeed in life. We know a society such as this cannot materialise in the absence of women having a strong voice and access to opportunities that will advance their roles and positions in society.

    Empowering women to fulfil their highest potential in their chosen career paths would help us to quickly realise the vision for this progressive and democratic society. That's why AMCHAM T&T in partnership with the Inter-American Development Bank (IADB) has hosted a Mentorship programme for young female professionals seeking to advance their careers.

    At the recent closing ceremony of the third Women in Leadership Mentorship Programme, AMCHAM T&T President Patricia Ghany underscored this belief and encouraged the class to continue to build support for other women. “If we want gender equality in the workplace and beyond, it is up to women to share knowledge, offer support and guidance and increase the opportunities for other women if they are in a position to do so.”

    Ghany said the one takeaway she hopes the mentees learn from their mentorship experience is the belief that women supporting other women will create the safe spaces they need to shed their fears and doubts and build their trust and confidence. “Once this happens, they are inspired to speak out more, step out of their comfort zones and aspire to senior and leadership roles. Essentially, when women support each other, we are building the next generation of female CEOs and global leaders,” she said.

    Even though the programme was disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, that didn’t prevent women from chasing the opportunities that comes from mentorship with the hope to accelerate their careers. Last year, AMCHAM T&T recorded the highest class of mentees with 37 young female professionals enrolled in the programme. Each mentee was assigned to a mentor in their respective field and who could provide them with professional guidance and advice aligned to their career and life goals.

    We encourage all female professionals who are looking to advance their careers but unsure of the next step to join our Women in Leadership Mentorship Programme. Here's a little of the feedback we have received from some of the mentees and mentors who participated in last year's programme.


      Avian Lake-Francis
    Administrative Assistant I

      “The Mentorship Programme helped me to remain on track with pursuing and achieving my goals. It also helped me to discover what my true passion is and how I can use my skills, experiences and knowledge to help others. My Mentor was able to provide expert knowledge and guidance and I am truly grateful for the experience. Thank you AMCHAM T&T!!!”


    Fianna Lalla-Seenath
    Director Advice Centre Pan Caribbean
    RBC Financial (Caribbean) Limited

    “Connecting with my mentee proved very engaging. We were able to leverage from each other's experience and share best practices especially during this COVID period. I hope to maintain some connection with her and maybe meet in person sometime soon.”


      Director, Acuitas Caribbean Ltd.


    “This was an excellent programme which benefited me as the mentor as much as it helped my mentee. I used the GROW method (Goal, Current Reality, Options/Obstacles, Will/ Way Forward) to help my mentee develop and execute her professional development plan going forward. Time very well spent.”


    Josanne Basanoo

    “My experience was very fulfilling and enjoyable.
    A great mentorship match. My mentor was vital in helping me align my goals and objectives both professionally and personally. I improved my time management skills as well. I would definitely recommend this programme to all young women.”


    Mary Fullerton
    Organization Consultant/Executive Coach, Caribbean Group Relations Consulting Ltd.        General Manager of annual Caribbean Group Relations Conferences delivered by The Tavistock Institute of Human Relations UK and Caribbean Group Relations

     “My mentee was a divine fit. She is a very diligent worker and engages fully. A real gem to work with. I benefitted immensely from her resilience, courage and ‘stickto-it-ness’. She is a growth person. The programme amplifies that mentorship is valuable in all our lives to stimulate our growth and fulfill potential.”


    Shani Edwards

     “The programme helped me both
    professionally and personally. I was
    able do a lot of introspection, which
    helped align my goals professionally.
    My mentor was able to give good
    practical and motivating advice that I
    was able to quickly implement. Overall,
    the programme gave me a boost of
    confidence and experience that would
    assist me in my journey moving
    forward. The “Building Your Personal
    Brand” session with Golda Lee Bruce
    was the highlight of my experience.”


    Caroline Toni Sirju-Ramnarine
    Vice President Corporate Operations
    Atlantic LNG Company of Trinidad and Tobago

    “I very much enjoyed the interactions with my assigned mentee. It is uncanny how much history repeats itself and how you can see similarities in another individual's experiences from which you both can relate and share. The orientation provided was very useful and the sessions with my mentee were very productive. She was very mature, open and reflective, all great qualities to make the mentoring process even more effective.”


    Farah Mariyah Ali
    Accounting Technician

    “The online sessions were great. I could not ask for better. The sessions were enlightening and really got me thinking about my way forward and putting things into perspective. Golda Lee Bruce, Dale and Richard were excellent in their sessions.”


    Sarah McLachlan-Avey
    Vice President - Human Resources

    “This was a fantastic experience for me. My mentor was full of insight and very open in his sharing of experiences and knowledge.

    The value that I have gained from this has already made a difference in my personal and professional life. Thank you.”


    Risa Basdeo
    Manager - Legal
    Legal, Compliance & Governance Unit
    First Citizens Bank

    “Being able to serve as a mentor was an incredibly humbling experience. It afforded me the opportunity to reflect and utilize my own experience in the working industry to assist another young female professional who is determined to keep learning and developing herself as a professional and as a person.”

  • 9 May 2021 11:22 AM | Kennedy Maraj (Administrator)

    LINKAGE Q1 (2021) - Choose To Challenge

    AMCHAM T&T Launches Anti Gender-Based Violence Initiative 

    By AMCHAM T&T Staff Writer

    Violence against women and girls is said to be one of the most pervasive human rights violations that happen around the world. Its prevalence has resulted in the UN Secretary-General António Guterres describing it in 2018 as a “global pandemic” and “a mark of shame on all our societies.”

    Globally, it is estimated that 736 million women have either been subjected to intimate partner violence, non-partner sexual violence, or both, at least once in their life. Almost one in three women have been the victim of some form of gender-based violence (GBV). And this figure doesn't even take into account the number of women who face sexual harassment both in the workplace and on the streets.

    When we hear these kinds of figures it is vexing, but the effects of such abuses on women and girls can be even more alarming. On an individual level, GBV survivors experience a host of psychological, behavioural and physical trauma, with psychosocial or medial support being often inaccessible. Meanwhile, loss of tax revenue, lower earnings, diverted resources, and decreased productivity can be attributed to the economic impact of GBV.

    From bedroom to boardroom

    For working women, experiencing GBV can interfere with their full and equal participation in the workforce. Victims usually suffer both physically and mentally due to increasing levels of stress, anxiety, loss of self-esteem, motivation and ultimately job loss.

    When companies turned a blind eye or flat-out refuse to acknowledge proper protocols and policies to combat GBV in the workplace, the gender pay gap widens and affects women’s opportunities for advancement and career progression. This ultimately has an impact on business productivity and reputation. So, the evidence is there to prove that this is not an issue meant to remain in the privacy of the bedrooms but needs to be publicly addressed inside the boardrooms of every corporation and company.

    Anti Gender-Based Violence Initiative

    At AMCHAM T&T, it’s important that we practise what we preach. Saying that we want to empower women doesn't only mean advancing their opportunities for career progression, but it requires making sure women and girls are safe and protected wherever they are and at whatever stage in their life they may be at. This happened to be the major reason why AMCHAM T&T, in collaboration with The UWI Institute of Gender and Development Studies (IGDS) and the Coalition Against Domestic Violence (CADV), launched an Anti Gender-Based Violence Initiative for private sector entities in 2020.

    The purpose of this initiative is meant to prevent all forms of GBV and abuse in the workplace and to help companies develop the appropriate workplace policies. Why should this be important to companies? Perhaps AMCHAM T&T CEO, Nirad Tewarie said it best: “Removing obstacles that limit the potential of women to advance in their careers should be a priority for all companies if they intend to reduce gender inequality in their organisations.”

    The AMCHAM T&T CEO said the training would help companies create resources that will offer more support for victims and identify means to possibly hold more perpetrators accountable. The data collected from the initiative will also assist AMCHAM T&T to work with companies and our partners at IGDS and CADV to explore and hopefully develop initiatives to protect victims of intimate partner violence more effectively.

    Nirad Tewarie

    “Even as we launch this initiative, we are painfully aware that it is the perpetrators who need to be stopped, rather than the victims needing to be soothed. That is why we are extremely pleased to be working with two organisations that are on the frontlines combatting this issue. Together, we hope to be able to do our small part to build the required system to identify and ultimately reduce the prevalence of intimate partner violence (commonly referred to as domestic violence),” Tewarie said.

    Dr Gabrielle Hosein, head of IGDS, UWISpeaking to the importance of the Initiative, Dr Gabrielle Hosein, head of the IDGS, said: "The data show that 1 in 3 women working in the private sector has experienced physical or sexual partner violence at some point in their lifetime. These women experience higher levels of mental distress, lack of confidence, physical pain and inability to concentrate at work, affecting their ability to earn, lead and succeed. The data also show that the majority do not seek services.

    However, these women go to work every day and therefore there is a role for the private sector in helping them feel safe and heal, end feelings of shame, break silences, and know

       Dr Gabrielle Hosein
    head of IGDS, UWI

    that their workplaces are leading in establishing zero tolerance of violence against women, including by identifying and responding to perpetrators with clear workplace guidelines. In showing such leadership, AMCHAM T&T is continuing to collaborate with the women's movement and civil society to transform the realities of violence in women's lives. We aim to keep expanding our partnership, learning from each other, and making whatever difference we can, together.”

    The Anti Gender-Based Violence Initiative is designed to address Gender-Based Violence through the execution of a three-phase programme:

    Phase one:

    Survey - How is Gender-Based Violence affecting your employees?

    Phase two:

    Workshop - Understanding Gender-Based Violence and how your organisation can develop a culture of zero-tolerance of Gender-Based Violence. This workshop is tailored to your organisation’s specific needs.

    Phase three:

    Policy Development - Develop your Workplace Anti Gender-Based Violence Policy.

    Companies participating in this initiative will benefit from gender-sensitive training that will discourage all forms of GBV and abuse, address the issues of gender, vulnerability, and marginalisation, recognise signs of abuse and offer assistance, and address claims of sexual harassment in the workplace.

    The Anti Gender-Based Violence Initiative is open to all companies and organisations in Trinidad and Tobago. Interested participants seeking to have their Anti Gender-Based Violence Programme executed at their organisations should contact AMCHAM T&T at 295-4869.

    We ask that all companies sign up for this initiative and start implementing workplace policies on GBV that will ultimately have a positive impact on their organisations, so that employees are made to feel safe, protected, and empowered. Ultimately, this is the type of workplace culture that drives higher rates of productivity, profitability, and performance.

  • 8 May 2021 9:58 PM | Kennedy Maraj (Administrator)

    LINKAGE Q1 (2021) - Choose To Challenge

    Verlier Quan-Vie
    A Woman Forging A New Energy Landscape

    by The National Gas Company of Trinidad and Tobago

    "Only 20% of jobs in the energy industry are held by women. Verlier Quan-Vie is one of them, and her remit is extensive."

    According to the International Energy Agency, the energy sector is one of the least gender-diverse economic sectors, with marginally over 1 in 5 jobs carried out by women.[1] This statistic reinforces the commonly-held perception of energy as a male-dominated industry.

    In Trinidad and Tobago, female participation in the energy sector largely follows this trend. However, there are exceptional women proving that even as a minority group, women can have a big impact in the industry.

    Verlier Quan-Vie is one of those women. As Vice President of the Commercial Group at The National Gas Company of Trinidad and Tobago Limited (NGC), Verlier oversees one of the biggest portfolios in the state energy sector.

    “I manage NGC’s Commercial and Business Development portfolios across the gas value chain, which involves the identification and conversion of business development opportunities into commercial agreements consistent with NGC’s strategic objectives,” says Verlier.

    Given NGC’s broad-based and expanding operations and investments, Verlier’s remit is extensive. In the upstream segment of the gas value chain, her duties include the commercial management of NGC’s gas supply from all upstream operators and NGC’s five (5) upstream Non-Operated Joint Ventures (NOJVs). In the midstream, she oversees NGC’s Atlantic LNG shareholding and NGC’s 56” Cross Island Pipeline (CIP) Gas Transportation Agreements. In the downstream, her responsibilities include management of gas sales to petrochemical, non-petrochemical and Light Industrial and Commercial (LIC) customers, as well as NGC’s non-operated shareholding in CGCL. In addition to these areas, Verlier handles NGC’s Energy Marketing and Trading portfolio which includes crude oil, LNG and methanol/dimethyl ether (DME).

    Verlier’s role is central to NGC’s vision of becoming an integrated international energy player. Much of the organisation’s outreach into both the local, regional and international markets, including exploration of commercial, investment and partnership opportunities beyond Trinidad and Tobago is led by Verlier and her team - nearly half of whom are women themselves. She also plays a pivotal role in the expansion of the business along the local value chain.

    &quot;I consider my greatest success to be seeing several of my direct reports who came in as graduates with not a shred of energy sector knowledge learn the business from the ground up.&quot;

    Over Verlier’s tenure at NGC, she has led the Company through many significant milestones, such as the renewal/execution of over 150 contracts with upstream and downstream partners (short and long term agreements), acquisition of oil and gas producing assets in offshore blocks, the deepening of NGC’s business relationships in West Africa collaboratively with NGC Projects team, initiation of a commercial partnership with China and several milestone cargo sales through NGC’s commodity trading desk.

    These achievements notwithstanding, Verlier considers her greatest success to be the development of staff in her care.

    “I have worked in the energy sector in Trinidad, Nigeria, the UK and Tanzania for over twenty years, and I have been part of many commercial deals. However, I consider my greatest success to be seeing several of my direct reports who came in as graduates with not a shred of energy sector knowledge learn the business from the ground up. It was gratifying to help equip them with the proper technical and commercial acumen to allow them to move into senior and managerial positions. I am thrilled to see them now as competent and well-respected up-and-coming leaders in the energy sector both locally and globally.”

    As a leader herself, particularly in a gender-imbalanced industry, Verlier has no doubt encountered her share of challenges. However, she admits that achieving work-life balance remains one of the most difficult tasks.

    “My greatest challenge as a female leader is getting the work-life balance right to meet my work and personal goals. Work tends to absorb a lot of my time and I have to literally challenge myself to take breaks to exercise, relax, do personal errands, and so on.”

    This challenge is certainly not unique to energy sector professionals, and was made more acute by the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, when work and home life were forced to share the same space due to lockdowns and telecommuting. For her part, Verlier has strived to help her team through this uniquely trying period.

    “NGC moved to a Work-From-Home arrangement in March 2020 and is still operating in this mode. I am truly grateful that my team handled the transition seamlessly given the particularly high workload and sensitive negotiations ongoing during this period. We were able to create fixed check-in routines, employee recognition programs, and online social activities, such as the continuation of birthday club via the virtual forum, to keep team spirit alive.”

    She has also leveraged the new virtual meeting format to create development opportunities for her staff: “As most meetings are now online with no meeting size restrictions, I seek to ensure that the Commercial Analysts and Advisors are involved as much as possible in meetings, and allow them to present their work to the President or participate in external negotiations so that they get commercial exposure for their growth and development.”

    Of course, COVID-19 was not just a spanner in the works for employees and work-life balance, but it introduced new and exacerbated existing challenges on the business front as well. High on Verlier’s priority list over the past year was helping steer NGC and its customers through turbulent energy market developments.

    “COVID-19 severely impacted global commodity prices for methanol, ammonia and LNG, resulting in significant declines in prices - in many cases below production costs. We, therefore, had to look for innovative commercial solutions including price renegotiations and short-term contracts to help our customers, as much as possible, ride through this difficult period. Internally our focus was on value optimisation initiatives and addressing areas of value leakage to minimise losses for the Company.”

    “Skills, competence and leadership qualities have no gender.&quot;

    Verlier’s focus on innovation within her portfolio anticipates a need within the broader energy sector, as the world transitions to cleaner and more renewable fuel sources. According to the IEA, innovation will be a key requirement if the world is to successfully phase out hydrocarbon-based fuels over the coming decades. To achieve the required level of innovation, broad-based participation will be a necessity. This means bringing more women into the sector and giving women more seats at the table.

    Asked about the role that women can play in NGC’s future, as the Company evolves in tandem with global energy, Verlier shares that she sees equal room for men and women to make a difference.

    “Skills, competence and leadership qualities have no gender. I do recognise that there are still some stereotypes pervading the local energy sector which can put women at a disadvantage in securing opportunities, but I hope that my example of leading my team in a critical aspect of NGC’s business will give other females in NGC, and beyond, the confidence to aspire to become leaders themselves.”

    For those women who would wish to follow her example, Verlier had these words of advice:

    “Take the time to learn the business, see challenges as opportunities and grow and learn from them. It will not always be smooth sailing and it will be hard work, but learn to graciously seek and take feedback and see how you can improve on future occasions. Do what you can to the best of your ability, and never compare yourself to others but take personal ownership for driving your growth.”



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