With support from UN Women’s Fund for Gender Equality, the Network of NGOs in Trinidad and Tobago is training women to be more effective in running for election. They seek to learn the rules, use the rules and change the system.
Like a DJ, she stands aboard the campaign truck, microphone in hand, singing along “we’re ready” and dancing to soca, calypso and dancehall rhythms, popular even during elections in Trinidad and Tobago.
Campaigning isn’t always so much fun. “We go to every single house. Sometimes we meet up with unfriendly dogs; sometimes we have to cross ditches and have boots on to make sure we don’t slip in the mud,” says 51-year-old dentist and now local councillor Hilary Bernard.
All the hard work paid off last October, in her second bid for public office, when she handily won the local election to represent the Arima northeast electoral district (population 4,028), in the central northern part of Trinidad.
Having grown up in what she describes as a strict and traditional “chauvinistic” household, Hilary is used to shattering expectations. She went against her parents’ wishes and struggled financially to pursue her goal of attending dentistry school in the United States. “The worst thing that you can tell me is that I can’t do something,” she chuckles.