Ain was brought up to appreciate and support culture, art and all things local. Her background is in Tourism and Product Development which has led her to a career in the creative sector, assisting fashion designers with their branding and business development, which she believes can also assist with building the tourism product and offerings from T&T and the Caribbean. For the past 15 years, Ain has had alopecia, an autoimmune condition causing hair loss and is now the founder of Bald Beauty where she supports others with the condition and shares awareness publicly. The blue background is symbolic as blue is the colour of alopecia awareness.
Akilah is a vibrant leader in the NGO, Fondes Amandes Community Reforestation Project (FACRP) and has been active in field work over the past three decades. She has contributed enormously in both the Environmental and Cultural sectors in T&T. Akilah is the co-founder of the FACRP and the Merikin Heritage Foundation. She is also the proud owner of an ecological business, Akilah’s Jewelry. Akilah has represented Trinidad and Tobago in the field of Environment – promoting FACRP model of Community Forestry, Preservation of the Merkin Maroons Culture as well as to showcase her Natural Jewelery.
Kemba, daughter of Akilah, is a trail blazer who has defied many odds to become an exemplary youth leader in T&T since age 9. She graduated with honours in International Development and NGO Management from the University of East London. Kemba is the Technical Director of FACRP and focuses primarily on education and outreach, mentoring interns and volunteers as well as planning for the NGO’s way forward. She is a World Economic Forum - Global Shaper and a proud recipient of the National Youth Award in the field of Environmental Conservation.
Amanda is a feminist writer and cultural activist. Her published works include short stories, poetry and expository essays. She is a coordinator of the Vulgar Fraction Mas Band that reimagines traditional mas through postcolonial politics. She is a co-founder of the Belmont Baby Dolls; a carnival arts entity that examines gender as a performative negotiation of agency. Amanda served as a co-director of the Caribbean feminist organization Womantra before founding the She Right! Collective that focuses on sexual and reproductive health and rights. Amanda’s multimedia work includes photography, poster art, performance art in theatre and film, illustrations and graffiti.
Asha is the founder and festival director of Africa Film Trinidad and Tobago (AFTT), a film festival dedicated to the cinemas of Africa and its Diaspora. As a Caribbean filmmaker, she made her debut with the short film ‘George and the Bicycle Pump’, followed by her first feature film, "Joebell and America".
Asha is dedicated to telling our stories in a way that truly represents who we are and works towards the shaping of a Caribbean aesthetic.
Brandy is a transgender woman and has been for the last 20 years. She is the President of the Trinidad and Tobago Transgender Coalition (TTTC). The principle objective and outcome of the TTTC effort is to strengthen the community through partnership, networking, mobilisation and education for vulnerable communities. As a human rights defender, Brandy supports human rights advocacy through the establishment of policy that supports liberal gender identity recognition laws and progressive transgender healthcare. She has a close connection with the LGBTQIA+ community while also working alongside sex workers, persons living with HIV and AIDS, as well as working with the Family Planning Association of Trinidad and Tobago since 2006.
Bunty has two passions, making clay sculptures and planting trees. She and her husband Rory ran the highly successful Ajoupa Pottery from 1987 to 2010. Although she is well known for her pottery work, Bunty’s lifelong hobby of walking in the forest, collecting seeds and propagating indigenous trees which has taught her much about the rich communion of the wild environment. Their four-acre garden in central Trinidad is designed following the precepts of Permaculture. In 2010, Bunty was part of a project involving 27 schools from South Trinidad. Students learned to collect seeds, propagate them and then plant them in their schoolyards.
Bunty believes that the violation of our small island by burning, quarrying, bulldozing and rampant development can only lead to the degradation of our human society.
McArtha Linda Lewis, also known as Calypso Rose, was born in Bethel, a small village in Tobago in 1940. She was named Calypso Rose, as “the rose is considered the mother of all flowers’’.
When she was just 15 years old, she wrote her first calypso, "Glass Thief". It was the first calypso to denounce inequality between the sexes. Since then, she has composed more than 800 songs and recorded more than 20 albums. She made history in 1963, when she was the first woman to win the "Calypso King" contest. The competition was renamed "Calypso Monarch" in her honour. In 1977, she was the first woman to win Trinidad's prestigious "Road March" competition.
Although she will be 80 next year, she is still going strong and isn't planning on slowing down any time soon. She is still coming out with top hits such as "Leave Me Alone" and "Human Race", and has continued addressing important issues such as domestic violence and social injustice.
Deneka is an internationally recognised Poet, Writer, Arts Educator, and Activist. She is the definition of “small axe cut down big tree” as she is often referred to as a performer who is small but whose work packs a punch. Deneka is the Program Manager of Girl Be Heard Trinidad and Tobago. She is the 2018 National Grand Slam Defending Champion and 2018 Woman Deliver Young Leader. Deneka uses the allure of metaphor and raw imagery to her performances while always finding new ways of addressing contemporary issues and personal experiences. She continues to expand her craft, mentor and create spaces for young persons and activists in the area of advocacy, art intervention, and youth empowerment.
Diva researches the weird and wonderful animals of the deep ocean and how our actions impact upon them. She has participated in expeditions around the world, exploring previously unknown deep-sea habitats from Antarctica to the Mariana Trench. During this exploration, she herself has ventured down to 2.6 kilometres below the ocean surface. Sharing her science with the public, fellow scientists and policymakers is of the utmost importance. She has recently spoken at the United Nations and the Nobel Prize, as well as filmed with the BBC and CNN, to name a few. Diva is also the co-founder of the non-profit NGO, SpeSeas, dedicated to increasing marine science, education and advocacy in Trinidad and Tobago.
Ekka, TTUTA’s Teacher of the Year 2018 is an accomplished teacher. She works at the Cascade School for the Deaf, where she has been giving unstinting service for the past eighteen years. Ekka earned this award because of her contributions to the deaf community and her love for and dedication to her students. Ekka believes that teaching goes beyond the call of duty. She was motivated to become a teacher because of the great teachers she has had and urges teachers to continue to motivate and inspire their students, as they are our future.
Elspeth is a published writer, newspaper columnist, photographer, musician, award-winning film maker and KRI certified Kundalini Yoga instructor.
Since moving from Trinidad to Tobago in 2012, Elspeth has become increasingly devoted to animal rescue. Through her organisation, Venus Doggess Of Love, she helps to positively transform the lives of dogs, cats and other various animals. She is driven by the organisation’s motto—‘Love changes lives’. In December 2018 Elspeth was one of the five persons named as Angostura Champions and was granted an award for her work in animal welfare and activism.
Emily is an artist, as is everyone if they want to be. She is a director, engineer, drag king, woman, performer, cynic and a dreamer. She is many conflicting things at once, including a writer operating under the pen name, lagahoo, the shapeshifter from Caribbean folklore. She is focused on bringing the stories of marginalised people to the forefront, challenging social conceptions and satirising what oppresses us, be it gender, class, race or sexuality. She believes that all art must be political, or else it is conservative and therefore, useless. She is currently based in London as an associate artist at the Bush Theatre and has directed and performed internationally.
Gabriella is a model, beauty queen and marketer all wrapped in one beautiful package. She has been on the fashion scene since her official debut with Bene Caribe in 2017. Among other local fashion brands and designers, she was a face for corporate entities including Sacha Cosmetics and KFC in that same year. Amidst the controversy surrounding her natural hair late 2018, she has grown her luscious locks once again and her fro is thriving beautifully. Gabriella continues to pursue modelling locally and internationally, while also hosting short and informative natural hair tutorial videos on her Youtube Channel, named after the model herself. Proving that she has more than 'just looks' to bring to the table, Gabriella also flexes her marketing skills at her day job as an Account Manager.
Goomtee Ragobar, who lives at Fishing Pond, is a farmer. Her passion is farming and her purpose is helping humans. In October last year, a national disaster was declared when there was a freak flood in many parts of Trinidad and Tobago. Farmers and residents lost their crops, livestock and homes including Goomtee. Although she was devastated, she took it into her own hands to make sure her community was given the right support. Through her hard work and by approaching Living Water Community, the remote village has been able to get back on track.
“I give thanks to God for blessing me with the courage to pursue my passion. Each time the road ahead darkens, the Lord sends guardian angels to shine a redeeming light, reminding me of my humanitarian purpose”.
Meiling founded the Trinidad-based, premier fashion house Meiling Inc. over 40 years ago. Meiling Inc Ltd. has a legacy of sustainability and mentorship as Meiling believes that industry knowledge should be passed on to apprentices who in turn help ensure that the Meilingbrand, and its outstanding brand values, live through time. In 2018 she completed two cycles of mentoring for fashion industry enthusiasts and practitioners, ages of 16 to 60. Studio operations are energy-efficient, incorporate recycling and upcycling. Meiling was selected to represent Trinidad and Tobago at the first ever Commonwealth Fashion Exchange at Buckingham Palace, Westminster, London in February 2018.
Molly is an environmental activist, known locally and internationally for her accomplishments and dedication. She is the President and founding member of the Pointe-à-Pierre Wild Fowl Trust, skilful in the field of natural resource management, whilst also working to spread public awareness and environmental education.
“If through our work, we can make some people stop and look at what is growing in their back yards and at the trees and forests as we drive along our roadways and become even a little more aware of their importance, their links to aspects of our daily lives and before chopping everything down, think about preserving some of it, then we at the Wild Fowl Trust would have done our part’’.
Paige is a breast cancer survivor, diagnosed in April 2012. She remembers the tears, the sadness and the fear of that time. She recalls the effort it took to find happiness as she faced an uncertain future. When treatment was being considered she opted for a double mastectomy, a decision she made because of her strong family history of cancer and to mitigate her chances of reoccurrence. Paige went on to open Akasha Yoga Studio and credits her yoga practice as one of the key elements to her recovery. Paige continues to be healthy and advocates regular screening, as early detection is key in fighting and ultimately winning the battle against cancer.
Her Excellency Paula Mae-Weekes took office on 19 March 2018, becoming the first woman to hold the office of President. A Bishop’s girl who then attended the University of the West Indies, has played pan and now holds the office of President, is in her being, a true Trinbagonian woman.
Last year on Independence Day, Her Excellency stated, “Every individual has an important role to play in nation-building. The active participation of every citizen in the social, economic and political life of our nation is required to ensure that our children inherit a stable and prosperous country”.
Ria Ramnarine is Trinidad and Tobago’s first female World Boxing Champion as well as an International Women’s Boxing Hall of Fame inductee. Her penchant to overcome challenges is her main motivation. After an illustrious fifteen-year career as a professional boxer and kick-boxer, she pursued coaching. Ria created Boxing Beyond the Ring, a program which seeks to empower women and girls, especially in the fight against gender-based violence.
“The greatest lesson I’ve learnt is that you just can’t fulfil everyone’s expectations. Therefore let your own be the most important – Be your own best self”.
Even before Rochelle began working with children in the favelas of Brazil she knew that working with marginalised, vulnerable populations would be her life’s work. One year after, and 12 years ago, Rochelle began tutoring a young boy from South Sudan in Georgia, USA, where she was studying. She has since dedicated her life to working with persons in need of protection. She worked in a refugee resettlement in the USA and now in Trinidad and Tobago where she is currently the coordinator of the Ministry for Migrants and Refugees at Living Water Community overseeing all protection and programming activities, advocacy and sensitisation.
Candice: Child of God. Aunt. Wife. Sister. Friend. An empath with a love for adventure as much as a love for simplicity. Her reason for getting up every day is embodied in a quote from Pope Francis “you pray for the hungry and then you go feed them. That’s how prayer works”. Bringing even the slightest joy to someone who needs it brings great joy to her own soul. She works with a group of people in a movement called “non violence begins with me”. The movement is spiritually based and promotes the concept that if we are to stem the tide of violence around us; we need to start first with ourselves.
Gayle: She is, first of all, a child of God. Always striving to reflect love, with respect and humility. She tries to show her smiling heart to everyone. Living in the moment and learning that her best is good enough. She is happy for many reasons, but most of all, and above all, because she is a mother.
Kimberly is an occupational therapist, currently working in neurological rehabilitation in Trinidad. Through the Trinidad and Tobago Occupational Therapy Association, Kimberly organises and leads a series called “Hike For All’’, which aims to make hiking and outdoor activities accessible for people with disabilities. She is currently pursuing her doctorate through Boston University. Her research is about accessibility for persons with disabilities in Trinidad and Tobago, specifically with regard to sport and recreation. She hopes to continue to partner with disability rights organisations to further advocate for human rights.
Shamla was subjected to rejection, discrimination, stereotyping, with her basic human rights being infringed upon. Back in her hometown, poverty, a rum shop culture and lack of opportunity was the order of the day. Shamla has had Cerebral Palsy since birth, yet, she has not let any of these factors hold her back from succeeding. Today, Shamla is the founder of AbNormal Progress, Host of Unique Not Different, co-author of an Amazon Bestseller: Journeys to Success, an international keynote speaker, a strong business development professional with a BSc., MSc. and currently pursuing her MPhil/PhD in the agribusiness and marketing field.
Shamla is insistent about proving that a person with a disability can live a full life once the opportunity is created.
When her daughter Rachel lost her battle with cancer in 2008, Sherron was propelled into becoming more active with NGO’s and charitable organizations, in honour of her beloved daughter. Amongst other organisations, Sherron is involved with the Shelter for Battered Women and Children. The goal is to provide not only a safe haven for victims of domestic violence, but also to help support through counselling, medical treatment, assistance, skill training for the ladies and schooling for the children.
Aisha Mirza says, “It is not the bruises on the body that hurt. It is the wounds of the heart and the scars on the mind.” At the Shelter, it is our mission to help heal all scars and bruises.
It all started with a spirit of civic mindedness and a love of charity. The Syrian-Lebanese Women’s Association (SLWA) has spent more than 60 years quietly giving back to our beloved nation, doing work to benefit those in desperate need and who often have nowhere else to turn. What started with a group of six women has, over the years, expanded to the daughters, granddaughters and friends of these initial members, all with the same mind set and embracing the idea of charity. Today, more than 350 members of the SLWA raise contributions annually for charity. Receiving numerous requests for all manner of charity, the SLWA properly vets each case, ensuring no request goes unanswered, and always strives to find unique and interactive ways to raise funds through the community.
This picture features a President from each decade of the SLWA’s existence. L to R: Minerva Sabga (First President), Joanna Mouttet, Mona George, Linda Hadeed, Vanessa Sabga-Aboud, Marie Abdulla, Justine Aboud-Chamely (Current President).
Amanda Sochan, Tanya Clovis, Jezrine Bovell
SOS Tobago was founded in 2000 at a time when turtle poaching was rampant on Turtle Beach and Mt. Irvine Back Bay. Today, thanks largely to the consistency of their community patrol effort, it’s been years since Tobago has lost any leatherbacks on their beaches. SOS has also become part of national and regional research and monitoring efforts focussed on saving these critically endangered species and their habitats. In this era of global climate change, this work is even more urgent and necessary for small islands like Tobago. Amanda, Tanya and Jezrine are proof of the impact that a group of committed people can have.
Stephanie is the Founder of one of the region's leading feminist organizations WOMANTRA. Her advocacy promotes the rights of women and girls, including sex and gender minorities. Some of her originally designed campaigns include, ‘Silent Silhouettes’, an annual installation that honours femicide victims and ‘A Woman a Day’, which highlights the accomplishments of local icons during women’s history month. As a radical voice in the Trinidad landscape, Stephanie has openly challenged the sexism of state officials and was instrumental in the lobbied resignation of a Port of Spain Mayor. She is also the co-founder of the feminist mentorship program, Sistah 2 Sistah and an advisor to UN Women.
"It’s almost impossible for me to discuss any work I’ve engaged in around women’s and LGBT rights without acknowledging the fact that I have stood on the backs of remarkable and resilient women. I remember consulting with my advisor, for my final year research paper for my law degree; our discussion turned to what my next steps would be, and she suggested that I open my own legal clinic to support working class women and LGBT folk. I laughed it off, thinking I could never be good enough to achieve something like that. But those words stuck, and they were so empowering that one year after that discussion, those are my goals. She armed me with the confidence to strive to be the best human rights attorney that I can be. It's so simple; the way women empower and honour each other every single day. This has become my life long goal."
Tricia is an outgoing, spontaneous and determined woman who has a strong desire to help others. She understands that change is inevitable and has also learnt to embrace both the good and the bad.
The absence of her left forearm, two missing fingers from her right hand, multiple wounds about her shoulders and neck are scars sustained by a wielding cutlass of an angry ex. Tricia is a survivor of domestic abuse.
Although Tricia has endured a testing life, her heart is still full of love and peace. She has written inspiring books which are available on Amazon including 'Chains Falling'. Her life experiences have taught her to be more giving, less judgmental, more expressive, and to cherish each day as it comes.
Tshenelle aka Nelly B. is a natural hair, plus size and lifestyle blogger, who loves to sing, code and engulf herself in nature. She believes in the power of a smile and that a woman, once she is embraces her true self, is unstoppable.