Multi-sector collaboration to safeguard, protect, and empower children and youth

23rd December, 2022 – Port-of-Spain:  Over 500 local and migrant children across Trinidad and Tobago are leading efforts to end violence and abuse in their schools and communities.

The participants in the Spotlight Heroes Programme are implementing projects in 30 Secondary Schools and in various communities to address issues important to them, including bullying, school violence, child abuse, gender-based violence, sexual harassment, and anger management. 

Designed and delivered by the Heroes Foundation and UNICEF in support of the Spotlight Initiative, the Spotlight Heroes Programme started in April 2022 to educate and empower children and youth to lead and demand lives free from violence and abuse. 

Participants received training in gender-sensitivity, leadership, advocacy, communication, technology skills, and project management, and developed project plans to address problems experienced in their schools and communities. 

To date, over 9,000 persons have been engaged in-person in youth-led education and advocacy projects, and over 775,000 have been reached through social media as participants raise their voices to inspire positive behaviour change, safety, and respect for children and youth.

The Spotlight Initiative is a global initiative of the United Nations which has received generous support from the European Union. Its aim is to eliminate all forms of violence against women and girls. 

The Spotlight Heroes Programme is supported by several Ministries and entities committed to safeguarding and protecting children and youth in Trinidad and Tobago, including the Office of the Prime Minister (Gender and Child Affairs), the Ministry of Education, the Tobago House of Assembly, and the Pan-American Development Foundation.

Students from Southeast Secondary School, after a school workshop against sexual harassment.
Heroes Team and local and migrant Heroes participants with Permanent Secretary Vijay Gangapersad and Minister Ayanna Webster-Roy from the Office of the Prime Minister (Gender and Child Affairs).
Lawrence Arjoon, Chief Executive Officer, The Heroes Foundation

Violence is not a normal part of life, and children deserve to be safe and free from all forms of abuse.

To fight the problems that continue to corrupt our society, we must ensure that children understand their rights, know how to protect themselves and get help, and have the confidence that perpetrators will be held accountable for their actions.

We must listen to children when they speak up about things that make them feel scared, unsafe, or at risk, and empower them to lead solutions to the problems they are unfortunately inheriting. We at Heroes are grateful for the collaboration and support of all our partners as we work together to build a safe and sustainable future for children and youth in Trinidad and Tobago.

To build a better future, we must do better for children and youth today.” Lawrence Arjoon, Chief Executive Officer, The Heroes Foundation.

Minister of Education, Dr the Honourable Nyan Gadsby-Dolly

The Ministry of Education continues to lead a collaborative approach to support the needs of students and address violence and abuse in schools.

One of the multi-sector initiatives is that of the Spotlight Heroes Programme which allows us to leverage international best practices and local expertise and experience to directly intervene and empower students to lead the change needed amongst their peers.

We expect this programme to enhance our interventions for reducing violence, by empowering students to become leaders who will impart to their peers’ respect, and advocate against violence.” Dr the Honourable Nyan Gadsby-Dolly, Minister of Education

Minister in the Office of the Prime Minister with responsibility for Gender and Child Affairs, the Honourable Ayanna Webster-Roy

Multi-stakeholder collaboration is a critical part in the implementation of the National Child Policy.

We continue to lead and support work to create a better future for children in Trinidad and Tobago.

We will continue to do all that we can to ensure children are safeguarded and protected and have a solid foundation as they grow up.” The Honourable Ayanna Webster-Roy, Minister in the Office of the Prime Minister with responsibility for Gender and Child Affairs

Secretary for Education, Research and Technology, Tobago House of Assembly, Assemblyman Zorisha Hackett

As Secretary, I stand ready, willing and able to provide the necessary support that will guarantee this initiative’s success.

The Tobago House of Assembly, through the Division of Education Research and Technology (DERTech), is proud to partner with the Heroes Foundation and UNICEF in support of the Spotlight Initiative.

DERTech has always embraced initiatives that provide leadership training to empower our Student Councils and Student Groups.

Since the Heroes initiative aims at addressing violence against children, particularly gender-based violence, it presents itself as a timely endeavour which will redound to the holistic wellbeing of future generations.” Assemblyman Zorisha Hackett, Secretary for Education, Research and Technology Tobago House of Assembly.

Chief of Education, UNICEF Eastern and Caribbean Area, Fiaz Shah

UNICEF is pleased to be supporting this initiative with Heroes and other collaborating agencies to combat and eliminate all forms of violence against women and girls.

UNICEF is happy to be associated with this initiative because we recognise that violence, particularly in schools, undermines children’s learning, negatively impacting their education and employment prospects. It can also constrain economic development and human capital and undermine other societal gains.

Gender Based Violence (GBV) is a complex issue requiring multisectoral collaboration for it to be tackled effectively, and so UNICEF collaborates with other UN agencies and other key stakeholders involved in GBV work. Violence against children (VAC) in all its forms is pervasive, affecting millions of children worldwide every year.

Ending VAC is incorporated into our Sustainable Development goals (SDG’s), namely #5- Gender Equality and #16 – Peace, Justice and Strong institutions to end all forms of VAC by 2030.” Fiaz Shah, Chief of Education, UNICEF Eastern and Caribbean Area.

Program Manager, the Pan American Development Foundation, Hannah Katwaroo

PADF views this collaboration as a strategic one which reinforces our ability to deliver learning opportunities that build the character, awareness, resilience, and skills of those children who are most vulnerable.

The Pan American Development Foundation (PADF) supports the Heroes Foundation partnership with the Spotlight Initiative and views the inclusion of migrant children in national safeguarding programs against all forms of abuse, violence and exploitation as a crucial step towards a non-discriminatory approach to protecting the interests and needs of all children in Trinidad and Tobago, as mandated by the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

With the support of the Department of State Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migrants, PADF is proud to be able to contribute to enhanced educational and learning opportunities for migrant, refugee and host community children through this program.” Hannah Katwaroo, Program Manager, the Pan American Development Foundation

Participants in the Spotlight Heroes Programme come from 30 Secondary Schools, 9 digital migrant groups, and 1 local digital group.

Heroes is grateful for the support and collaboration of all partners, secondary schools, teachers, and authorised adults involved in this programme.

  • Arima North Secondary School
  • Belmont Secondary School
  • Bishops Anstey High School East
  • Bishops High School Tobago
  • Chaguanas South Secondary School
  • Diego Martin North Secondary School
  • El Dorado West Secondary School
  • El Dorado East Secondary School
  • Five Rivers Secondary School
  • Goodwood Secondary School
  • Holy Faith Convent Penal
  • Marabella South Secondary School
  • Moruga Secondary School
  • Point Fortin East Secondary School
  • Point Fortin West Secondary School
  • Trinity College East
  • Rio Claro Secondary School
  • San Fernando East Secondary School
  • Sangre Grande Secondary School
  • Siparia East Secondary School
  • Siparia West Secondary School
  • Southeast Port-of-Spain Secondary School
  • Speyside High School
  • St Joseph Secondary School
  • Success Laventille Secondary School
  • Tranquillity Secondary School
  • Trinity College Moka
  • Union Claxton Bay Secondary School
  • Valencia Secondary School
  • Woodbrook Secondary School
Migrant children at a community protest against child abuse.
A student at Goodwood Secondary School with their protest sign against violence and abuse.
A migrant participant in the Heroes Development Programme with his sign against violence and abuse.