Andrea Bharatt, 23, will be laid to rest today. On this day in normal times, it would have been Fantastic Friday, the day marking the start of Carnival rivalry.
This year however, there is no Carnival. But there would a mas of a different kind. Hundreds of businesses across the country will shut their doors today for a woman who this country knew nothing about prior to her kidnapping two Friday’s ago, but who has achieved in her murderous death what no politician has ever been able to do, unite a country in a singular cause for those who walk the corridors of power to do better and deal with the growing incidence of crime and violence against women.
Andrea’s kidnapping and murder and the discovery of her body just over a week ago, triggered unprecedented levels of activism, a growing social movement against gender-based violence as communities and civil society groups mobilise to call for change.
In death, a nation that never knew Andrea has come together to fight for a common cause. An end to crime, an end to violence against women, an end to the monstrosity of those who take advantage of women who are unable to defend themselves.
It is important that these events not take on any political hues because the message must be heard loud and clear: Enough is enough!
Even trade unions, which have long rallied and called for nationwide shutdowns for better working conditions, have never managed to draw the crowds that have been turning out at nightly demonstrations, fuelled by anti-crime fervour.
So, on this Friday when there is solemnity instead of revelry, the main events will be devoid of costumes and theatre. Instead, attention will be on the sad procession as Andrea’s funeral cortege stops at her home, her workplace the Arima Magistrates Court and then to the church and the place of interment.
Simultaneously, at other locations across the country, motorcades and solemn vigils will be held in the memory of Andrea and other victims of sexual violence. Citizens have been asked to wear pink or white as they join in this day of mourning.
Late yesterday, a growing list of businesses announced closures as a mark of respect and solidarity for a cause that has seen a groundswell of support over the past week. A nation angered by crime and the slow pace of the delivery of justice, reached the tipping point with the murder of Andrea one month after Ashanti Riley was murdered. Friday is a huge business day, but these hundreds of businesses took the decision to shut down the usual hectic commercial activity of a Friday to show solidarity with calls for politicians on both sides of the political divide to get their act together and fix what is wrong in this country. They have joined the rallying cries for a safer more humane, Trinidad and Tobago.
This may well be a moment of change for the country. In the space where Carnival should be, these days of activism signal a turning point for T&T. At least that is what the people hope for. Will it happen? Only time will tell whether those in authority to make the change needed for a better Trinidad and Tobago will hear the cries of the citizens and do what is required.
One hopes that Andrea’s kidnapping and murder will be the turning point in a country that has reached tipping point.