Photo/ Provided by Britney Ramnarine
Britney Ramnarine is a leading voice in youth activism in Trinidad. At just 19 years old, she is mobilizing her community around sexual assault and suicide prevention.
Britney developed a spark for leadership and community service at age 16 after she was chosen to represent her high school, St. Stephen’s College, at the One Young World Caribbean Caucus. The Caucus exposed Britney to other youth leaders from across the Caribbean, each with unique and impressive stories and initiatives. During the event, Britney gave a speech on the topic of “Sexual Abuse in the Home,” and shared her personal story as a sexual abuse survivor.
“After speaking up for the first time at the One Young World Caribbean Caucus, I felt powerful, like I had gotten control over my life again,” she stated. Ramnarine felt liberated and hoped her story would inspire others.
My Leadership Journey
In 2019, Britney entered the Trinidad and Tobago Miss Teen Awareness Pageant. “The pageant was a way for me to gain confidence, leadership skills, and most importantly to find my voice again. During this time, I came out of my shell,” said Britney. Through the pageant, Ramnarine attended confidence building and public speaking classes and it paid off – she won. As Miss Teen Awareness – Princes Town, Britney used her platform to raise awareness of the increase in suicide across Trinidad and Tobago.
Britany’s view of the world shifted enormously after attending the One Young World Caribbean Caucus. She started thinking of ways she could impact her community in Princes Town. Moreover, her participation in the Miss Teen Awareness competition and a leadership workshop hosted by the Caribbean Women in Leadership Trinidad Chapter gave her the confidence to pursue her goals.
Making a Difference
In March of 2020, Britney founded her first non-governmental organization (NGO), Ensuring Smiles and Ending Suicide (ESAES). Trinidad and Tobago has the third highest suicide rate in the region according to the World Health Organization. Ramnarine established this organization to bring awareness and reduce the stigma surrounding suicide. Organizations like ESAES are so important, especially now due to the increase in depression and anxiety brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The University of Trinidad and Tobago student also founded Sexual Assault Survivors Stand (SASS) late last year. Having suffered from depression and post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of her sexual abuse, Britney is passionate about supporting sexual abuse victims and people dealing with mental health issues.
Through SASS, Britney would like to empower survivors and give them a voice and a platform to be heard. She is also working to help change the mindset of society towards sexual assault and provide a means for people to defend themselves if the situation ever arises.
Since the launch seven months ago, SASS has embarked on several community initiatives including a counseling program for those who need it and an Instagram campaign that allows survivors of sexual assault and abuse to post their stories in a safe environment. She is also collaborating with local singer and songwriter Annalie Prime to produce a song and music video to empower and inspire sexual assault and abuse survivors. Most recently, Britney has partnered with other NGOs to develop self-defense kits for distribution in her community. In addition, Britney is working with local self-defense instructors to offer free self-defense classes to young girls.
In the next two to three years, Britney’s goal is to offer sexual assault and abuse survivors a physical space where they can get therapy and receive or be referred to the services they need to rebuild their lives. “I want to have a safe space for everyone and allow them to meet other survivors, so they know they are not alone,” she said.