Welcome to Part 2 of our August 2023 Inspirational Interview with Kelsie Joseph, Co-founder of Catcalls of University of the West Indies, Trinidad and Tobago.
Kelsie Joseph (she/her) is a young, passionate intersectional feminist activist, organiser and chalk artist with IGDS Ignite, a student-led feminist club of the Institute for Gender and Development Studies (IGDS) at the University of the West Indies (UWI), Trinidad. She received the 2022 IANGEL Rights and Leadership Award, the SWS Undergraduate Social Action Award, and was a finalist for 2022 CAISO Hard Head Awards, in recognition of her activism and commitment to gender justice. She is studying Sociology with minors in Gender and Development Studies and Criminology. She is the Co-Founder and Project-Lead of Catcalls of UWI and the Education Lead for Chalk Back, both projects that utilise chalk graffiti, cyberactivism and other community-based interventions to combat gender-based violence.
In this part of the interview, Kelsie talks about the impact of Catcalls of UWI and the chalk graffiti they use to amplify their message, along with the organisation’s plans for the future.
Part one of Kelsie’s interview was published 5 August 2023.
All photos are courtesy of Kelsie Joseph.
6. Since 2020, what sort of impact has Catcalls of UWI had on Trinidad and Tobago’s approach and attitudes towards VAW in general?
Catcalls of UWI has impacted Trinidad and Tobago’s approach and attitudes toward VAW in several ways since 2019:
- A safe online platform for denormalising street harassment and GBV through story sharing and chalk graffiti to raise public awareness; we have chalked and shared over 90 stories from cybercrime, queer-phobia, ancillary staff harassing students, and sexual and domestic violence referrals.
- Contributing to a shift in consciousness through institutionalised change by educating in a digestible manner through chalk graffiti.
- People are recognising the power of chalk graffiti to ignite social change and forge communities through collaborations, even inspiring activists to hold local Chalk Back events.
- Our collaborative Catcallsxcarifem Twitter Chat Report–Let’s Discuss Street Harassment and Catcalling in Trinidad and Tobago has been added to the Academia online community.
- Making student contributions to academics who contribute to the UWI’s Sexual Harassment Policy and Procedures to establish a more student-friendly and inclusive policy for all.
7. How do you think men and boys can help to end violence against women?
I believe men and boys have an important role in helping to end violence against women. The stories we receive through the Catcalls project and Chalk Back highlight that they are the main perpetrators of VAW.
A contributing factor of VAW has been a disproportionate distribution of power and resources between men and women and, fundamentally, enforcing humans to conform to rigorously prescribed gender norms and identities, implied by the terms masculine and feminine. Therefore, patriarchy compels women to take responsibility for the violence they experience. This prolonged narrative has to change to hold perpetrators–men and boys–accountable for their participation in VAW. Men and boys must listen to our lived experiences, be willing to unlearn these harmful learned behaviours, and join us in the movement to end VAW.
Most importantly, men and boys must stop blaming women for the violence they experience but hold themselves and their peers accountable for their involvement.
8. Tell us about Catcall of UWI’s plans for the future. What campaigns, programmes, or projects do you have coming up in the next 5 years?
We plan to expand our project in three key areas over the next five years:
- Programming: Continue to be an outreach project that students can use and hold our annual Chalk Back UWI event during 16 Days of Activism. The expansion of our social media campaigns and collaborations. Further, we plan to host educational discussions at secondary schools and other universities to educate young people about street harassment and its harmful implications.
- Capacity Building: Ongoing GBV sessions to equip volunteers with the knowledge needed to facilitate and sustain our activism. Also, facilitate workshops for activists and organisations interested in our work, knowledge, and experiences.
- Research: Our online platform is about story sharing and amplifying experiences. We hope to focus on turning our anecdotal data into empirical evidence. Since research on street harassment and catcalling in Trinidad and Tobago is very limited, we intend to expand our documentation into reports and studies.
9. How can The Pixel Project’s supporters engage with and support the efforts of to stop violence against women?
Firstly, I admire The Pixel Project’s digital activism and commitment to ending VAW. I am honoured by the opportunity to educate your online communities about the Catcalls of UWI project.
Folks can engage and support our efforts to end gender-based street harassment and VAW by visiting the @chalkback.org website, following a @catcallsof account located at their university, city or even country, and anonymously share their experiences of street harassment and sexual violence in public spaces to chalk and raise awareness.
They could also sign up to run an account and even donate to maintain our activism across 6 continents, 56 countries and 399 cities. The Catcalls project is delivered through our student club, IGDS Ignite. We encourage your supporters to visit our website to learn more about our work and commitment to gender justice. Also, follow us on Instagram and Twitter at @igdsignite and @catcallsofuwi.
10. In your considered opinion, how can we end violence against women for good?
In my considered opinion, I believe ending VAW for good is possible but only in a gender-just world: a world that embraces equity and a world that promotes everyone and wants everyone to be treated fairly. Therefore, it is an ongoing commitment to build awareness, hold each other accountable, and fight patriarchy.
This fight is not over until one in every three women is no longer a VAW statistic. Hence, it is everyone’s responsibility, not only a women’s issue. This phenomenon is a global and intersectional one that we have to work as a collective to end. As the saying goes, “teamwork makes the dream work.” I have witnessed that many are concerned by social issues that directly impact them, or they don’t care at all, but we need to abandon this mindset; a world in which no one experiences violence in any form is possible.