Trinidadian entrepreneur Brittney Oriel Nadur is supporting and empowering teen girls through her developmental syllabus.
The goal of an entrepreneur is to provide a creative solution to a problem or an area in which they notice a lack; to accomplish this, they must have commitment, networking skills and a real desire to change the lives of those who will benefit from their solutions.
For young Trinidadian entrepreneur Brittney Nadur, her drive came from the desire to become the person she needed when she was a teen and empower teen girls to learn more about themselves. She did this by developing and running a syllabus within secondary schools that caters specifically to teen girls.
In an interview with the Girls Narrative Project, she talked about her childhood and her own teenage phase explaining that she grew up thinking that dysfunction was the norm and wished there was someone she could talk to about her slowly estranged relationship with her father, her feelings towards her mother and the domestic violence she was witnessing in her mother’s second marriage.
“What did I need when I was younger? I would have loved somebody to talk to me about growing up in a violent house. Or dealing with divorce and going through that. Or dealing again with abuse and how to see the signs of a toxic partner, or friends and what kind of friends you want, what kind of friends you don’t want, all of these things,” she revealed.
Going through such experiences, Brittney didn’t allow them to hold her back, rather she told the Girls Narrative Project that she recognises how they shaped who she is today and allowed her to offer real support to those who are in need of her knowledge.
“I created a syllabus that educates teenage girls on their physical development, puberty and mental development, their emotional development, the changes that would occur or might occur in their social settings, meaning their families, their friends, their relationships,” she said.
Within the syllabus, she also addresses questions the girls have about the world that they are unable to ask their parents out of fear of what consequences such topics may bring, especially around such as drugs and alcohol.
The project caters to girls from the ages of 11 to 16 years old with the focus of instilling confidence, knowledge, awareness and sisterhood; it also offers education around eating disorders, depression, anxiety, as well as being honest with the youths about the importance of having a good education.
To understand more about why this gender specific developmental project is so needed Brittney very candidly talked about what it felt like for her growing up as a girl in Trinidad.
“It is scary because you are very sexualised at a young age, from very grown men, so it’s hard to understand if you aren’t introduced to it – meaning, like your parents tell you about what is out there,” she confided.
She then recalled an incident during her Primary school years, when she was around 11 years that left her distrustful and warier of men.
“I would say the first time I realised it, was when I was in primary school and I used to go to swimming classes and I had a really good relationship- in my opinion, in my, in a sense young opinion- [with], the driver of the bus,” she began.
“And then there was one time when I went and then I sat up in front with him and then the teacher was like, ‘Brittney come up in the back’, and I was just like, ‘But why?’ , and she just said, ‘Come in the back’; and I just knew something was – no that was not normal just teacher being teacher.
Then after she pulled me aside, she was like, ‘Ah, you need to be careful with the relationships that you have with older men and whatever’, and I was just so…, because I knew that I was just naive, but I don’t think I ever saw him after that. I don’t know what the story was, but I think that maybe they may have changed a certain bus that took us there.
But ever since that experience then I started being like, ‘okay, what if? Was he really coming with that kind of energy? So I think in Trinidad it is a very scary, scary world out there,” she confided.
Brittney explained that poverty does play a big role in certain communities in Trinidad and matrifocal households tended to be stern, abusive and lowered the self-esteem of young girls. From working with the teen girls through her syllabus, she revealed that sexual abuse was a ‘big thing in Trinidad’.
“A lot of girls are being abused, and a lot of them are being abused by people within the home. And they’re either afraid to tell their parents, because their mothers will only get after them far more if they come and tell them something like that, or this person is so loved by the family that they just know that nobody is going to believe them when they come and say this person is doing x y and z to them.
And a lot of people don’t know how to even report it or even think what they’re going through is worth of an offense, to be termed as an offense. And then I could just imagine what goes on within the schools as well,” she revealed.
Speaking of her own experience with abuse, she told the Girls Narrative Project about witnessing the domestic violence in her mother’s second marriage, saying that things really heated up in the last four years of the eight year union, which ended in divorce, but still left a lasting impact on Brittney herself.
The second child of six children from her Mother, Brittney described herself as being very protective over her loved ones, which was why she was the one who would try to intervene and protect her mother, revealing that for the last four years of her mother and her then step-father’s eight year marriage was filled with domestic violence.
“I recognize a balance of male and female energy within myself. So I think that as much as there was the fear… my older sister was very feminine, so I think I took more of an assertive role and I was the one to jump in to protect. Or to pull her off or to stop or to – so any time those happened it was scary,” she said.
Continuing, she related, “If you wake up and hear some shouting you obviously spring up and go to look and see if anything is happening and then knowing that I have to go to see if something has happened because I am the only one going to be able to intervene, because I am the strongest – emotionally, physically. My older sister will take the younger ones out of the room and I will be the one to go out there, so it kind of forced me to be more mature and more confrontational I guess in that sense. Scared but protective as well”.
With all this going on in her youth, Brittney explained that sometimes, she just needed to get away and would spend a weekend by her then best-friend’s house, where she could immerse herself in a different ‘home culture’, which allowed her to be more relaxed and gave her a sense of freedom, however, if a fight happened and she wasn’t there to intervene, she would still feel very guilty.
It would be during her years studying at University, that Brittney would really come to understand more about certain behaviours, including that the relationship she had been in from the time she was just thirteen, was in fact also abusive. It was not physical or sexual, but emotionally abusive.
“Within the three years in university I did study psychology and then I did two minors as well – criminology and social policy planning/development. So it was a mix of that sociology/biology or like that. Within it I learned about the different types of abuse. Then I learned about – there’s something such as emotional abuse. That was interesting because again we grew up in a place that if you don’t get hit, you’re not abused,” she said.
“I know that if I even knew about emotional abuse and that it’s a thing, or if I knew about gas lighting, or if I knew about these different terminologies within the emotional abuse realm, then I would have not just thought of that [as] I’m going to normal experiences with a normal teenage boyfriend or these things, I would have had the knowledge to be like, wait a second, this is x y and z. And this is wrong,” she said.
Speaking more in depth of the five year relationship that ended during her studying at University, she said it was always ‘masked with love’, manipulative and she was considered ‘his property’.
“It was a mix of the fear of clearly losing him and not having him, not having that relationship, not having that security I would say, or that person. Also the fear of reaction, because reaction could be not speaking to me or the reaction could be, well, you go by a friend and then find out later in the night that he was by a friend and it was just like, how could I be upset, because I upset him, so why did he have to tell me he’s going anyway or he’s doing anything? That fear of what he would do if he’s upset. It was the fear of what would happen if he isn’t happy all the time,” she reflected.
While Brittney uses her own life experiences to have a mutually open relationship with the teens that participate in her syllabus, she also acknowledges that her life path is uniquely hers.
“The more I come into my powers, the more I realise that I have my own life to live, meaning that there is no one I can compare my life to or my experiences to. And because of that I try more and more to not compare myself or not question my decisions or not question my choices, because it doesn’t look like what everybody is doing. Because I recognise how different my life path is and how different my calling is and how uniquely aligned every experience I had; what it did for me to create what I created, yes, but also to be able to genuinely relate with the teenagers that I speak to,” she said.
“I think every time I have an interaction with a post-grad from the project and they tell me about a situation where they might have avoided sexual abuse, or they might have avoided a bad decision, or they advised a friend, or they told a friend about something that they learnt in class, I see that hope,” she responded to the question of what gives her hope for the future.
“As much as my story has down stuff in it, it’s nothing compared to some of these girls that I speak to, and what they deal with at home. That gives me encouragement and knowing that there are still good girls that are pushing on despite what is against them. They’re still going and they’re still studying their work and they’re still doing what they have to do, and they still have their faith in God and they still have a smile on their face despite everything,” she said.
Brittney concluded that she was trying to build a world where girls made independent and informed decisions, where women are valued and treasured by their partners and vice versa, where they are supportive mothers and where teens were taught about societal pressures, their bodies and given real guidance in schools.
She also wants a world where all forms of abuse are non-existent, where women truly support and uplift each other, and where girls can ask questions without fear of getting into trouble.
Author, Writer, Entrepreneur
Ashlee Cox is a multi-genre author and writer. She formerly worked for leading news outlets within the Caribbean, as a journalist, and is currently the lead writer on her blog ‘Ashlee Unscripted’.