December 4, 2022

Passionate Activist Valarie is determined to empower young people about their rights and ensure they have a safe and supportive community they can turn to.  

Understanding your rights and standing up for them is very important for both children and young adults however, in order to effectively do this, a strong, supportive community encouraging them is also needed.

Founder of the ‘I Have A Right Foundation’, Valarie Honore, knows this all too well, from her own experiences growing up in her home country, Dominica, and through her initiative is determined to empower children and young adults about their rights in a creative way, so they are better able to protect themselves from violence and abuse.

Coming from a big family, with four sisters and one brother, Valarie grew up in rural Dominica and developed her sense of responsibility from helping tend to the parents’ farm and in her school life, where she received awards due to her leadership roles in high school.

Speaking to a representative of the Girls’ Narrative Project she recounted, “I was always involved in stuff like public speaking, debates, and art competitions. I was deeply, deeply involved in school throughout my Primary [school] life and throughout my high school life. Back in high school, I was known for being a leader. I got awards in that regard, for starting initiatives and having other people get on board”.

 However, despite her hard-work and the blossoming of her activism, Valarie revealed she did not feel supported by her parents, which lowered her self-confidence.

“I remember my father would always compare me to the other people at school and it kinda just lowered my confidence in my own self, and I actually just transitioned to not participating in certain activities at school and stuff like that. It kind of messed with my self-esteem and the way that I used to believe in myself,” she said.

She noted that she also felt as if her mother would never listen to her side of the story, resulting in her wanting to be left alone and feeling angry.

“As a girl I feel like my mother was a very young mother. She had me at the age of 18. I always felt like she wouldn’t listen to me, so from simple things as somebody coming home from school to bring a complaint, I always felt like she would never listen to my side of the story or maybe she never had the time to listen to my side of the story, and then she would react,” she said. When asked what made her afraid as a girl, she revealed that there was a time in her childhood where she could not sleep alone, because she felt as if someone was coming to harm her, but her parents did not understand her fears.

“At a certain point in my life, I could not sleep alone, although I had to, because that wasn’t a choice. So, even if I would tell my parents that I feel afraid, I don’t want to sleep alone, I feel like somebody is coming to get me, I had to sleep alone or be with my siblings,” she said.

“So, I felt like during a period of my childhood like I didn’t have any level of confidence in my parents standing up for me or supporting me or just listening to me.”

Delving more into her fear of sleeping alone at that young age, Valarie took a noticeable shaky breath and her voice drops as she recounted the summer day, where this particular fear was created.

Valarie recounts that for her,  growing up in Dominica, one of the joys was going to the river on the weekends or during summer to wash clothes and their hair, and while there, her parents would cook a ‘warm pot’ on the river side and she and her siblings would also enjoy eating the fruits that grew in the area.

It was on one of these innocuous occasions that she left the group to pick some guavas with the intention to eat them by the riverside that she was sexually assaulted by none other than a family friend.

“He dragged me into the bushes, and at that time, I didn’t know exactly what he was doing, but he was actually rubbing his genitals against my back and then at that time I felt like he peed on me, but then later I understood it was his cum,” her voice trembling as she recounted this awful ordeal.

“That happened when I was 8 years old, this was a friend of the family who was always at our home and continued to always be at our home, because this is not something that I told my parents until I was in my twenties. That is basically the fear that I lived with. I had to go back home and live a normal life.

When I finally broke free, I ran into the river and then when I thought back on it, there were more than five (5) instances where somebody had to rescue me from the river or sea because I just felt like at that point I just wanted to kill myself, I just wanted to drown,” she continued.

This was the first time her rights were violated in such a way and Valarie revealed that the assaulter tried to do so to her again several times, knowing that her parents would be busy and that she would be home alone until her siblings returned.

“How home was, [my] parents were always busy. You come from school and you have a lot of time to yourself until they come back home, and I felt like I couldn’t talk to my parents about what happened. I just had to live through it,” she said.

To make matters even worse, this family friend used to sleep over at the house and even help her family with the farm, which made her pre-pubescent mind feel as if she could not tell her parents about what had happened or what he was still trying to do to her.

“I think he tried like 3 other times and that’s why for me, that’s when I started to just… like I would come from school, I would go to my room, I would lock my door, and I would just kind of hide myself and not be engaged as I used to. When I could, I would just be with everybody, if everybody was there, but if nobody was there, I just kind of locked myself and be alone,” she said.

The catalyst for her breaking her silence on what the man did to her was when she was 25 years old and realised that he was still assaulting young girls in the community.

She recalled that it was through anger and genuine fearful concern for her younger sister and niece that she finally told her mother what had happened in an attempt to prevent them from living their lives in fear, as she had done.

She said her mother felt bad about the situation and told her that she could have spoken to her about it, however the assaulter is still in the community, with  in Valarie’s opinion, too many people making excuses for his criminal behaviour citing that he ‘ isn’t in his right mind’.

Having gone through that experience that violated her rights and took away her power, she is even more determined to empower the girls about their rights, and how to stand up for not only themselves, but others.

“I remember when I decided to channel my energy elsewhere; it was understanding that I was not the only one and understanding that maybe if girls understand their rights and they understand that they can stand up for their rights and they can stand up for themselves and having that level of empowerment can not only help themselves but help others, so I started a kind of a silent movement,” she noted.

Valarie began her work ‘behind the scenes’ understanding as she grew older that people just needed an avenue where they could access their own strength.

“Everybody doesn’t have to know their strength exists, but then they can be able to internally stand up for themselves or internally be able to have a voice,” she said.

Continuing, “When I started working with young girls in my community, it was as simple as inviting them over so that we could do homework together and stuff like that because I felt like if I had a community around me, if I had people around me who I felt safe, if there were opportunities where I could have been involved and engaged, that might have helped me transition or help me overcome”.

A born leader and activist, Valarie continued her work, creating the ‘I Have A Right Foundation’, which has the goal of empowering the youth about their rights so that they can protect themselves from violence and abuse.

Valarie is very passionate about working with the youths in understanding exactly what their rights are and how they should react in certain situations. The programs from the I Have A Right Foundation, she notes are about creating opportunities or solving issues in whatever small way they can and in a supporting way.

She disclosed that Foundation has a team of seven women and two men, who meet regularly to contribute collectively on various types of issues, and they also work in partnership with Dominica’s Ministry of Social Services and Ministry of Education.

“The programs that we design and implement, we do it through the school system and then we also do it through the community system, so that is all great resources through our level of partnership and being able to get community on board and young people on board to volunteer,” she informs the Girls Narrative Project.

“We don’t need to duplicate what already exists, we just need to be positioned to strengthen it, to be positioned to solve the issues that may not seem…for example, you have in education, social services but there is still a gap in terms of meeting the needs of girls on a community level.

“So, you want to be able to get access to the resources they have and also be able to have their support because these are the policy makers; these are the people that have the bigger voice, but you on a community level can be part of the NGO collegian, bringing that collective voice to [ the] €rights of children and young people on the islands, so you don’t want what you’re doing to stay in one area. You want to be able to channel the issues that these young people face” Valarie stated.

At the age of just 28, Valarie alongside her team are very passionate about being in solidarity with others and ensuring that the young people they inspire know that they are not alone, there are people- a community -who not only care about them, but are working to ensure that they are able to live their best lives in a much safer and knowledgeable place.

When asked what her hopes for the future entail, Valarie replied, it’s her hope to live in communities where girls and other young people could feel safe, valued and be the best that they could be, with no limits on them realising their true potential.

She also called for the school system to incorporate the importance of girls and boys understanding their rights and responsibilities and for boys to understand their support for girls. She included the importance of parents understanding their role in child development and for the norm within societies to be respect for others.

Valarie’s message to any young girl who may have gone through what she did or may go through such a terrible experience is this, “don’t give up on yourself, don’t lock yourself in the closet, to free yourself and find a way to channel your pain into something you’re passionate about, not only for yourselves but for others”.



written by,
Ashlee Cox

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’.

About the author 

I Am A Girl NGO

The Caribbean's leading non-profit organisation in support of girls, to inspire, empower and provide opportunities for girls to lead and exist in a world where they feel safe, protected and celebrated.

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