“People often call me ‘condom girl’ because they don’t remember my name. I’m ok with that though. It’s a sign probably as sign that I’m doing my job well,” laughs community activist, KizzyAnn Abraham.

Photo: KizzyAnn Abraham
Photo: KizzyAnn Abraham

In addition to her work as a field officer with the Caribbean HIV & Aids Alliance, which sees her handing out condoms, conducting demonstrations and deconstructing the myths around HIV/AIDS, KizzyAnn is also engaged with a host of NGOs in Grenada including GNOW, Grenada Planned Parenthood  Association (GPPA), GRENCHAP and GRENAIDS.

When we speak she’s managing to juggle all of this while sitting her final exams at St Georges University! When asked how she manages to fit it all in she admits, “I don’t have much time to myself but I enjoy what I do.”

KizzyAnn’s story of success comes despite what some might view as unbeatable odds. She was the first child born to adolescent parents. Her mother was forced to drop out of secondary school as soon as it became evident that she was pregnant and when she left for the United States, KizzyAnn was taken care of by her grandmother, who she still describes as having had a great influence on her life.

“The fact that I was born to adolescent parents makes me very passionate about the issues I work on,” she explains. “The impact of leaving school at such an early age was that Mum had to settle for low income jobs as she lacked the necessary qualifications. As I grew I started to question, and slowly understand, why those challenges existed.”

At the age of 16 KizzyAnn moved to the US to attend community college, having done particularly well in her CXC examinations. Her first undergraduate degree was in business management. Not long after she graduated with honours, KizzyAnn started an internship at a real estate firm. “As they showed me around the office and I saw the desk where I would have to sit, day after day the space seemed so confined. I realised then that I was not the sort of person that would be able to do a job where I’d need to be chained to a desk all day.”

So despite having completed one degree KizzyAnn returned to university to read liberal studies with a specialism in political studies so that, on completing her studies, she could return to Grenada armed with the knowledge of how to address some of the many challenges facing the country and to see where she could help.

In 2010 KizzyAnn came back home and enrolled at St Georges University where she switched her major to Sociology. After being taken under the wing of Mrs Lorice Pascal, Program Director at the Grenada National Organisation of Women (GNOW), KizzyAnn also turned to the Grenada Planned Parenthood organisation where she continues to play an administrative role while also being involved in youth issues.

Through her work with GNOW, KizzyAnn has had the opportunity to attend conferences that have helped her to develop a regional understanding of the issues facing young people in Grenada. “Our youth need more opportunities to be informed about their rights,” she explains. From her perspective, all too often she is the only young person in the room when such issues are discussed. “We are not informed that these issues exist and that we can participate in finding solutions to them,” she argues.

An initiative that attempts to address the issue of teen sexual health is the 3 Rs (Rights, Respect and Responsibility) advocacy project to empower adolescents and young people at three secondary schools on the island. KizzyAnn – along with volunteers Damarlie Antoine, Karyn Blackman, Kemrol Bernard, Anika Hagley, Yvonne Thomas and others – works with student facilitators to inform them on advocacy and to get feedback, from their perspectives, as to the reality of their lives and the issues in their communities.

While KizzyAnn is optimistic that this project will make a difference she is less hopeful about Grenada’s wider education system, which she feels needs to be reformed to better serve young people. “If you’re a traditional student you can excel within the system as it is,” she explains. “But if you’re not typical and you’re more interested in developing a skill or a trade then you are marginalized.”

Speaking about the issue, KizzyAnn who, on all other fronts seems incredibly driven with a can-do attitude running through her core, comes across as incredibly frustrated. Too often, she says, the older people come down on young people for not wanting to work. She insists that youth in Grenada are creative and innovative it’s just that the technology and the financing that they need to facilitate their plans just aren’t there.

She says, “The problem is often defined as something being wrong with the youth well, perhaps it’s the system itself that is broken. Too often my generation is seen as just plain pushy rather than as having potential that should be nurtured and mentored. Whatever the case there is no going back. The question we need to be asking is, ‘how do we move forward and tap into the creativity and innovation that is brimming within Grenada’s youth?’”

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