Stories of Girls’ Resistance


“I want to see the world get to the place where we are comfortable with ourselves. We don’t want attention; we want success. We don’t want people pushing us over because they want things done. I want to see women rise up. I want to see us be powerful. I want to see all the Caribbean countries have female prime ministers. I want to see those things. I want us to get out of the mind-set that men are in charge. We can be in charge but because we have this thing where men are the head of the household, so we can’t be it.”

Tawanna's Story

By Ashlee Cox
St Kitts and Nevis 2018-2019 Carnival Queen Tawanna is showing how believing in and accepting yourself is greater than all that will challenge you

St Kitts and Nevis’ 2018-2019 National Carnival Queen Tawanna is a glowing example that believing in, accepting and loving yourself is the true power to success, no matter your background.

The then reigning queen told the Girls Narrative Project that winning the crown was a huge moment for her as it was something she had dreamt about since she was a child.

“It was a dream from the time I was eight years old to be the queen of St. Kitts and Nevis. And to see that I came so far from a rough background into the young lady I am today, it’s just amazing for me,” she said.

She said when her name was called at the end of the competition, she remembered jumping and crying, feeling overwhelmed at her win.

“Everybody was like, why are you crying? But I don’t think people understand the overwhelming feeling of conquering your dreams. When they placed that crown on my head, tears flow. And I think my mascara came off at some point. I was so amazed. I’m like, oh my God, I am the 47th queen. I’m not the first, but I’m the 47th. I am some type of queen for this country. And being an ambassador for my country is the best thing I could have ever done,” she told the Girls Narrative Project.

Tawanna, who is originally from Newtown, a place she said many would call the ‘ghetto’ was also where her father was gunned down by two men, when she was just fifteen years old.

While she and her mother have since relocated to a safer part of the country, Tawanna said that when she visits friends and family who still live there, it brings up alot for her, especially when she passed the area in which her father was taken from her.

She said, she carries a picture of her mother, her father and herself as a daily reminder of how her father was and the hard work he did to raise not just her but her five other half-siblings.

Taking a deep breath before talking about growing up in that community, she explained that it had progressively become more violent. She explained that her parents had split when she was younger and while her mother worked three different jobs, her father owned a car rental in the United States, and was a drug dealer in St Kitts.

“And in knowing my dad he was engaged in drug dealing -that is how he really provided for us. He refused to work for other people, because he was that ignorant. And there were times when my friends and I were sitting outside; we’re like 13, 14, 15. Random cars are passing, shots are being fired. You’re 14, your parent is running one way; you’re running the next way. Some others are on the floor ducking because that’s the smartest thing to do in case”, she said giving a glimpse into her younger life.

Tawanna admits that she wanted to become a drug dealer when she was younger, but after taking into account the many dangers of that occupation, said it was not the kind of life for her.

“But then when I look at the dangers of it and the reason why my dad died, I really had to shift my mind-set and say, no, I can’t do it. I can’t live like that. I can’t live in fear,” she said.

Continuing, she recalled the day that her father was shot, saying she was leaving school with her grandmother and having a good time when a passing stranger’s careless words alerted her to the tragic event.

“This one guy said, ‘girl your father just dead and you’re out here smiling?’ That was the shock of my life. I was like what? And then we got down the road and I saw the ambulance going back to the hospital from the direction my dad lives. I was like, oh no. I actually got there, and I saw him on the ground. I said, wow,” she said.

Tawanna recalled that she felt as if she was going through a mental breakdown, after the violent death of her father, saying that she started recoiling from her life. She said she was also angered by the narrative around her father’s murder, as if people thought he deserved it, just because he sold drugs.

“Because people knew what he did. People think that whoever killed him had a right to kill him. But, no you don’t kill somebody. He was actually framed for somebody else’s murder and the guys who killed him were the sons of that man. Because they didn’t wear a mask and my uncles and some of my friends were there, everybody saw who they were. But nobody wants to talk because everybody loves their life. But unfortunately, the one person who provided for most of that community, in that area especially is dead,” she said.

From her point of view, Tawanna said that yes her father did illegal things but that was not all he was, describing her late father as a sweetheart and a family man.

Following his death, it was only after realising just how really low and down her mother was, that inspired Tawanna to make a positive change in her life.

This came in the form of a church invitation from her older brother that saw her and her mother becoming regular church goers.

“It was at that point I realized, man, life is hard. It’s going to get harder. And that’s as easy as some things may seem, it’s going to get harder. That’s when I really tap into a lot of things. Especially life. And when I look back on some of the things I’ve seen, I‘ve been abused and everything you can think about, I really know that’s… I can’t live a certain way. I really can’t live that thug life. I can’t sell drugs. I don’t want to go to jail. I don’t want to have boyfriends fighting with me. I don’t want to have children out of marriage. I don’t want a lot of things. Because I want to be able to live comfortably and happy,” she said.

And so Tawanna began to resist her negative friends and started to stand up for herself against those who would bully and tease her. She also entered the St Kitts and Nevis Queen Pageant with the support of her mother, after she realised that this was something Tawanna genuinely wanted.

“I felt empowered when my mom let go, when she actually said ‘yes, go ahead’. It’s like I was obligated to win. I had to win. I had to prove that I can do this, because she made it clear, do not come home if you don’t win. So, she definitely played a serious role there,” she laughed.

Recalling that during this time she had been jobless for about five months, she said her mother took out a $3,000 loan to help her get all she needed.

It however, was when she was trying to get a job within the Youth and Community Development Sector of the government, while preparing for the pageant that one of her greatest fears was realised and she was harassed by the then Permanent Secretary in his office.

She said she just froze, not knowing what would anger him or what was going through his mind; before she was rescued her mother calling her phone.

To make matters worse, this occurred on her birthday, but Tawanna did not keep silent about the incident, telling her mother, her trainer and her chaperone.

“And after it came out, I found out that he’s been doing this for years to people. But I didn’t know because I don’t mind people’s business. That’s not the first the first thing I’m going to ask. And to this day I’m in court, going back and forth with this case. Because they put it as though I didn’t resist him. I didn’t resist because I don’t know what was going through his mind. Ain’t nobody want to get raped. I don’t know if he’s sick. I don’t know what he carries. So, I’m going to stand here with tears in my eyes, like what most women do, let them be,” she said.

While others thought after the ordeal she would drop out of the parent, Tawanna explained that pushing forward was her way of resisting and she was determined to win. She said the experience has taught her to not hold back as well as the importance of standing up for herself through life.

As the then reigning National Carnival Queen, Tawanna has used her status to share her story through presentations with both boys and girls. During these presentations, she said she talks about confidence and how to embrace and love all that you are, as well as knowing who you are.

“I find that a lot of people…, they walk, we are happy, we talk, but we don’t know who we are. We don’t know what we want. We always go by what other people think of us. So, I try to inspire people to be yourself. Take criticism. Don’t see it as something negative, because some people can really be dramatic with the way they say things to you and about you, but use it as something to turn yourself into greatness,” she advised.

“We need to embrace ourselves and stop worrying about what other people think about us. Love yourself. Know who you are. Know what you want in life. Know where you want to be and be happy with what you have. That’s mostly what my presentation is always about”.

As she talked about knowing what you want in life, Tawanna also admits that there is no equality for women in St Kitts, a fact that is further evidenced by the different responses in at least two separate crimes she knows of and her own ongoing court battle.

She told the Girls Narrative that a friend of hers had been beaten and raped for three days in her own home and had yet to see justice, while in another case where a couple was fighting and fearing for her life the woman stabbed the man with a knife, accidentally killing him, she was immediately arrested.

Referencing her own case she said there were people who believed she was telling her story because she wanted money from her attacker.

“That is what people see women as. We want money; we just want things out of men. We don’t want those things. We want equality. We want to be able to be as equal as you, “she said passionately.

Tawanna said she loves working with youth activism groups and would like to see a world where girls are safe and secure. Where they respect themselves and are respected.

“I don’t want to see young girls walking out of their homes and they’re worried about who is looking at them, what people are saying about them, what people think about them. I also want to see a world where a lot of us try to respect ourselves more,” she said.

“I want to see the world get to the place where we are comfortable with ourselves. We don’t want attention; we want success. We don’t want people pushing us over because they want things done. I want to see women rise up. I want to see us be powerful. I want to see all the Caribbean countries have female prime ministers. I want to see those things. I want us to get out of the mind-set that men are in charge … I want to see women takeover and not for bad of it but for the good of it. So that people can see, so men especially can see that women are just as good as men,” she said.

Artist Description

This image of Tawana was created by Elizabeth Barrera, who explains their thoughts behind the illustration:

Tawana’s father was a drug dealer, and she was present when her father died. I wanted to represent her as running because even though she had a lot of trauma as a kid, she always finds happiness in her.


Keziah Taylor


Yes, you.

I have a burning question. Are you comfortable with you?

I know it sounds absurd but please hear me out,

If you’re comfortable with yourself, you will succeed without a shadow of a doubt.


Are you comfortable with your past?

Perhaps the choices your parents made impacted you negatively,

Or you questioned your academic potential,

Or you have been harassed by someone deemed as flawless,

Remember your past does not define your present,

Only if you allow it to.


Do you embrace your originality?

Maybe you can sing as sweetly as a nightening gale,

Or your knitted garments leave designers in wonder,

Or the stories you tell are breathtaking,

Remember your talents are there to help you so never fight them.


Do you believe in the power of unity?

If we as women share our pasts and combine our originalities,

If we rid ourselves of this mindset that only men can lead,

This world would be amazing!

Wouldn’t you agree?