Assistant Secretary Royce honors T&T women creating positive change

Assistant Secretary Royce and Ambassador Joseph Mondello with Embassy POS Women of Courage awardees Kiran Maharaj, Sensei Marva John Logan and Heidi Diquez.

Remarks by Assistant Secretary Royce,
Embassy Port of Spain Women of Courage Award
Chief of Mission Residence
April 26, 2019

Good afternoon! Thank you, Lisa, for the kind introduction.

As Assistant Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs, it is a pleasure to be here to highlight and recognize our incredible Women of Courage awardees.

I’d like to thank Ambassador Mondello and his wife for hosting us this afternoon at their beautiful residence. And congratulations on your 55th wedding anniversary!

Last month, the First Lady of the United States, Melania Trump, and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo held the 2019 International Women of Courage Award ceremony at the Department of State in Washington, D.C.

The ceremony recognized remarkable women, like the ones we are honoring today, for their courage and strength in fostering positive change in their communities.

To Heidi, Marva, and Kiran – our awardees – you have our deepest admiration and appreciation for your dedication, passion, and sacrifice.

We share your commitment to your work as well as the aspirations for creating positive change today and for future generations.

As President Trump has said, “By investing in women around the world, we’re investing in families, we’re investing in prosperity, and we’re investing in peace.”

Our three awardees are a result of that investment.

I’d like to now share with you the good work our awardees have done and continue to do.

Heidi Diquez

Heidi Diquez came to Trinidad & Tobago from Venezuela over fifteen years ago.

She sought the economic opportunities and the fundamental freedoms that were disappearing from her home country.

Since then, she has raised a family, made a successful career in the energy industry, and become a proud citizen of Trinidad & Tobago.

But she also watched the situation in Venezuela get worse each year.

Several years ago, Heidi began assisting Venezuelans who were fleeing the crisis at home.

Last year, Heidi helped start “TTV Solidarity,” an organization composed of both Venezuelans and Trinidadians helping refugees and raising awareness of the crisis at home.

They have a large network of volunteers that have helped Venezuelan refugees find food, medicine, and shelter.

They have even pioneered a unique, online, and accredited school program for Venezuelan refugee children, and plan to enroll middle school and high school students too.

TTV Solidarity is now working with the Ministry of Health, the United Nations, the International Organization for Migration and others to continue to help those in need, especially now.

Heidi has received kind support from the people of Trinidad & Tobago, but not everyone has responded this way.

Heidi’s work has been met with insults, lawsuits, and even threats from Venezuelan authorities.

She is far from alone in this regard, but it is for this reason we are honoring her as a U.S. Embassy Port of Spain Woman of Courage.

Heidi, the United States stands with you and your fellow Venezuelans in supporting a democratic government and the end of the humanitarian crisis in Venezuela.

Sensei Marva Logan

Sensei Marva Logan is a true leader who speaks the truth about what is right and important.

On April 6th of this year, and for the previous five years, Sensei Marva has passed through rival ganglands on a sound truck with 20 massive speakers, telling her community to “do good, be good, and feel good.”

Sensei Marva provides an oasis to youth vulnerable to violent extremism and crime through the Ryu Dan Dojo Youth Empowerment Centre. This center is based in an area where several foreign terrorist fighters originated.

Her work is organized, results-oriented, and supported by numerous partners within the community.

Hundreds of youth have benefitted from the Ryu Dan Dojo programming, which includes counseling for parents, life skills training, trade classes, and leadership development.

Sensei Marva is also a leading member of the Embassy’s SafeCommuniTT network, which is a whole-of-society effort throughout the twin islands to counter violent extremism and crime.

This initiative is the leading resource in combating extremist narratives and providing alternatives to Trinidadian youth.

Thank you Sensei Marva Logan for helping make a better and safer world for not only youth, but for the entire community. For that, we are honoring her as a U.S. Embassy Port of Spain Woman of Courage.

Kiran Maharaj

Kiran Maharaj is a force of nature with a passion for bringing people together to create a better Trinidad and Tobago.

As the implementing lead for the SafeCommuniTT initiative, she worked nights and weekends with the Embassy to make this counter violent extremism and counter crime campaign a success.

Kiran founded, as far as we can tell, the world’s very first radio station solely for women. Of all her notable achievements, this is the one she holds most dear.

Early in her career, her philanthropic work with women suffering from domestic violence solidified her passion to enhance the quality of life for women through empowerment via the airwaves.

As a freelance correspondent for CNN World Report a number of years ago, Kiran put herself at physical risk to report on the blight of violent extremism.

Today, she is establishing a pan-Caribbean media institute to train a new generation of journalists on:

  • How to ask the hard questions
  • How to root out false claims and corruption
  • How to data mine for the facts to counter disinformation

And overall, how to be a good investigative journalist.

Her commitment to her country, to democratic institutions, to the rule of law, and to empower the media is unparalleled. Thank you Kiran for your unwavering dedication.

Her belief in a free, responsible press and her support for democracy is why we are honoring her as a U.S. Embassy Port of Spain Woman of Courage.

To Heidi, Sensei Marva, and Kira: you are models of courage, and may we each aspire to emulate your example of service to others.

Each of these women have tirelessly fought the good fight, as well as devoted immense time and energy into making a difference here in Trinidad and Tobago.

They have put themselves at physical risk to advocate for a more free, secure, and democratic world.

Thank you again to each of you for your efforts and exceptional leadership. Now, please join me up front for photos.