What We Do
Helping survivors of GBV on their Journey to Justice
The Elma François Legal Clinic connects survivors and victims of gender-based violence to attorneys and assists them in their journey to legal justice. The Elma François Legal Clinic arose from a need for legal advice and services that are trauma-informed, gender-sensitive and open to all survivors, regardless of their ability, sexuality, gender identity and expression, nationality, or employment background. Our team of attorneys and staff members is committed to supporting and empowering individuals and communities as they navigate the judicial system.
About Elma François
Elma Constance François
1897 - 1944
Trade unionist. Afrocentrist. Marxist. Anti-colonial. Anti-war. Cotton-picker. Domestic worker. Activist. Black. Woman. Mother. Born in St. Vincent + Grenadines. Migrant who lived and worked in Trinidad and Tobago. TT National Heroine.
In 1937 and 1938 Elma François was tried for sedition. François defended herself without a lawyer against an all-male jury and judge, at a time when Trinidad was still colonised by the British Empire. When prosecutor C.T.W.E. Worrell asked François why she made speeches which were ‘causing disaffection among his Majesty’s subjects’, she responded:
“I don’t know that my speeches create disaffection, I know that my speeches create a fire in the minds of the people so as to change the conditions which now exist, and it isn’t for me here to tell you what is existing because I believe that you are a son of some working-class family despite your lofty position as you stand before me as a prosecutor.”
Elma François had the audacity to believe in and defend her rights at a time when Black, Marxist women (in a colony no less) were not respected in the eyes of the law. She fought not only for her own rights and freedom , but for that of her comrades, and others like her in Trinidad & Tobago and across the Caribbean. This is the legacy we uphold and honour as we strive to support survivors in their journey for legal justice.
Almost 85 years later, too much of the structural inequality that François fought against remains a barrier for victims and survivors of gender based violence seeking legal redress. The Elma François Legal Clinic honours this exemplary woman and lover of justice as its namesake . and hopes that by calling her memory into our own journey, we can remind ourselves of where we have come from, who we are fighting for , and what we are up against.
Read more about Elma Constance François here.