About nadzspeaks

I am using life as a template. Learning lessons, using my words as medicine. Healing, speaking truth, soothing.

Peter Espeut’s Discontent

Peter Espeut’s opinions on Gender and Feminism which were published in the Gleaner of Friday March 17, 2017 is typical of privileged men’s response to women’s attempts at responding to the inequities of a system which treats men, such as himself, as privileged citizens. Male privilege has traditionally existed in opposition to women’s attempts to address the unfairness of patriarchy. His article therefore, does not deviate from the patriarchal, male privileged norm.

Espeut notes “No longer is the liberation of women viewed as tied to the liberation of men from their patriarchy such that both genders can together enjoy their new freedom.” Men have traditionally been uncomfortable with women’s fight for liberation because they are unable to own their role as the main perpetrators of violence against women and for the perpetuation of women’s subjugation. Their response is to locate themselves as victims of patriarchy as well, without the requisite examination of themselves as perpetrators of injustice against women or as complicit benefactors of male privilege. In fact the narrative, which Jamaican men are now seeking to promulgate is one which states that they are in fact victims of women’s liberation or women’s fight for equality and justice. Espeut would have us believe that as women over time have asked for equal representation, equal treatment and respect they have somehow marginalized men. His narrative would suggest that by asking for a ‘seat at the table’ by their struggle for liberation they have devalued men. Unfortunately, his fears and the perpetuation of ideas such as this are spouted every day by privileged men, who obviously feel that their position as ‘first citizen’ is a right that must go unchallenged. I would suggest that a question men like Espeut need to ask themselves and seek answers to is ‘who is standing in the way of the progress of Jamaican men?’ to answer the question I would point him to Mark Figueroa’s work on the under performance of Jamaican boys. Figueroa in that work had suggested that:
“Some people have concluded that this is a case of male marginalization that requires affirmative
action. Such a position is not defensible in this context, where historic male privilege remains strong and there are too many cases where men retain leadership and generally earn more than women who are better qualified.”

Espeut contends that “sometime in the 1980s Women’s Studies morphed into Gender Studies” I would not use the word morph, in fact my understanding of the switch from Women of Feminist Studies to Gender Studies is guided by the realization that men in power, including the leadership of universities, found the rising prominence and relevance and growing popularity of the discipline problematic and did all they could to neutralise it. Gender Studies, Mr. Espeut, was never an advance for the realities of women in academia nor did it bolster women’s voices as advocates and activists, it was and still remains patriarchy’s most successful attempt at neutralising and silencing women’s voices.

Men like Peter Espeut ought to learn the dangers of speaking for an oppressed group. He also needs to own and acknowledge his privilege and the several ways he has come by it and as a man of ‘sound reason’ (all men tend to be, I have heard) he needs to learn to speak on the issues with which he is familiar. Feminists do not need to hijack Gender Studies, we know that women’s political and social value have been severely undermined by the attempts of men like him to ‘add men and stir’under the guise of Gender Studies. Their public narrative is that if we say man 50% of the time and woman the other 50% miraculously gender equality will appear and we will live happily ever after and the white prince will turn up on a white horse or some such crap. You are not believable Peter, I have seen you do better, try again.

The UWI: Changing Priorities?

Image

Recently, the UWI found itself yet again at the receiving end of criticisms about its less than transparent methods of operating.  Late last year, I saw a woman who has been waiting years for  the awarding of her PhD protest for days outside gates of the UWI Mona.  She has done this for some three years now, clearly without any resolution.  The UWI has responded to her concerns by advising her that she should appeal to the Queen.  She has done that she reports, but of course to no avail.   I wonder if she will be back next year.

At the start of 2017, another story came to light; the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of Parliament had asked the UWI to make a presentation before that body and the UWI essentially told the PAC to go ‘take a hike’ since they were established by ‘Royal Charter’ and was not at all obligated to the Jamaican government beyond the portion of money Jamaica gives to UWI.

I raise these two instances to highlight the fact that universities, even this one, have a tendency to operate in an elitist, dismissive of the poor and the vulnerable manner.  The truth is long before this University was established, universities existed and they existed for privileged men. The very ethic of the university then in its earliest manifestation is anti-poor, anti-woman and anti-accountability.  In their truest sense they represent the playground of the priviledged.

Universities traditionally do not welcome the children of the poor.  I know this, I have experienced this and I have spent my adult life trying to see how I can stay within the space and welcome as much as I can the children of the poor and most vulnerable, who come to the University experience with a deficit of experience and confidence.  My MSc. Thesis was titled: Student Activism at the UWI Mona: Missing Dialectics?  At that time I was concerned that the Neo-Liberal agenda had silenced the voice of the student and that the project of democratizing the university, which had begun with much passion in the 60s and 70s, had been sacrificed in the quest for sustainability and survival.  I understood then what that meant, appreciated the tensions, commiserated with the administration in the midst of the challenges, but my fundamental point remained and still remains that without sufficient critique we will lose in the long run.   Because the University has a tendency to revert to its elitist tendencies those of us who inhabit its corridors from time to time must ensure that we critique its methodology relentlessly, because it is only in this critique that we can ensure that the people to whom its impact will matter the most will eat from the ‘crumbs’ that fall from its table.

University administrators and senior leaders must eschew this elitist tendency.  They must know that their project extends beyond certification and the provision of services.  When the process of education becomes transactional, then education has lost its purpose.  A university which declares that it ‘is a light rising from the West’ stands in contradiction of what we know universities would normally stand for.  That was the idea behind UWI, it was meant to be a study in revolutionary thought and behaviour.  It was meant to be audacious and defiant; if it understood its genesis it would understand that by its very nature it was challenging the system.  When a university such as ours, which had its first classes in buildings that looked like ‘horse stables’ begin to speak to the people it is meant to serve with loftiness and arrogance it no longer knows what it is about.  When a university is afraid of dialogue and conversation, when it no longer knows how to engage in the healthy repartee of debate it has lost its soul.   When it forgets that the leader is primus inter pares, not boss it has lost its purpose and its identity.

 

“The change we seek within the academy is not one that flows from administrative mandate, but one that arises in the energized space between caring and thoughtful human beings” (Palmer & Zajonc, 2010)  The job of a university education is to truly make humans of all of us, this is not done through philosophies and practice which celebrate capitalist ideas and ways of being.  The story of us, from this side of the world is the story of the other side of capitalism; a system which by definition exists only in its ability to exploit the most vulnerable; a system which thrives on inequalities and which exacerbates divides.  Louis Lindsay, who died in 2016 and was one of the most brilliant minds I had the privilege of engaging gave me a book that I still treasure more than ten years ago, Paulo Friere’s  Pedagogy of the Oppressed , Friere had made it clear that ‘education is the practice of freedom.’  How does a university with a capitalist ethic lead its citizens towards freedom?

The question of halls of residence, 138 Student Living and the UWI’s quest for relevance and survival in a changing world goes beyond the ability to stay afloat and to make a profit.  There are many conversations which must be had about changing values, changing priorities, changing commitments and changing mandate.  The history of the UWI records that Edward Seaga was always uncertain about Jamaica being overly loyal and committed to the UWI, he always felt that the then CAST, now UTECH was a much better national investment.  After all in times like these we need to be able to ask our government to help us to make sense of what is going on in our university, the truth is the UWI established by Royal Charter might very well be right, it is not obligated to the people of Jamaica.

Till then, some of us must be willing to be marginalized from the spaces where the privileged citizens of the UWI traverse.  Walter Rodney, famously stayed away from the SCR because he had a problem with the hypocrisy of the space and the messed up value system it represented.   It still does.  bell  hooks in her book “Teaching to Transgress: Education as the Practice of Freedom, speaks of her estrangement from education because of her unwillingness to conform.  She spoke of being treated with contempt by lecturers, but this is what worked for her, it was this contemptuous treatment and this estrangement which helped her to survive as a student and later a teacher in the university.   I therefore do not feel alone, I am in good company.

 

Dear Pastor

Dear Pastor

I am now realising that you were never a Christian.  I now recognise pastor that the story you tried to sell from the pulpit was never one that you believed.  I now understand that for you consuming the flesh in church meant sex with teenage girls, it meant sexual abuse, child molestation and all the other ways you fucked our children.

Dear Pastor, the girl who at fourteen told you she was unsure of her sexuality was asking for help and needed a trusted adult to guide her through what must have been a frightening realisation for her  She was not asking to be felt up in the church manse nor was she asking to be put in the middle of your marriage as you groomed her for yourself.  she wasn’t asking for your wife to gang up on her at fifteen and warn her to leave her husband.  Which side of the world is it okay for a pastor’s wife to accost a child being sexually molested by her husband? How did she justify that? Did she at any point consider that she was also being complicit in the abuse of a minor.  Pastor the church has been soiled by the blood of virgin girls, 13, 14 and 15 year olds who sacrificed the joy of their first experience to the man who baptised them as babies and confirmed them as teenagers and who serve them communions on Sundays, salivating as they drank the blood of Christ.

Dear Pastor, did you know that camp became a place where girls were being groomed by the clergy?  Did you know that as we prayed girls were being taken into the water, not for baptism, no, not to accept Christ but to forcibly tolerate your nasty disgusting fingers as they made their way up their shorts or their swim suits and into their vaginas? How is it okay for an entire institution to turn a blind eye to the abuse of so many?  Many of us lost hope at camp, because we saw the obvious injustice and abuse and our minds played tricks on us, because we could not fathom or come to terms with the fact that the clergy, the pastor was the abuser.

Dear Pastor, I use to sit in the pews and wonder what was wrong with me.  Why I left church angry and unsatisfied.  I could not understand why your words fell so flat, why they did not ‘go forth’ as the Bible had said.  I know now it is because you have no soul.  You are a cynic and you do not believe in the thing that you preach about.  ‘Pastor’ for you is like being a garbage collector or a lawyer or teacher, it is a profession and you are no more convinced of the teachings of the Bible and Christianity than the atheist.  I wondered why your sermons were so uninspiring and why they never captured real stories of real people and why they never contained suggestions for practical living.  I wondered why you were always so joyless, how you never seemed moved by the message you bought.  I now know, you have no soul.

Dear Pastor, have you stopped to check on the many lives you ruined?  The girls you forced to lie to their mothers?  The girls who no longer trust themselves because  your lies and abuse damaged their self worth and made them feel as if they were not worthy, who now know they cannot trust the church and Christianity and who feel empty because they feel like they were made into Jezebel.  The families you tore apart and the church members who lost their faith because of you?   Pastor, I use to wonder why you seemed un- bothered by the absence of young men in the church, I now know why, you couldn’t stand the competition.  You must have been so happy, a whole church of women to have your way with.  Pastor, as you are the grim reaper.  The devil we fear is you.  You are Satan, you are the great evil.  You are the danger, you are the one we must not trust, you are the one we must fear.

Dear Pastor, I have no respect for your wife.  She was complicit because she knew and she did nothing.  I wonder how she could love a man who she knew was victimising a child?  What happened to your family and the values you preached at from the pulpit? How did you train up your children? In the way they should go! But you dont know how to raise a child, children for you are just tools for your pleasure.

Dear Pastor, I hope the next time you put on your collar it chokes you.

Girls in Jamaica “Anything after 12 a Lunch”

On Tuesday, April 12, 2016 I attended the ‘Keep Children safe forum at the Knutsford Court Hotel in Kingston.  The activity was organized as a partnership with UNESCO, The Child Development Agency and Eve for Life.  It essentially, highlighted the work of the NGO, EVE for Life and their response to the situation of girls who are either pregnant or are young mothers and are also carriers of  HIV or who have AIDS more than likely as a result of sexual molestation or rape.

Eve for Life is doing great work with these girls and throughout the forum as the girls spoke of their particular situation, it could be seen that they were recovering from their trauma and it became obvious that the girls  were approaching life not as victims but as survivors and victors.

But the event left all of us in attendance shaken, embarrassed, concerned, incensed and angry at the mothers and fathers, the families and the institutional arrangements in this country which have failed these girls, so that even after asking for for help, or indicating to an adult what was happening to them and who was doing it  their abuse continued.    I heard stories of mothers, grandmothers, entire communities and families who knew that a girl was being abused but they chose to turn a blind eye.

Jamaica has a far way to go in its treatment of its children.  The situation of the girl child is especially worrying because our culture has a high tolerance for sexual victimization and sexually inappropriate behaviour.  In so many ways the sphere of sex and sexuality in Jamaica is built around ensuring the promulgation and protection of a certain kind of masculinity that women and girls, boys and some men become mere artefacts in.  To begin to deal with the issue of the prevalence of sexual abuse in Jamaica demands a serious examination of  the display of Jamaican masculinity and the sacrifices that need to be made for its survival.

One common theme throughout the forum was the absence of the fathers of the young women.  Each girl who told a story of abuse and survival spoke of their mother and father ending a relationship, as the beginning of the journey to their victimization and hurt. It made me realize once again, how important fathers were to the family and to the lives of their children, not just their sons but to their daughters as well.  I was also reminded   of the vulnerabilities of female headed households.   There is a lot of work to be done with helping families from poor socio-economic situations in respect of conflict resolution and parenting especially where relationships have fallen apart.  Empowering  women to negotiate with men the role they must play in their children’s life and how the state or some third party agency can assist when the dialogue between parents has broken down.

There is much work to be done in communities, districts and villages across Jamaica. We need to start changing minds and attitudes to challenge some of the gender and sex norms that define us as a people.  The idea that ‘anything after twelve is lunch’ or that a girl is ripe and ready for sexual activity at twelve years is insulting and dangerous.  The fact that girls are often told ‘dem ready fi go pon cutting table’ as soon as their breasts start to grow is unacceptable.  Admiral Bailey’s ‘two year old me love me two year old’ one of our most popular dance-hall oldies which is still recited in the company of young girls, needs to be banned and declared not fit for public consumption.    Churches need to preach and teach a doctrine which rejects preying on girls,  mothers and fathers must learn the unacceptability of this practice and need to be aware of the role they must play in changing these dangerous practices and challenging these beliefs.

In Jamaica we believe that ‘children must be seen and not heard’ our parenting philosophy is grounded in a belief system which represents the child as powerless and consequently devoid of voice and representation.  As a result we minimize the concerns of our children and we treat them less than full human beings, we should encourage them to ask questions and to not do exactly as they are told.  We should teach them to challenge adults and to say no when they are asked to do something and they are not comfortable. It is only when our children are allowed to be precocious, to be feisty and non-conforming, to know that adults are not always right and that they do not always have their best interest at heart that we can begin to say we are raising empowered boys and girls.

 

 

When Your Mind Cant Manage

I wish I could say each day I wake up and walk into my office my mind is assailed with exciting and engaging ideas about how I help to create this wonderful new future that must be created in order to truly be a part of the transformation of my country.  To be honest usually, I am hopeful for the most two days, If you count this in hours it is long, forty eight hours, and that is usually when I ignore the news on the radio and on television and when I don’t read my newspaper.

I read a book once “The beautyful Ones are Not Yet Born” written by Ayi Kwei Armah, it tells the story of Post Independent Ghana just after the overthrow of Kwame Nkrumah and describes a society where black leaders through their actions demonstrate that they are clearly using the public power vested in them for their own personal gain.  The book describes a society where bribery and corruption are the norm and where those who do not become involved in these sorts of activities are scoffed at and scorned because they failed to play the game and essentially are represented as not being successful at life.  The book resonated with me because there was so much hurt and disappointment in it.  The author was able to capture the lost hopes and desperate faith of those people for whom the dream of independence and sovereignty just did not materialize.

What do you do when the people you place your trust in do not live up to your expectations?  Hope cannot die, if it does then we are a people most miserable and desperate.  In order for hope not to die we must choose new looking glasses through which we can see clearer visions of what the future can look like.   How do we avoid becoming cynical and have sarcasm interrupt our conversations and expressions of hope?   Most importantly, how do we teach a generation raised on cynicism  and too little faith to believe in the ideals of nation and people? Sometimes the beauty of life is in the questions and not the answers; I say that with a certain kind of hopeful certainty, I hope it is true.  For despite our absolute lack of faith in our leaders and our political system and the bureaucracy of organizations we must work earnestly towards the achievement of a better country for all of us.   The truth is I have no answers, but I hope that the questions are so wonderfully thought of and articulated that they become their own answers.

I dont know when the beautyful ones will be born, I hope they have been born already, I hope they were born and because we were not paying attention we did not notice. I am interested in finding out, to going beyond the veil of cynicism and sarcasm that keeps us at bay and ask our young people some different kinds of questions, the answer must rest with them.  In the novel the things that are untouched by the filth of corruption in Ghana are those things that came from the sky like sunlight and rain.   The author made it clear that escaping corruption is an impossibility, I hope our young people are taking note of the pickle we find ourselves in as a nation and a people. I hope they thin they can fix it.

 

 

 

 

Louis, me and that Yambelt Discussion

For the last couple days my memories of Louis Lindsay have taken over my head.   I have been unable to forget our conversations and some of them refuse to give me space so much so that I have no choice but to write this.  Thursday was Louis’ funeral, I cried some and laughed some and thought a lot about who I was when I was his student.  I really liked myself then, I wasn’t particularly young at the time, I think I was at the right age to appreciate the conversations.  I think I was also searching for a lesson perhaps a teacher, perhaps the teacher did appear but I was not altogether ready.  One thing I know though, Louis’ brilliance was not lost on me, I knew who he was and I knew  that for him teaching was a mission.

One day I was walking from the library to the Department of Government.  I was on the walkway when I saw Louis, it was one of those rare occasions when you got to meet him outside of his office.  I think it was about the time when UWI Mona was celebrating  Founders Day.  I think Edward Baugh was being honoured and  the late Prof. Barry Chevannes had read a tribute to Baugh, paying tribute to his legacy and the UWI Mona which gave birth to a student like Baugh.  So I had visions of the Mona moon and poui trees in my head as I walked across the campus and most have been quite inspired when I met Louis.  He asked me how I was and I said in my usual fashion ‘not too bad’, he stopped and asked my what happen to me and I said nothing, I am good.  So he said “so why when a asked you, how yuh do yuh say not too bad.”  I was somewhat taken aback by the follow up question and where the argument was going.   That day Louis was at his best and there followed a detailed treatise,  a ‘taking a part’  of my answer, an ontological analysis of ‘me not too bad’.  What he described as ‘a typical working class response.’   he expounded on the philosophical peculiarities of the  Jamaican working class, their beliefs and practices, for example he observed that they never tell you they are good, because to say you are good has so much implications.  He spoke about their fear of being disappointed and their unwillingness   to appear boastful and perhaps also he said it came from being on plantations where your every emotion and mood were so heavily  policed that you had to hide the truth of your  feelings.

In one of our classes Louis had described us as the intellectual elite.  I remember my flat refusal of the new class status or description.  I told him then that it was not okay to me that my mother and father and myself were not in the same social class.  Louis’s politics was one of identity and location and so we were always being challenged about our class assumptions, our political socialization and our personal identities.  I remember my statement was something like “Maas Rupie, Miss U and myself are from the same class, the people who farmed  and sold yam and potato to send me to school  must benefit from any upward social mobility that I experience as a result of the status I hold, if not I refuse to describe myself as anything else than a child of the working class”.  My heart boiled at the notion that any class identity would separate me from my parents.  I was deeply affected by that idea, somehow I felt sad and dejected at the thought that my education was somehow removing me from the truth of my upbringing.  I decided then and there that I would resist any attempt to reassign my class identity.   But Louis’ thesis was deliberate, he knew that like so many others, I might be tempted to stray from my roots and betray the working class people who sacrificed to send me to school.

When we met that day on the walkway between the Library and the Department of Government, Louis was remembering my commitment to stay true to my working class roots.  But I have no doubt that he was thinking that he needed to help me to think through both the  good  and the bad  of claiming working class status.   That in my commitment to stay  true to my origins I needed to understand somewhat more critically the situation of the working class and in particular the rural poor.  I remember his introduction of the concept ‘learned helplessness’ and our discussion then turned to how the intellectual elite by way of the political class, have undermined and continue to undermine the liberation project.  What I remember most strikingly was how he remembered my parents name and how he remembered to include my brothers who were farm workers in New York and Florida in the analysis.   So when he spoke about ‘Maas Rupie and Miss U’ I knew then that he had spent time processing how he would engage me  and that this conversation was not a chance one, the encounter might be a good ‘buck up’ as he eventually said, but the conversation was a carefully engineered one.   The lesson for me that day, was that perhaps the working class made themselves too vulnerable, through religion, through too much trust in the value of an English education, too willing to accept the community boy or girl who went off to university, but in fact had been transformed into the good ‘Afro Saxon.’

Louis had already welcomed me to that community of ‘yam belt’ people, our other connection being that we were both from ‘Moravian free villages’, him Bohemia, myself Kilmarnock.  Born to families tied to the land, a commitment to hard work and the saving grace of God.  As I reflect on this lesson, I cannot help but marvel at the ways I learnt as a student of Louis Lindsay, just how profound the lessons were, but that he knew how to engage in transformative conversations, I think despite his cynicism about the institutional arrangements we were trying to beat into some sort of recognizable order, he believed that if we could just figure it out, if we just refused to be blinded by the fear that we were not good enough, that we did not have our own answers we would succeed.

So Louis how am I?  I am good and I am getting better.  I am owning the legacy, I understand its shortcomings and I also know that I must challenge parts of the identity us working class people have taken on to ourselves.  I am trying hard not be a ‘good Afro Saxon’ because, Louis I am a girl from Kilmarnock, the yam belt, Moravian Free Village, Miss U and Mass Rupie second to last pickney.

On Becoming a Gender Advocate in Jamaica

Perhaps this happens all over the world.  Perhaps the situation I find myself in here in Jamaica is not unique, but I believe it is still worth a conversation.  More than a decade ago, I noticed that one’s gender mattered, I noticed that being a man or being a woman, mattered in more ways than the assignment of chores from my childhood days.  It came home forcefully to me when I became a student at UWI Mona.  Even then I had no context to locate action and so my activism as a student was more centred on Afro-Centrism, Garveyism and and the idea of the African Renaissance.   I remember when I began investigating the issue of gender and the experience of the Caribbean woman a friend of mine from the Garvey Movement told me to leave that alone because the ‘oman ting likely fi do more harm than good to the struggles against racism and discrimination.’  I was taken aback by the comment but I never investigated further I left it alone.

When I began my work at Mary Seacole Hall, I could not escape ‘di oman ting’ the need for me to incorporate a feminist/womanist agenda in my work screamed at me at every turn and in the first two years I was hesitant to fully embrace the idea.  I was very much afraid of being labelled a ‘feminist’.  As I began to do my work, to speak up for the young women I was asked to care for and lead at Mary Seacole Hall, I began to recognize that I would be labelled a ‘feminist’ this was and still is not a nice label at UWI.   I have found that the easiest way to silence a woman here and make her work and impact irrelevant is to label her a feminist, the moment this is done she becomes ‘sidelinable’, she is sold as being unreasonable, she ‘has an agenda’ and she has ‘an attitude problem.’  So I am now all of those, I am in many ways an ‘untouchable’ and not in a good way.  Being a feminist means that you can only lead women, you cannot lead men, so the only role available for you is to head an all woman space. I have seen that so many times here, when a woman speaks about discrimination or unequal access to opportunity, send her to the place where they talk about women and be done with it.

This is dangerous in so many ways, firstly women are not the only ones who should speak against gender inequality.  Men have to also speak out against inequality and discrimination.  Secondly, in order for us to make progress towards gender equality men and women have to recognize that women asking for an equal share of the pie does not mean that men are going to now become recipients of women’s discrimination.  Asking for a seat at the table, does not mean you have to get up, I see the need for a bigger table or more seats, but it could also mean ‘you small up yuhself’ so I can sit beside you.  I like the idea of men ‘smalling up’ themselves at the table to allow women to be present, because I have found that unless men do the necessary work, unless they learn to compromise, to speak less and for so long, women will never get the opportunity to sit at the table much more speak.

Women will have to do work too, women have agency, they too have power over the process. I have worked with three women principals, three male directors, two female directors.  Some women are not good leaders, that is okay, because women should be allowed  to be fully humans and human beings make mistakes.  I know that women and men lead differently, women tend to get up front and personal and men tend to lead from a distance. When a woman comes to leadership and she is not fully owning who she is and her power she can be devastating. I have endured that with a powerful woman as my director, she was so unaware of the power she wielded,  her insecurities were devastating.  She needed to be validated every hour of the day and saw any disagreement with her views and perspectives as a signal to war.  At the same time I had one male director who had no clue what he wanted to do, he just felt that he could devolve his responsibilities to the women, his incompetence was glaring.   Women benefit as well when a man is in leadership who does not know his job this scenario can be  as devastating because then leadership is practised in cognito.

Organizations always operate with a gendered sub-text, those who insist that it is non-existent or that it is not important, are either ignorant or they prefer to ignore the elephant in the room.

 

Post Election Blues

Its the day after elections in Jamaica. The results are in and the conversations on social media, in offices with friends and family on whats app seem to all revolve around what could have caused the PNP, the ruling party, to lose the elections.  We now know that the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) will form the next government, but the shock of a PNP loss has caused a lot of people to question the strategy and process that both parties engaged in as they attempted to unseat the PNP and relocate them to the opposition benches in Gordon House.  Firstly, I must say that the question is hardly what did the JLP do right? How did they get to defeat the PNP? It almost always is what did the PNP do wrong.  The trouble with this question is that it assumes that the PNP has an a priori right to win elections and form successive governments.  It also does not allow for a  thorough investigation into the reasons for the win with the same level of intensity as the reasons for the loss.  In my estimation it diminishes the quality of the dialogue which we engage as we seek to interrogate voter behaviour  towards finding an answer.  Some of us will need to identify the trends and suggest possible answers outside of proposing that election day results are almost  entirely dependent on who gets their voters out.  While I agree that this is pivotal, it assumes that the voter lacks agency.

I propose that the JLP win/PNP loss cannot be blamed on one factor, a number of other issues were at play.  Firstly, the PNP’s dialogue was confident of a PNP victory, bolstered by the polls which also predicted a win.  I believe that this narrative impacted the behaviour of those who would traditionally vote PNP as they felt that since a victory was secure they might not need to come out and vote.  PNP like JLP ‘diehards’ are hardly likely to switch party loyalties, if they are dissatisfied with  policies and strategies of their party they will not vote.  Despite attempts to take them to polling stations they stayed away from the polls, despite the machinery on the ground, despite assurances that it is the party with the better machinery for getting out the voter that will win, the PNP, believed to be that party, did not win.

 

In 2011 JLP supporters did the same thing, they chose to stay away from  polling stations, they did not vote and the JLP suffered a searing defeat.  They had only served for one term.   So now we know that the Jamaican voter might be a little more sophisticated than we had projected.  Perhaps the political behaviour is more complex, those who we label as ‘loyalists’ and ‘diehards’ are finding voice in non-traditional ways.   It might very well be that this defeat by the JLP provides the motivation for the PNP to move away from their insistence that they have the best election machinery this side of the hemisphere and spend some time on re-engaging around the core principles and philosophies of their party.

But this explanation would not apply in the case of the JLP, who must remember that this same set of voters who came out to vote and put them back in control of the government, had stayed away the last time.   They turned up this time because they have expectations of the JLP.  Unmet expectations can be lethal and for this reason I hope the JLP understand’s that if they are not careful they could become the first party voted out of office after one term twice. Some Jamaicans are finally recognizing the power of the vote, as one gentleman said to me ‘the vote is di ongle ting we have, an dem feel like we a idiot so we goin to show dem we power”

 

 

 

The Social Justice Ten

So a question people tend to ask me often when they hear me declare my intention to vote, if of course who are you going to vote for.  That would be easy to understand if I voted along family lines, but I don’t.  I am the voter who loses all sense of what else is happening around her, who wants to catch each new item, each breaking story and who engages everyone she meets in conversations about the latest political hot topic.  Exhausting, so for this election my friend Latoya Nugent and myself have been bitten by the same bug, we want to delve some more into the political history and culture, into the voting behaviour and into the manifesto.  Having done that we still had not come up with a formula to figure out who to vote for.  But then after all we hit it, we came up with a plan, it was pretty simple, there were no bells and whistles, it was more like an off the cuff statement someone made and one of us said ‘rhatid a true, which one a di party dem have the team that will advance the issues we care bout’ simple, a formula was arrived at and we tried to use it in different ways.

The issues

  1. Social justice – so we agreed on social justice kinds of issues as being critical to what we do as women who advocate for and advance the sexual and reproductive rights of women.
  2. Economic  empowerment of women and youth
  3. Political and civil rights of young men in particular

 

The strategy

This was pretty simple, we decided to identify the politicians  contesting the 2016 elections and to examine their posture in the past on issues of women’s and girls rights, LGBT rights and human rights more generally.  We arrived at a list after studied and careful consideration.  Having engaged at different levels and to different degrees we are of the opinion that these  politicians  will be more conscious of social justice issues and will be more likely to support those of us who advance agendas  of justice and change.

  1. Floyd Green
  2. Patricia Duncan Sutherland
  3. Imani Duncan Price
  4. Peter Bunting
  5. Alando Terrelonge
  6. Dayton Campbell
  7. Horace Dalley *
  8. Julian Robinson
  9. Ronald Thwaites *
  10. Lisa Hanna*

1.Floyd Green is likeable and he is easy to talk to.  He is not arrogant and will listen, we have a good feeling about him.

2. Patricia Duncan Sutherland – Authentic and sincere.  She comes across as a woman who loves people and who holds herself accountable.  She feels trustworthy.

3. Imani Duncan Price – One of two women who championed the rights of women while serving as Senators, Kamina Johnson Smith is the other woman.  But Imani has roots in the women’s movement, she has done work and I am sure she will make a difference.

4.  Peter Bunting – seemed too arrogant at the start of his tenure as a Member of Parliament.  But he has found his ‘Achilles Heel’ and so he has stepped it down several notches and is now more willing to learn and ask for help and be engaged.

5. Alando Terrelonge – describes himself  as the champion of lost causes, he sounds like he gets it.  I hope he does get it.

6. Dayton Campbell – Very accessible and a hard worker, he is quite a representative, his loyalty to his constituency must be commended.

7. Horace Dalley – Horace seem like a reasonable man and he is well liked but he needs to do some work in examining his own perspectives on gender and on women in particular.

8. Julian Robinson – Everybody’s favourite politician, he gets it.

9. Ronald Thwaites – my friends of We Change are very proud of Mr. Thwaites they think he has gone through a most dramatic shift and are confident that he has had a ‘balm in Gilead’ moment.  But there are no complaints his new rhetoric speaks volumes to his personal growth.

10. Lisa Hanna – number 10 on the list for a reason.  She is good at being inclusive, but could listen more.

 

The Social justice ten.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Calling It For The Women

So I am about ready to declare some of the seats in this election.  I am particularly focused on the seats being contested by women.  Both the PNP and the JLP have fielded candidates in this 2016 general elections, the NDM has not fielded a full slate of candidates but they have put forward one woman and from assessing the names of the other candidates outside of the NDM it would appear that there is one other woman.     The PNP has 13 women in their slate of candidates, while the JLP has put forward eleven(11) women as candidates.

Getting more women on the ballot has been the focus of a number of women throughout Jamaica.  The formation of the 51% Coalition just over four years ago, following the National Policy of Gender Equality (NPGE) established a focus of the need for greater attention to be paid to the candidate selection process and the numbers of women who run and who subsequently make it to the House of Representatives.  As a member of the 51% Coalition I participated in conversations, workshops, teach ins, seminars, lectures, debates and street side chats with just about everyone who would listen, on the need for more women in representative politics.  Parity is the minimum goal for those of us who advocate for more women in representational politics.  Truth is we expect that women should do things differently, at the very minimum to impact decision making processes such that social justice kinds of issues are integrated into the governance considerations of the leaders in Parliament.  Whether or not this is so for every woman is highly debatable, in fact one of the discussions that we continue to revisit in the women’s sector is the kind of woman who really represents in such a way that these issues become a part of her agenda.  So while we examine the numbers, there is also a greater need to examine the substance of the women we elect and to ask will she really deliver on the expectations of those who advocate for greater numbers of women in the hope that women will have a positive impact on our governance arrangements.      There is agreement that at least 30% of the seats in Parliament should be occupied by women for one to see the impact women can have on decision making.

In this election some women will win and some will lose, so far it looks like their will be more PNP than JLP women who will sit as members of parliament in the House.  For the PNP St. Andrew South Western; being contested by Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller;  St. Ann South Eastern where we find Lisa Hanna, St. Catherine Eastern with Denise Daley and St. Catherine North Central, with Natalie Neita Headley  are sure wins.  Clarendon South Eastern is an interesting one, Patricia Duncan Sutherland, is putting up a spirited fight against Rudyard Spence, the incumbent.  I am going to call it for Patricia; there is a feeling that she has covered enough ground to take it from Ruddy, furthermore if one looks at the voting trends over the last three elections it is clear that support for Ruddy has been trending down, clearly he has not been doing the work.   Three seats look uncertain but the women in these seats are fighting and look intent to take it home for the PNP, I just cannot call them yet.  In any case two of those seats are being contested by two women, one from each major party, so whichever party wins a woman will occupy the seat.

Imani Duncan Price in St. Andrew East Rural and Sharon Folkes Abrahams in St. James West Central, are both contesting strong women from the JLP, in any case a woman will win and so improve the numbers, but the details of this fight are also interesting.  Imani Duncan Price is a firebrand with a family history that spells ‘political dynasty’, she is smart and easy to like but somehow this is not being translated into support for her particular kind of representation in her constituency and her opponent Juliet Holness is being tipped to win the constituency.  Word is that Juliet comes across as being more ‘accessible’ to the typical voter, like Imani she is represented as likeable and though her family connections are different from Imani’s herself and her husband, Andrew Holness,  are certainly trending in the ‘famous families in Jamaican politics’  category.  But Imani’s father is a political strategist who is not contesting the election, this seat will be decided on the day I suspect, it will go to who have the stronger ground force.  Sharon Folkes Abrahams is the incumbent in St. James West Central, she is facing Marlene Malahoo Forte; these are two accomplished women with experience in the law.  For me the issue here is the power of female incumbency, can Marlene successfully challenge Sharon? I don’t know, I am going to wait until later, but in any case this seat will increase the numbers of women in the House of Parliament.  Ashley Ann Foster is a ‘newbie’ in St. James Central, her male  opponent is too, and the seat is a new one, came into being in the 2011 elections, she has already challenged one male,  and won, Lloyd B. Smith is after all no longer  on the PNP ticket; Ashley Ann Foster is one to watch.

Fayval Williams is challenging Andre Hylton most convincingly in St. Andrew Eastern.  And the safe seats with Olivia ‘Babsy’ Grange in St. Catherine Central, Shahini  Robinson in St. Ann North Eastern and Marisa Dalrimple Philibert in Southern Trelawny are set to retake their seats as Members of Parliament. At the very least I expect the JLP to have four women on their side when they take their seats in Gordon House. This is not to say they might not have more, things are looking quite well for Juliet Holness in St. Andrew East Rural and her namesake, former Olympian Juliet Cuthbert Flynn is putting up a convincing fight in St. Andrew West Rural, and of course Marlene Malahoo Forte is a serious contender.  So there are three too close to call ones for the JLP.   Though, I suspect that Juliet Cuthbert will emerge victor.

It looks as if we might have a maximum of twelve women as members of parliament eleven at the least.  This would mean an almost 40% increase in the number of women over the last term,   but would actually be only 17% of the total number of seats.  We still have far to go to parity, equality in respect of numbers and the matter of substantive representation might even be more problematic.    But if we are to change the numbers there are some points to consider; women need to be in a constituency at least two years before an election is called, in their caretaker role they can build the kind of social and political capital that will see them being serious contenders   for even the most hard to win and ‘garrisonized’ seats.  Patricia Duncan Sutherland’s challenge to Rudyard Spencer, a stalwart in the JLP, is a resounding and serious one, she has been in the constituency working on the ground and connecting with the people, putting in the necessary work.   Women need to contest winnable seats; the tradition of garrisons in some constituencies makes it impossible for challengers to win regardless of their gender.  For this reason placing a woman to contest an election in Clarendon Central, St. Andrew North Central and perhaps St. Thomas West can’t be seen as a serious attempt at changing the numbers; women need to be placed in winnable seats.  Other factors which might influence women’s ability to be viable are the number of new voters on the list, the strength of the candidate herself and in particular her access to money, organizational support from the party, especially from the top tiered leadership and social media visibility.

So I am going to wait and see what happens.