Open letter to Senator St. Rose Greaves


AN OPEN LETTER TO:

Senator the Honourable Verna St. Rose Greaves
Ministry of Gender, Youth and Child Development

Dear Senator St. Rose Greaves,
We are the CatchAFyah Caribbean Feminist Network and we are a collective of young, passionate Caribbean activists and organisations. We span the Caribbean, representing such nations as Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, the Bahamas, Belize, Grenada, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia and St. Vincent and the Grenadines. We are farmers, social workers, artists, social entrepreneurs, counsellors, researchers, teachers and students. We work for social and economic justice and empowerment, particularly gender equity and women’s rights. We stand against discrimination of any kind, including discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

We are therefore pleased at your public show of support for the sexual and reproductive health and rights of women and the rights of the LGBTQ community. We recognise the tremendous courage it takes to speak publicly on issues that are controversial and that people would rather ignore. In speaking openly, you have demonstrated true leadership and a commitment to the rights of marginalised groups that far outweigh any potential opposition.

In addition, we join you in condemning the lack of adequate response to all forms of child abuse and in particular the sexual abuse of Caribbean girls and boys. We lend our collective voices to breaking the silence on this issue and we pledge to work in our communities, nationally and regionally to ensure that Caribbean children’s right to life free of abuse is made reality. This is on-going work to which we commit ourselves, in partnership with progressive political leadership in the region.

As you move forward in your social justice work, know that you are not alone. We stand in solidarity with you and we laud your courage and conviction. Always remain cognizant that your words and actions tangibly impact the lives of many Caribbean citizens. Although naysayers and detractors sometimes appear the loudest and most visible, remember that we are listening and we support you. We look forward to your continued action and leadership on these very important issues.

Yours gratefully,

CatchAFyah Caribbean Feminist Network
www.about.me/CatchAFyah
CatchAFyahNetwork [at] gmail [dot] com

Tonya Haynes (Barbados)
CODE RED for gender justice!
redforgender [at] gmail [dot] com

Sherlina Nageer (Guyana)
Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination
Red Thread
ssnageer[at] yahoo [dot] com

Patrice Daniel (Barbados)

Rashida Beckles (Barbados)

KizzyAnn Abraham (Grenada)
Grenada National Organization of Women

Kenita Placide (St. Lucia)
United and Strong Inc.
unitedandstrongslu[at] yahoo [dot] com

Zahra Jacobs (St. Kitts & Nevis, Trinidad & Tobago)
Addfyahandstir

Asha Challenger (Antigua & Barbuda)
Addfyahandstir

Malaika Brooks-Smith-Lowe (Grenada)
Groundation Grenada Action Collective
Groundationgrenada[at] gmail [dot] com

Tracey-Ann Lewis (Jamaica)
Women for Women
womenforwomen1999[at] gmail [dot] com

Amina Doherty (Antigua & Barbuda)
FRIDA Young Feminist Fund

Georgia Love (Jamaica)
BeCon

Satira Maharaj (Trinidad & Tobago)

Fatimah Jackson (Barbados & Canada)

Zahra Airall (Antigua & Barbuda)
Women of Antigua

Valerie Chadic (Haiti)

Sanyu Phillips (St. Vincent and the Grenadines)

Tara Wilkinson (Barbados)
CODE RED for Gender Justice!
redforgender[at] gmail [dot] com

Ifasina Efunyemi (Belize)
ifasina@[at] gmail [dot] com
Productive Organization for Women in Action (POWA)
powa2grow[at] gmail [dot] com

Flavia Cherry

CAFRA St. Lucia

Women’s Health Advocacy Network (Barbados)

Jamaica Youth Advocacy Network

Paula Fraser (Guyana)
SASOD

Warren Chanansingh (Trinidad and Tobago)
warren.chanansingh@hotmail.com
The Silver Lining Foundation, Project Coordinator

Vidyaratha Kissoon (Guyana)
vidyak1@gmail.com

Michelle Bobala
York University, Canada
Red Thread, Guyana

Samaria Deonauth (Guyana)

Jacqueline Bevilaqua (Trinidad and Tobago)

Stella Ramsaroop (Guyana)
S4 Foundation
stellasays@gmail.com

Vanda Radzik (Guyana)

Danuta Radzik
Help & Shelter

Josephine Whitehead (Guyana)
Help & Shelter

Tishika France (Guyana)

Brandon Nicholas Kalyan (Republic of Trinidad & Tobago)
FreePride Foundation Project
mail@freepride.org

You too can sign on to this open letter by leaving your name in the comments!

Sign up with the CatchAFyah Caribbean Feminist Network here.

#CatchAFyah: The Virtual Experience in Words & Images

CatchAFyah brought together 24 young/ish women from the English-speakin Caribbean and Haiti for a 2-day grounding in Barbados. We come from women’s, feminist, youth and LGBTQ organisations in the region. We are farmers, medical doctors, students, teachers, artists, activists, mothers, sisters, friends, psychologists, counselors, social workers, writers, reseachers, engineers, dancers, yoga instructors, social entrepreneurs.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Visit the links below to experience CatchAFyah in words and images.

The Coming Together of the Caribbean’s Future Feminists

Catchin’ Fyah Within: Reflecting on the Poetics of fyHER, powHER and Love

Bittersweet Fyah ~ A Reflection

catching fyah to add fyah or adding fyah to catch fyah?

Quick Reflections from the CatchAFyah Grounding 

Bittersweet Reflections from another #CatchAFyah participant

Excerpt from: Bittersweet Fyah ~ A Reflection

However, if this most recent trip to Barbados (almost 20 years later) has reinforced anything in my mind, it is that I am powerful beyond measure and that where I fall short there are many opportunities for collective support. So, the knowledge that many of my new sisters are taking to their keyboards to share their reflections of this past few days, gives me the backative to attempt to put words to some of my thoughts on #CatchAFyah.

I was honored to be selected to join the first ever Catch A Fyah grounding of young Caribbean feminists hosted by CODE RED a collective for gender justice. A special thank must go out to Tonya H. the main coordinator. It ended three days ago and I still don’t know how to begin to process all that came of out it. It felt almost cruel to bring together such incredible women from across the region for just two days. But of course funding is not infinite and despite its brevity it was rich rich rich. In fact, one of the most powerful reminders I walked away with, thanks to my new sister Amina D ( co-ordinator of FRIDA young feminist fund) was that money is not our only resource. This gathering was not a meeting, it was not a conference, it was a truly collective action in and of itself. We were the grounding, we facilitated, documented and shared knowledge. It made my whole being sing to have the honor of guiding us through a yoga practice. The whole gathering was non-hierarchical and full of love.

Click here to continue reading.

Catchin’ Fyah Within: Reflecting on the Poetics of fyHER, powHER and Love

I am inspired to share my learning with those who could not be there physically. This is my attempt to put pen to paper and share my experiences and thoughts of the first EVER Caribbean young feminist grounding held in Barbados last week. From Port Au Prince to Castries, Trinidad to Belize, St. Vincent to Jamaica to Guyana to Antigua we were there to ‘Catch A Fyah’ .

As I sat there with these womyn I realized that there is something deeply powerful, deeply transformative, and deeply beautiful about sitting together in community with groups of womyn in order to learn, grow and “become” together. In what previously I have simply understood to be an un-nameable feminist energy, I now term siSTAR fyHER powHER! And it was in this intimate gathering of sisters that I experienced this fyHER powHER, this deep feeling that marked the shifting sands of an emotional tide. Recognizing that in spite of our many differences we came together to this space searching, dreaming, desiring to be ‘held’ – physically, intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually. We came searching for a space to be honest with ourselves about who we were and what we stood for, and found that in the company of strangers we saw reflections of the best parts of who we were. We came searching for politics and solidarity in our feminist struggles and found political sisterhood drenched in love.

Click here to continue reading.

Quick Reflections from the CatchAFyah Grounding

We’ll be posting a much more serious and sober report later but here are some quick reflections from a few of the Catch a Fire participants.

On Transformation

Day 1 of our Caribbean Feminist Grounding was really (personally) transformative. Something Shifted. Something Changed. And maybe I just needed y’all to remind me *why* and to think together (creatively) through the *how’s*. Thank you sisters for re-igniting the flame! Sistrens, how we ah go mek dis movement move??!?!

On Community

I often wish I lived on a deserted island far away from people. But now, I want to live in a commune with the amazing, fiery, beautiful women of Caribbean Feminists CatchAFyah! So I’m just going to think of the Caribbean as my commune ;P Two quotes from Audre Lorde are resonating as I reflect and return to the work: “Without community there is no liberation, only the most vulnerable and temporary armistice between an individual and her oppression.” Also- “Revolution is not a one-time event. It is becoming always vigilant for the smallest opportunity to make a genuine change.” We are stronger, more effective together. 1 ♥

On Sisterhood Across Difference

Someone asked me what the other ladies at Catch A Fire were like. I said they were like me! Even though we are certainly very unique individuals, it was great to feel that sisterhood among us. And somewhere within ourselves, we are all feminists who have caught a fyah…

On Privilege

Though not necessarily individually, we were a privileged group. We were funded, had a comfortable meeting space (that was not wheelchair accessible) and among us were many a university degree. That in itself is a disconnect from large numbers of women and men our work seeks support and empower. Even those words, support and empower are problematic… Though raised, the challenge remains, how do we make it different for our next meeting? For our next project(s)? For our work? Class privilege is unwieldy dammit!

I have been in many queer positive spaces in my life. Both in the Caribbean and in North America. This was yet another one of them which was lovely. I have enjoyed straight privilege most of my life however I am mostly read as queer outside of being in a relationship with men. Many womyn in the group identified as lgbtqi and spoke to their experience. However very few (myself included) spoke to their experience of straightness. I greatly appreciated a post my another member who spoke to this silence post-meeting which so beautifully encapsulated how I feel about my own sexuality which makes me simultaneously shy away from labeling myself (b/c it’s so much more complex than any label but also want to identify/name) and speak to the privilege of straightness. (via Add Fyah And Stir. read entire post here.)

On Inspiration

This was [an] amazing 3 days. The insights, spirits, comments and inspiration to go on is willed. The time is now, the opportunity is here. … i just cant stop talking about next step. A fyah was certainly caught in Barbados. GET F’ED UP!!!!!
Thank you SISTAS

On Inter-generational & South-South Learning

The selection of participants I believe indeed contributed greatly to the grounding. The fact that participants presented on issues and assisted with managing the group over the two days. Having Dr. Antrobus and other invited guest from DAWN and Red Thread was also inspiring and added motivation as to why my involvement was one to be proud of.

On Safe Spaces

I loved the women that attended. All so powerful, interesting, and inspiring. The opportunity and space to meet like-minded persons with an interest in changing the status quo. I also deeply appreciated the safeness of the space, I love that women could be open and honest about who they are and without fear. And the food was amazing!


On the relevance of feminism

Because we have come so far, it makes it difficult to go further.

I feel fortunate as a woman to have been born in Barbados, and live in middle-class Barbados. I have had the experience of being a Black woman in a white, North-American community and the oppression and marginalisation was so much more tangible in the latter space. Actually *feeling* marginalised made me angry, upset and inspired to fight back.

I think the privileges that some Barbadian women enjoy, especially compared to most women in the rest of the world, are both a blessing and a curse. Tremendous strides have been made for women in Barbados such that the average woman does not necessarily *feel* oppressed nor can they easily identify experiences as oppressive ones. Abortions are legal and easy to obtain. Contraception is available, affordable and generally accessible. Women outnumber men in educational spaces. I have no expectations of encountering a male when I go to visit a doctor, lawyer, accountant or other professional. As much as I loved the video, “Woman Must Cook, Wash and Mash”, it does not, in its entirety, map directly onto the reality of many of the women I know.

Sexism most definitely exists here; I would never assert that it does not. For starters, leadership positions are disproportionately occupied by men, gender-based violence is alive and well, gender-role expectations persists , sexual violence and exploitation remains and objectification via our local music and party-scene is rampant. There is also variation along socio-economic and class lines since poorer women have a far more tangible experience of marginalisation.

But because so much progress has already been made, the average Barbadian woman who is not used to unpacking the various forms of power and privilege, could (quite understandably) be surprised at a local activism for women’s rights.

I feel like I am agitating more for a shift in people’s thinking. This is far more difficult since the reality of oppression and sexism here sometimes manifests itself in such subtle ways. It is difficult to get people enraged about subtle, or even notice it. So those are the thoughts that have dominated my mind since the grounding. In a space where there has already been much reform, it’s hard to articulate to others exactly what I’m fighting for.