I recently read an article on the anti-EPA movement in the Caribbean which got me thinking about the future of feminist activism in the region.
Economic partnership agreements or EPA’s ushered in a new trading arrangement between the European Union and CARIFORUM which saw an end to preferential access to European markets for Caribbean goods and an end to the principle of non-reciprocity in trade between the EU and the region. While some tout the opportunities for Caribbean service providers to access European markets, other point to the negative fallout for the Caribbean’s small, open vulnerable economies in such a lop-sided playing field.
The author explored the EPA-movement which sprung up right around the time when Caribbean governments had more or less agreed to sign the EPA. In a sense, this was too little too late.
In seeking to explain why there was so little sustained activism against the EPAs the writer turned to the decline of left politics in the region and the emergence of feminist and environmentalists movements. As far as he was concerned Caribbean feminists did not/do not concern themselves with the kinds of issues thrown up by the EPA. Of course this view ignores the ways in which Caribbean women have been offering trenchant analyses of Caribbean economic policies. In also ignores the fact that by the time negotiations for the EPAs began, Caribbean feminist themselves had been lamenting the decline of the feminist movement in the region.
It raises the question, though of what is the future of Caribbean activism. And what is the role of Caribbean feminism therein. It seems that if we want a movement we have to build it. Simple. It’s work to be done, unpaid work, but work worth doing. We can’t think of movements in terms of organisations. We need to think in terms of coalitions which spring up around a particular issue and to achieve a particular goal. This of course sounds limiting but perhaps is more practical than dreaming of some return to the heady 60s and 70s. Those days aren’t coming back. And some of us quite frankly have no memories of those days on which to draw.
Coalition also means that you cannot allow your own small-mindedness to exclude any actors outright. I want to be part of a Caribbean feminist movement that has just as much to say about intimate partner violence as it has to say about Caribbean trade agreements. And I dream that those who define themselves as being part of the Caribbean’s now defunct radical left would recognise that the so-called women’s issues are everyone’s issues, just as the economic issues are, of course, women’s issues too.
Time to bury the old divides that we can no longer afford to sustain.