Open letter to Senator St. Rose Greaves


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
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)

Asha Challenger (Antigua & Barbuda)

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)

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)

Warren Chanansingh (Trinidad and Tobago)
The Silver Lining Foundation, Project Coordinator

Vidyaratha Kissoon (Guyana)

Michelle Bobala
York University, Canada
Red Thread, Guyana

Samaria Deonauth (Guyana)

Jacqueline Bevilaqua (Trinidad and Tobago)

Stella Ramsaroop (Guyana)
S4 Foundation

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

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.

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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.

Reflections on the 2012 AWID Forum

I can say

I can write no poem big enough

to hold the essence

of a black woman

of a white woman

of a green woman

—Grace Nichols

I arrived at the 2012 AWID Forum utterly and completely exhausted after having successfully defended my PhD thesis they day before I hopped on the plane that would take me to London en route to Istanbul.Image

There’s not one big country called “The Islands”

And no, I’m not from there.

—Staceyann Chin

Caribbean Sistas@AWID

The AWID forum with its 2500 of delegates and multiple simultaneous sessions is dizzying, to say the least.  It is the largest global meeting of women outside of the UN.  I felt both privileged and honoured to be among the delegates and to have had my participation sponsored by AWID itself, thanks to the efforts of Amina Doherty, Coordinator of the FRIDA Young Feminist Fund, Jamaican Mariama Williams, a member of the International Planning Committee and Peggy Antrobus who had been instrumental in ensuring a Caribbean presence at AWID previously. At the forum I learnt that Caribbean delegates made up 1% of all attendees.  I became even more aware of the privilege of being there.

Small Feminist World. Too Small…

I saw some familiar faces and reunited with old friends from across the Global South. I became acutely aware of just how small this circle of global feminist activists is even at a conference that is the largest of its kind.  I am still personally grappling with how small this circle is, how elitist it often seems and how though in many, many ways inclusive it still remains exclusionary. I have made a personal commitment to ensuring that the spaces I am a part of are welcoming and inclusive.  This is ongoing, collective work that requires a willingness to confront one’s own privilege and comfort zones.  It requires constant reflection, asking uncomfortable political questions and the courage to face the difficult answers.

ImageKrik? Krak!

I was extremely excited about our breakout session: Krik? Krak! Dem Cyant Brek We back: Narratives of Challenge and Change from the Caribbean.  In our dynamic and lively session we touched on a range of issues: sexual citizenship, economic empowerment, safety and security, domestic workers rights, funding for feminism in the region, social media and movement building.  As soon as we got to our designated room we immediately pulled it apart to create a more intimate Caribbean-style feel in keeping with the story-telling format of our session.  During our presentation we ran images of feminist organising across the region, particularly the work of a younger generation of feminists, interspersed with Caribbean women’s poetry.

Krik? Krak! brought together a small but dynamic team of Caribbean activists: LGBT rights activist Kenita Placide of United and Strong, St. Lucia, Carla Walcott of the National Union of Domestic Employees of Trinidad and Tobago, economist Marsha Caddle of the Women’s Health Action Network of Barbados, social entrepreneur Georgia Love of Jamaica, Amina Doherty of FRIDA and yours truly from CODE RED with Mariama Williams as Chair. Our audience included many of the Caribbean sisters present at the forum including Deputy Principal of the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus and recipient of the CARICOM triennial Award for Women Professor Eudine Barriteau.  Her presence there was perfectly fitting as she had introduced the MPhil/PhD programme at the Institute for Gender and Development Studies: Nita Barrow Unit in 2007.  Students of this programme would go on to found CODE RED, demonstrating the importance of the IGDS to the development of the political consciousness of a new generation of Caribbean feminists. FRIDA grantees from Mary Seacole Hall’s I’m Glad I’m a Girl Summer Camp in Jamaica were also present.


I left our session on a high, brainstorming for next time.  I envisioned a multi-lingual Caribbean feminist village complete with panels on all the issues facing the region, a space for poetry, performances and art as well as a marketplace.

I was also reminded of the purpose of our collective presence there: to use the AWID forum to foster regional feminist mobilisation. It is very easy to go home from the AWID forum fall into our work routines and struggle to find the time and resources to work regionally.  Luckily for us a follow-up activity was already in the works.   Catch A Fire: New Generation Caribbean Feminist Grounding grew out of conversations between me and activist Sherlina Nageer of Red Thread, the Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination and Sunshine Organic Snacks of Guyana.  We were interested in new approaches to organising and to working for real change in our communities.  Funding from Development Alternatives with Women for a New Era as part of their Cairo@20 advocacy made the meeting possible.

An long before Oman Lib bruck out

Over foreign lan

Jamaica female wasa work

Her liberated plan!

—- Louise Bennett

Feminist Fyah Across the Region!

Catch A Fire will bring some of the AWID Forum Caribbean delegates back together with a diverse group of Caribbean activists who represent a new generation of feminist activism in the region.  This group includes members traditional women’s organisations as well as LGBT, feminist and youth organisations. We come from Antigua & Barbuda, Barbados, Belize, Guyana, Jamaica, St. Kitts and Nevis, Trinidad & Tobago, St.Lucia, Grenada, Haiti, St. Vincent and the Grenadines and the Caribbean diaspora.

Go to your wide futures, you said

—-Grace Nichols

Small Axe…

Like our 1% presence at the AWID Forum we’re a small group with big ambitions! Help us Catch a Fire the Caribbean and ignite our imaginations, uniting ideas and action for social change.

Thank you AWID Forum 2012 for being one of the sparks!


CODE RED for gender justice!


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Special thanks to social entrepreneur Georgia Love for the fabulous green tee i’m rocking!  Get yours at Becon: a socially conscious lifestyle brand based in Kingston, Jamaica.