Good News: Young Feminist Activism, Sex Workers Mobilise, Crowdfunding Agriculture

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1. Four Caribbean organisations have won grants from the FRIDA Young Feminist Fund

  • CatchAFyah Caribbean Feminist Network will use its funding for Eye2Eye an anti-violence campaign focused on visualizing data on violence against women and girls in the region for use by the entire Caribbean community.
  • WOMANTRA of Trinidad & Tobago has launched Sister Sister, a mentoring programme for girls about to enter secondary school.
  • Association of Young Women for Culture and Development of Haiti will see their funding renewed in their fight against commercial sexual exploitation of women and girls.
  • I’m Glad I’m A Girl Summer Camp (Jamaica) will also receive renewed funding.

You can learn more about the FRIDA Young Feminist Fund here.

2. Malaika of Groundation Grenada used Kickstarter to raise £36,000 for the Goat Dairy Project:

Like many other nations positioned outside of the economic centres of the world, Grenada is exploited for its nutrient-rich raw materials while production takes place elsewhere. This means we import the majority of our food after it has been processed and pumped full of preservatives, dyes and other chemicals. The Goat Dairy (TGD) seeks to break this cycle of dependence, which impacts the environment, and health of our people and costs the country millions of dollars each year.

According to the annual agriculture review conducted by Grenada’s agriculture ministry, with assistance from the FAO and EU in 2009, the existing agro-processing and livestock sectors have major weaknesses: inconsistent quality, insufficient data collection and no long-term plan. The TGD aims to address some of these.

3.  Caribbean Sex Workers Call for End to Discrimination:

The Caribbean Sex Workers Coalition (CSWC), a regional collective of sex worker-led civil society organisations and sex worker advocates, is calling on Caribbean states to end discrimination against sex workers, recognise transgender people and create laws to protect them from stigma and discrimination.

This is according to the “Montego Bay Declaration” issued by the CSWC following the conclusion of its annual general meeting in Montego Bay, Jamaica from August 28 to August 30. The declaration calls for the respect and protection of both human and constitutional rights and the creation of legislation, policies and practices which protect these human rights.

Original story here.

Got more good news for us? Please share in the comments.

Top 10 Must-read Caribbean Feminist Blog Posts

In no particular order here are 10 boss posts from Caribbean feminist bloggers writing out loud.  Read, share and tell me what other articles should be on this list. Enjoy this gift from the Caribbean femisphere!

a. I swear if I hear “independent ladies” one more time…  by  Mar the Mongoose (Barbados)

Why? Quick wit. Pulse firmly on Caribbean popular culture! You will never scream on cue again!

stop singling out women as “independent ladies” based on some bullshit basket of goods that you determine of value to women: weave and clothes and underwear. All the women in that particular show or fête are independent by virtue of the fact that they are adults with rights. And they don’t need to scream at your command to make that so.

b. No Women Died, This is Not a Women’s Issue by Sherlina Nageer (Guyana)

Why? Because when innocent men are killed by police, it IS a women’s issue.

The people of Linden were peacefully protesting as well when twenty three of them were shot, three in the heart. One a teenager, one mentally challenged and the other father of two and chief supporter of his 79 year old mother.

c.  An Angry Victim and a Survivor by Angeline Jackson (Jamaica)

Why? Fierce, moving personal testimony of surviving sexual assault and working for LGBT rights in Jamaica

I remember the day I was called and asked to come in and do an identification. I remember being driven to the “100 Man” Police Station in Portmore after hours of waiting in Spanish Town. I remember meeting another bisexual woman who had also suffered the same. I remember going into that room and looking at the lineup of men before me. I remember as I eliminated them one by one till I was down to two. I asked the officer in charge of the proceedings to ask both men to hold out their hands. I remember requesting that they each say, “Pussy-hole come here.” I remember standing directly across from number six and looking at his eyes. I remember stooping and holding my head as the pressure mounted.

d. Roll It Boy, On Men, Masculinity and Bringing the Winery by  Creative Commess (Trinidad & Tobago)

Why? A celebratory look at Caribbean masculinity as multiple, multi-layered, fluid and complex. How often do you see that expressed anywhere?

There are few things I love more than men wining in wanton abandonment. Maybe good food and a select range of other things excite me more. I love men wining because of the ways in which it disturbs the mask of heterosexual masculinity. It flexes, disrupts and discombobulates with a swivel of the bamsee — most of all, it makes a lot of people, men and women, uncomfortable. 

e.  Memoirs of an Almost Virgin by  Carla Moore (Jamaica)

Why? Carla dissects heterosexual sex and finds the expectations of and for women and men to be wanting.

as a woman i must expect to be beaten like a slave, mash up til i can’t walk and somehow smile about that in the morning. roughness has its place but honestly, must my pum pum be utterly destroyed at the end of every sex act? can we be nice to the vagina?

as a woman i must expect to represent everytime i jump on the dick, i have to prove myself by doing various things in a crowd and to the point of gagging just so the man knows i appreciate his penis. yes, its  a flag raised in triumph at the base of my now conquered vagina.

f. In Need of Reliable Allies by Roots & Rights (Caribbean)

Why? Because men can be major game-changers for gender equality and they need to know that.

The journey for men is even harder because men know, really understand, that accepting equality means relinquishing privilege, power and accepting more work in the private sphere. In the long run, there are advantages to be gained, but in the short run, who can doubt that many men question the cost benefit of rejecting entitlement to women’s labour and bodies? Who can doubt that some lack the courage and moral clarity required to share power and influence? Recent events in the Anglican church bring this latter to mind.

And so for these reasons, men’s advocacy for equality is crucial, not only because men listen to men, but let’s be real, men control the levers of most influencing powers- whether as priests, parliamentarians, popular artists or private sector mavens.

g. To Girls Whose Thighs Touch… by Amina Doherty (Antigua & Barbuda/Nigeria)

Why? Because we don’t talk enough about embodiment.

And I can hear some of you now — “but Amina you doth protest too much — you are ok, curvy is in” and  “men love curvy women” and “black women are curvy” “African women have shape” and these comments while not altogether true are also the kinds of comments that I take serious issue with. The way fat women’s bodies are only viewed as attractive if they are a certain kind of ‘big body’ – bootyliscious, beyonce’d ….and straight. Fat women without asses like J’lo’s are shamed. Fat women with small breasts are shamed….fat women who don’t have ‘curves’ are shamed — and it goes on…

h.   In the Caribbean’s true battles LGBT citizens are comrades, not the enemy by Richie Maitland of Groundation Grenada

Why? CARICOM can end homophobia and transphobia. We can do it!

The whole Caribbean is mired in the same ‘great and true battles’ noted in the Haitian release. Equality and inclusion make winning these battles easier. Political and religious leaders can help include all in winning those struggles; hopefully without more people having to be killed.

i.  Catching Fyah to Add Fyah or Adding Fyah to Catch Fyah by  Add Fyah and Stir (St. Kitts and Nevis/Trinidad & Tobago)

Why? Critical reflection on the challenges of movement-building in the Caribbean

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!

j.  Diary of a Mothering Worker by  Gabrielle Hosein (Trinidad & Tobago)

Why?  Raises lots of questions about mothering, fathering, co-parenting and intimate relationships.

I see how Ziya would be confused, unsettled and heart-broken at the loss of having both parents with her. It makes me think back to myself at two and the complex, formative emotions that I forgot existed in me then. It makes me realise, not that break-ups are bad, because they can definitely be for the best, but how much adult partnerships define children’s sense of self, safety, stability and social space. When Ziya wants to know where the daddy hippo is or decides that two of any animal represents a mummy and a daddy, it’s a visceral statement that your relationship profoundly matters and is accountable to someone else besides the two of you.

k. An Open Letter to Caribbean Men from Caribbean Women by Patrice Daniel (Barbados)

Why? First ever Caribbean feminist blog to go viral. Literally thousands of shares. Click the link and you’ll see why. Patrice is a powerful communicator.

We do not have to dance with you. Our hips are our own. Your admission to the fete did not include an all-access pass to our waists, breasts, behinds. When we walked through the gates, we did not sign permission slips. You don’t get to be angry because we don’t want you as a permanent appendage. You don’t get to grab us, restrain us, and force your bodies against ours. Our role at the fete is not to amuse, entertain, or provide you with a grinding post. Dare to imagine that we enjoy dancing alone. Dare to imagine that we enjoy dancing with our friends. Just because we dance with other guys doesn’t mean we now owe you. So stop, Caribbean men. Stop degrading us and insisting we accept your advances. We do not have to dance with you. Our hips are our own.

Too many to just list 10! Learn more about Caribbean digital feminist activism here and here.

Edited to add: Who am i kidding?? Can’t name just 10 or 11! Also, people have been asking about feminist bloggers from Belize, Anguilla, Montserrat, St. Lucia, SVG…so please use the comments to nominate your top posts.

l. Nobody from a Nothing Place by Tillah Willah (Trinidad & Tobago)

Why? Boom! Before you can fully enjoy the Nicki Minaj take down you are drawn into self-reflection on your own complicity with the racist worldview that paints the entire Global South as less than human.

In one fell swoop she perpetuates the myth of the savage Third World and also the streets paved with gold that exist outside of these Third World hell holes.
You really have to wonder if Ms. Minaj has some sort of post traumatic stress disorder. But if she does, if she is yet to deal with the traumas of her childhood, she should see a specialist about it, instead of going on American television and describing her country, my country as ‘nothing’.
Also I am curious about the something that she says that she is now. I suppose having millions of dollars is success. It doesn’t matter if you get this money by acting like Oversexed Barbie. It doesn’t matter if you are part of a media machine that sexualises girlhood, that preaches bamsie shaking as the sure fire way to get attention. And if you’re a black woman of any kind of popularity you start to get progressively whiter the more famous you get.

m. Title: Clutching Straws ~ Why the Insecurity Around Women’s Movements? by Richie Maitland of Groundation Grenada

Why? When an candlelight vigil for victims of domestic violence brings out the Men’s Rights Activists who argue that feminism is everything that is wrong with the region, someone needs to set them straight.

I think persons who don’t really wish for substantial change between the power dynamic between men and women feel insecurity at the slight tremors which signal the imminent clash of the women’s liberation movement with patriarchy and sexism. They are afraid of the boat being rocked, because they are enjoying the smooth sailing. Perhaps the boat needs to be rocked when the smooth sailing is enjoyed at the detriment of the womenfolk rowing in the galleys, who suffer silently and endure amidst myriad tribulations.

Mansah refers to Groundation Grenada as Satan and a meteor dislodged from nowhere. To set the record straight , we haven’t come from nowhere dear sir. We come from the very bowels of Grenadian society, perhaps working some movement in those bowels because the place needs a purging and senna never kill nobody yet.

Caribbean bloggers take on race, class, gender, nation… and Nicki Minaj

Three very popular Caribbean bloggers have written recently about gender, race, class and nation in the region. These are must-read articles, check them out:

Annie Paul writes about the Caribbean Court of Justice Case currently being heard.  The case concerns the infringement of the rights (and sexual assault) of CARICOM citizen and Jamaican national, Shanique Myrie.  She examines notions of gendered respectability and class and how they are at the heart of this case:

This landmark case is not only about nationality, it’s also about ‘class’, the ungainly elephant in the room no one wants to explicitly mention. It is important to portray Myrie as ‘decent’ ‘respectable’ and ‘sober’ because the image of Jamaicans in the region is overwhelmingly influenced by the higglers, DJs and hustlers who often represent the face of Jamaica,  visiting, even migrating to other countries, where they are not always welcome.

Why? because these enterprising but capitally-challenged individuals (ie owning  little capital, whether financial or social) often violate all the dearly held norms of ‘decency’ ‘respectability’ and ‘good taste’ with their choice of garments, raw speech and boisterous behaviour. They regularly transgress the zealously guarded borders of civility and decorum as much as the borders of nation states which under the new Chaguaramas Treaty they now have a right to breach.

Perhaps this was why Myrie was given the finger when she arrived in prim and proper Barbados, regionally glossed as ‘Little England’. Not just because she was Jamaican but because she was perceived to be a particular kind of Jamaican. So @Emilynationwide was right to emphasize the outfit and demeanour of Ms Myrie. It may be extremely germane in the instant case.

The Eternal Pantomime examined  how race and class intersect to render some Trinbagonians as “sub-humans” or “niggas” who should be shot according to one journalist and his facebook friends:

Yesterday a man lost his entire family in seconds. Seconds. We can’t return them to him. Yesterday and this morning that man is firm in the knowledge that he may never receive justice…ever. Because in this corrupt narco state of a country the cliques protect their own. In the midst of wrenching grief, this man knows that the person responsible for killing his family may never be brought to justice. The community of Sea Lots responded angrily, impulsively and violently. The police and armed services responded back.

Meanwhile, on a computer somewhere, a citizen, who happens to be a freelance journalist posts up a rant. It is both classist and racist. He sincerely believes that poor(economically) black people who protest should be shot and killed and cabbages planted on them. He is unapologetic. Within seconds, other people who have little to no clear details of the tragedy, but who also have a deep and abiding disgust for poor black people because they believe them to be a burden on society, click like on his status and add comments. Of the five people who clicked like, one is a police officer. Another one is a friend of mine; and yet another is an online persona I know who is quite comfortable with using the word Negro to describe and define Afro- descended people.

Tillah Willah took umbrage with Nicki Minaj’s description of Trinidad & Tobago as “nothing” demonstrating the extent to which this characterization relies on a homogenised understanding of blackness as outside of humanity.   It is a critique worth noting especially as some feminist scholars think of Minaj as queer, subversive and transgressive.

Maybe it’s all that peroxide that’s eaten through Nicki Minaj’s scalp and started affecting her brain.
Or maybe it’s just the contempt that all Trinbagonians have for their own. You know, the place that gives you so much, that all you can manage to do is bad talk it at every opportunity.
I’m not, as you might have guessed, a fan of Ms. Minaj. There is a lot of really good hip hop out there and she is not it.
In a moment of empathy, Ms. Minaj reached out to an American Idol competitor – a refugee from Liberia – to say that she was so happy that the two of them had made it alive out of their horrible countries and come to the earthly paradise known as the United States of America to have a shot at being human.
In one fell swoop she perpetuates the myth of the savage Third World and also the streets paved with gold that exist outside of these Third World hell holes.
You really have to wonder if Ms. Minaj has some sort of post traumatic stress disorder. But if she does, if she is yet to deal with the traumas of her childhood, she should see a specialist about it, instead of going on American television and describing her country, my country as ‘nothing’.
Also I am curious about the something that she says that she is now. I suppose having millions of dollars is success. It doesn’t matter if you get this money by acting like Oversexed Barbie. It doesn’t matter if you are part of a media machine that sexualises girlhood, that preaches bamsie shaking as the sure fire way to get attention. And if you’re a black woman of any kind of popularity you start to get progressively whiter the more famous you get.
It fits the mainstream world media agenda for us to continue to think that anywhere in the so-called Third World is backward and savage. Trinidad and Liberia are one and the same, although Trinidad has not had decades of civil war. Far from being an expression of solidarity with a fellow person of colour, she is spewing the same ignorance that lumps us all into one amorphous bunch of black savages who can’t help but kill each other.
Oh and by the way? Violence and poverty do not exist in Queens. Racism is a long past dream and we’re all just getting along and having a big old party.

From local journalists, to the Caribbean court of justice to Nicki Minaj, there’s lots to unpack about our understanding of blackness as outside of the human and how this is mediated by gender, class and nation.

Join the discussion…

Edited to add

Negril Stories also wrote about the Shanique Myrie case in an aptly named post “I am Shanique Myrie or Jamaicans and Women are also Human”. Check it out.

Jamaican women accused of creating rapists by failing to breastfeed

A Jamaican anthropologist blamed poor Jamaican mothers for failing to breast feed their sons and the social neglect which leaves them marginalised and prone to violence.  Many Caribbean boys and men face limited options, an education system which reinforces class stratification, marginalisation and lack of a social safety net.  Blaming their mothers who face the same conditions does nothing to assist the young men recruited by criminal gangs and forced onto the margins of society.  Mother-blame completely misdiagnoses the problem.  It lets governments off the hook for ensuring that their policies promote justice and social equality.  It lets government off the hook for treating these young men as expendable.  It also colludes with the worse of misogynist ideology.  In the context of very brutal rapes of women and girls, arguing that women created the rapists by neglecting their sons is such perverse victim-blaming.  To argue that Caribbean mothers protect their girls at the expense of their boys is, of course, to ignore the harms which girls face too.  (And to ignore men’s responsibilities as parents!) We can call attention to the harms facing boys and men without dismissing and denigrating women and girls.

This article came to my attention via Caribbean feminist, Roberta Clarke’s blog post about the need for reliable allies:

I sometimes pessimistically think of women working with men on gender equality as a high risk endeavor, akin to walking on the verge of a precipice or a high tension wire. Similarly in our personal lives, you going good, good and then out of nowhere, a sexist joke and  some man friend telling you, ‘ like  you cyah take a joke?”

I don’t share her pessimism when it comes to working with men because we do have feminist men working with CODE RED.  YAY! (In fact, we have a very exciting project in the pipeline which will see young men and women working together). I do share her concerns, however, about the new men’s organisations which have emerged in the region since the late 90s and some gender scholars and practitioners who are decidedly anti-woman.  Many who are talking the gender talk are attracting legitimacy and funding but are not at all interested in gender equality.  Thinking through gender is hard, hard work. You’ve got to be willing to think, to hurt your head, to be introspective, to question everything, to examine your own privileges and to live the talk everyday.  It’s hard work. And at a minimum, its work that potential allies have to commit to doing.

On a related note, Philip Cohen of the US, who blogs at Family Inequality uses data to show that single moms can’t be scapegoated for the murder rate any more. 

Red Round-up

We post almost-daily updates of Caribbean news and commentary on issues related to gender, sexuality, Caribbean development and environment on facebook.  Facebook now requires that you pay to promote individual posts which makes the awareness-building, consciousness-raising work we do online a little more difficult since our annual budget is 0.  We’ve watched our page views fall after this policy was implemented. That just means we’ve gotta do more red-round-ups where we highlight key stories and happenings in the region.  So here goes:

Homophobic Violence at Jamaican University

Viral video of security guard in homophobic attack against Jamaica University of Technology students . J-Flag has responded to offer support to the young men who were victimised and have condemned the violence as “evidence of the malignant level of homophobia, which continues to pervade all levels of Jamaican society and ravage lives.”

1.8M Haitians affected by Hurricane Sandy

The United Nations reports that 1.8 million people have been affected by Hurricane Sandy in Haiti. Food security has been severely affected with up to two million people at risk of malnutrition.

T&T Police Tell Women Not to Get Raped

Women who exercise on Lady Chancellor Hill in Trinidad & Tobago have been advised by police to exercise caution in order to avoid rape.

CODE RED Builds Caribbean feminist online database

CODE RED is building a digital archive of Caribbean feminist online spaces. Contribute by telling us about your favourite Caribbean feminist blogs, forums, groups, pages etc.

T&T Community College Blazes Trail by offering Daycare on Campus

YAY! Here’s to other Caribbean colleges and universities following their lead!

Video: Young feminist activist from Trinidad & Tobago, Stephanie Leitch, talks about feminism in the Caribbean.

How awesome is it to know that feminism is alive and well in the region.

Barbados Launches Child Support Fund

Barbados government to provide $50 per week (USD$25) for children whose fathers have been ordered to pay child support but who have not. Fathers who are primary caregivers will also be able to apply to the fund. The Maintenance Act will also be amended to ensure that fathers could apply for child maintenance at the Magistrates’ Court (at present only mothers can apply for maintenance at the Magistrates Court).

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