Future of Caribbean Media

Check out these three online Caribbean media sources that have us excited about new ways of telling Caribbean stories!

Antillean Media Group

Brilliant, fresh and socially engaged.  Antillean Media Group has been in town for a long time and remain as relevant, creative and cutting edge as ever.

The New Local 

Describing itself as a celebration of millennial Caribbean voices, this is definitely a space to watch!  So far we’re loving the outlets for creative writing and reflection.

CatchAFyah Blog Network

With over 30 Caribbean feminist and social justice bloggers in its network there’s something at the CatchAFyah Caribbean Feminist Network website for everyone who’s passionate about the future of our region.

Leave us a comment and share any fresh Caribbean new media projects we need to know about!

Get-of-out-jail-free card for rapists in Caribbean

Two recent cases reported in regional media demonstrate the extent of the injustice which girls who survive sexual assault face.

In the Cayman Islands a judge did not award a custodial sentence for a man who plead guilty to raping a 14-year-old girl because, “he had a wife and two children to support.” This along with the provisions for alternative sentencing, time spent on remand, his difficult childhood and psychological problems were offered up as reasons why a custodial sentence was not ordered.

The judge is reported as saying that “the most important thing was to create the circumstance where the defendant would never commit such an offence in the future.” He, however, failed to describe what exactly that would entail. It would certainly be useful to have practical and concrete advice on how we can collectively create the circumstances where no one ever commits sexual assault.  I’m not sure that deflecting responsibility from the persons who do is likely to be of much use.

All in all it seemed like a gross injustice and a suggestion that the rapist’s freedom and his patriarchal responsibilities were more important that the young girl’s life and right to bodily integrity. It really says a lot about our relative valuing of children and adults, girls and men.  Unpacking this decision also reveals the way in which heterosexual sex, even when criminal and coerced, is viewed as normal and inevitable.  Collectively we seem more moved towards safeguarding the future of the rapists than that of girls. We worry more about how an accusation of rape can ruin a man’s life and bury our heads in the sand about what the experience of rape does to a girl’s life. (Read Velika Lawrence’s story in the St. Lucia star. She is co-founder of PROSAF, an organisation which fights against child sexual abuse & incest).

In Antigua, a former principal and lay preacher escaped a custodial sentence after being found guilty of sexually assaulting a 14-year-old girl.  It was reported that the girls mother made a “stirring plea for forgiveness”, saying that she and her daughter had forgiven the sexual predator and he was a family friend.

In addition, the forgiving mother  also used the fact that the former principal was the sole breadwinner of his family to argue for a non-custodial sentence.

In examining why domestic violence complainants vanish from Caribbean courts, anthropologist Mindie Lazarus-Black argues that a culture of reconciliation operates in the Caribbean:

I coined the term cultures of reconciliation to identify local norms and practices separate and apart from law, but that influence profoundly the decisions people make about what to do about violence in their lives. The concept is useful both: 1) as an analytical framework to capture how local ideas and practices coalesce into structural patterns that operate
against the institutionalized forces of law; and 2) as a research tool for cross-cultural investigation and analysis. More specifically, cultures of reconciliation reflect norms and practices intrinsic to “family,” “gender,” and “work” that intersect to keep men and women out of legal processes. Such norms and practices are learned, mostly early in life. (Source: VANISHING COMPLAINANTS: THE PLACE OF VIOLENCE IN FAMILY, GENDER, WORK, AND LAW).

Perhaps it is this same culture of reconciliation with its gendered and hierarchical valuing of women and men which operates as a barrier to justice for girls who survive sexual assault. Rapists in the region have a perpetual get-out-of-jail-free card and these are the ones who actually have to stand before the courts.  Our culture of silence means most rapes and cases of incest goes unreported, ignored, invisible or resolved outside the law.

Happy International Women’s Day!

Edited to add:

Another recent story in Caribbean news reflects the sympathy offered up to men who abuse girls in the region.  In the Bahamas,  the overwhelming majority of the members of the Pilgrim Full Baptist Temple voted to retain their disgraced Bishop as head of the church despite the fact that he is currently serving three years in jail for having sex with a  dependent.  One of his colleagues suggested that the Bishop has neither admitted his sins nor asked forgiveness for them and should seek professional help.  Nonetheless, it is clear he has the support of the majority of church members. I suspect that the rush to forgive comes from the church members understanding of the 16-year-old girl as having been a temptress and the Bishop as unable to help himself.  It’s the message that’s repeated over and over when we tell women what to wear and how to act in order to avoid rape: that women are responsible for tempting men into sexual violence against them.

Leave a comment with any similar cases in regional news.

#CatchAFyah gets regional press

Two articles were published in Caribbean newspapers today about the recently established CatchAFyah Caribbean Feminist Network.

One is about our open letter in support of Trinidad Senator St. Rose Greaves’ strong statements in support of abortion, LGBT rights and children’s rights. (You can read her speech on the National Gender policy here.) The other looks at Caribbean feminism through the eyes of one of the CatchAFyah participants. This article was also republished on Repeating Islands, the Caribbean culture blog we love!

St. Lucia News and Press Releases also published our press release online & Global Voices reported on our open letter.

Look out for more about us from across the region.

You too can sign on to the CatchAFyah network here. It’s for EVERYONE who is interested in social and gender justice.

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.

Visioning…

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!

Tonya

CODE RED for gender justice!

Barbados

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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.