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Barbados CEDAW Town Hall Meeting This Thursday!

Barbados CEDAW Town Hall Meeting This Thursday!

Barbados signed the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) in 1981. Do you know what CEDAW is? What rights can you defend under CEDAW? More importantly, do you know what your responsibilities for defense of your citizenship are and how to carry out those responsibilities? Come to Barbados’ third CEDAW Town Hall Meeting and discuss these and related issues: Thursday 6 March 2014 at the Steel Shed, Queen’s Park, Bridgetown at 7:30 p.m.

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PHOTOS: CODE RED Women’s Circles

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The members of CODE RED for Gender Justice at the UWI Cave Hill Campus have been hosting weekly women’s circles (on and off campus) from October 2013. The circles provide a safe space for women [of all sexual orientations] to have heart to heart discussions on intimate topics such as relationships, love, and family, as well as current gender issues. The members also use tools, such as the peace line activity, to encourage introspection at the circles.

Women have shared tears, laughter, fears, secrets, and love at these circles. Guided by rules to ensure everyone feels respected and receives a chance to be heard, all members that attend enjoy the moments shared in the spaces. Members have used the following words to describe the circles: “Enlightening, empowering, safe, inclusive, comforting and important.”

If you are a woman attending UWI Cave Hill Campus or residing in Barbados and would feel comfortable sharing a space with women of all different sexual orientations, we encourage you to join our circles. Contact damarlieantoine [at] gmail [dot] com, or m.hutchinson1988 [at] @gmail [dot] com to be added to the mailing list. 

Below are some photos from our activities:Image

 

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I remember Aisha

Guest post by African Wanderlust

I remember Aisha because I could never forget.

The intense blackness from the Kohl that lit up the lids of her big brown eyes, her lashes long and curled that pulled me in deeper every time she blinked.

Her soft brown henna’d hands that innocently touched mine as we walked together along dusty Kaduna roads.

 

I remember Aisha because I could never forget.

Walking home together after school – harmattan heat, wetness, dripping… (from our foreheads of course!)

The smell of our sweat permeating the air.

We’d stop and she’d buy chewing gum. Robot bubble gum – one for me and one for her. I remember I would smile as I’d quickly pop the sickly sweet pink sugar stick in my mouth – soft for a minute then the next hard as rock.

 

I remember Aisha because I could never forget.

How she would greet the megadi (gate man) as we walked into her house.

I remember the gentle sing-song sound of her Hausa float off the tip of her tongue (a tongue I knew too well and for more than just its words).

 

I remember the ease at which we laughed at nothing in particular as we sat together eating indomie from a cooler slurping one noodle at a time.

I remember the big performance as she’d announce to the housegirl and anyone that was listening that she was very tired and needed to lie down.

I remember the glint in her eye that meant I should follow…

 

I remember Aisha because I could never forget.

The way she’d cover her hair and pin it tightly on the side…

I remember how I would smile because unlike the rest of the world I knew the tightness of each afro curl hidden beneath…

I knew because I had fingered each plait, I had run my own chubby fingers down each part rubbing her scalp with coconut oil sniffing at every chance and holding her scent in my nostrils for as long as I could.

 

And I remember the way my own hairs would raise on the back of my neck.

I remember laying on her bed flipping through books and magazines

I remember I’d close my eyes and imagine what it would feel like…if she just…

 

I remember I’d look around nervously unable to keep her gaze and how she would giggle innocently and say: “Don’t worry Bints the door is locked.” I liked when she called me that ‘Bints’ – short for Bintu. I would relax.

“Walai” she’d say, “you worry too much bints. You need to RELAX.”

I remember I’d close my eyes and imagine what it would feel like…if she would just…

 

I remember Aisha because I could never forget.

How she’d lie down next to me.

As she would just….

Begin to cup each of my breasts – delicately though as if they were her own.

soft, gentle strokes. How she would finger each of my nipples…

How she would laugh softly and run her fingers through my hair.

“you need to RELAX bints I will do it for you. Don’t worry” she would say.

It would occur to me then she meant my hair – I needed to ‘relax my hair’ – yes. I needed to relax.

 

I remember Aisha because I could never forget.

How my eyes would close again and how I’d feel her stroking my thighs and I’d feel her begin to descend…

“you need to relax bints. Please allow me remove your underwear.”

This post was originally published by Adventures from the Bedrooms of African Women.  Please go over there and show them some love. It is re-published here with permission. You can read the original entry here.

 

Fictions of the Past, Visions of the Future

The Nation (Barbados) posted the following to its facebook page on Friday:

Research shows that there are more independent women today. Easy magazine wants to know if you agree with this statement, or if you think women are still financially and emotionally dependent on men.

One commenter replied that, “Women are always looking for hand-outs, most women are takers, and not givers.”

OK…

I responded with a bit of quick and dirty Barbadian history:

The question assumes that at some point women generally were dependent on men. Let’s break this down a bit for the Caribbean. Most of us in the region are descendants of women and men who came here as either indentured or enslaved labour. So that’s both men and women working under conditions of unfreedom. Fast forward to the “free” years where racial segregation persisted and Barbados of the 1940s had one of the highest mortality rates in the Caribbean. Add to that massive waves of migration of which men made up a significant number of migrants. Women end up responsibility for the care of children, emotional and financial. With the support of men and without it. They end up with a sex-segregated labour market where men as a group out earn women as a group, where women’s unemployment rate outstripped men’s, where the caring work they provide was not valued as work and where they were many overtly discriminatory policies and laws. Writing in the early 80s, sociologist Christine Barrow identified independence and dependence and complementary strategies which women used in order to fulfill their responsibility for running the household. What was the question again? Are women still emotionally and financially dependent on men? Doesn’t it sound a little ridiculous and reductionist when put in perspective? Doesn’t the assumption that a man is always independent and a woman dependent seem like rubbish now??? Women who work, who take care of their children with or without a partner, often with the help of extended families, have a long, long history in the Caribbean. At no point were masses of women sitting at home with their feet up waiting for men to bring home the bacon.

Then I directed them to this post by a Caribbean sista who does a much better job of breaking down the whole independent ladies BS meme:

An extension of that idea is that financially independent women who remain commodities or commodified in men’s eyes are a huge turn-on. It is the Holy Grail of the whole ordeal. It is the reason a man will boast of his sexual conquest of a woman and qualify it with “and I didn’t spend a cent.” So all those independent ladies in the fête who are still willing to scream on command? Oh man. That in itself is an orgasm. Because it means that as financially independent as you are, you still require my penis to be ultimately satisfied. You still take orders and I’m still in control. (via The Mongoose Chronicles)

But this is not about independent ladies.  It’s about how in the Caribbean we are constantly inventing a fictive past in order to ensure that inequities persist in the present.

After UK Prime Minister David Cameron threatened to withdraw aid from those countries which maintain anti-homosexual legislation the predictable happened.  Even countries not receiving bilateral aid from Britain stood up to defend their sovereignty and the mass and social media were awash with renewed anti-homosexual sentiment.  A few brave souls spoke up to say that yes, it was about time Caribbean governments repealed laws which criminalise same-sex sexual relations.

Then there were the usual religious pronouncements. One Nation columnist argued that:

Traditionally, we have been a country that recognized, promoted and practised the moral principles of the Christian Bible and we can see some of those represented in our laws.  […] If we allow others to force us away from the foundational values that this country was built on, we will inevitably have to change the lyrics of our National Anthem, since the Lord will cease to be our guide.

Say what????

Well, I don’t know exactly which Barbados he was talking about but traditionally we have been a plantation under 300 years of uninterrupted British rule.  A regime so  all-encompassing that even today stereotypes persist about the “passive Bajan.”

Historian Mary Chamberlain notes that:

In 1955, infant mortality [in Barbados] significantly higher than its European or North American counterparts, and almost double that prevailing in other parts of the British West Indies. […]

The underlying causes of the poverty lay in the racial divisions which structured Barbadian society. Unlike other British West Indian territories which benefited from the paternalism of Crown Colony (in effect, direct British) government, the legislature in Barbados was elected locally and responsible for taxation and domestic policy.  Those qualified to vote represented a tiny, landowning minority. As a result, the Barbadian government and its economy was in the hands of a small, white and wealthy oligarchy – known as the ‘plantocracy’ – renowned for their racism, their reactionary views and their pride in an unbroken three hundred year tradition of local rule.

Turns out the plantocracy may have had a greater hand in guiding the affairs of this island than did “the moral principles of the Christian Bible.”

Why waste so much energy re-inventing the past when the future is ours to imagine, to invent, in ways that are freer, fairer and more equitable?