Domestic violence is not a novel theme at all. There have been many movies and books that deal with this painful yet very real theme. Melanie Schwapp’s newest book “Lest We Find Gold” tackles this awful reality. But her treatment is anything but trite, tired or trivial.Continue reading “Lest We Find Gold” A book review
We lost internet service at our residence on the afternoon of Thursday June 6. We got it back on the afternoon of Thursday June 13. What follows is an account of the extreme effort on my part to have our service restored and a tale of a huge service provider that appears to be nothing more than a PR and marketing shell. Harsh? You decide for yourself.Continue reading FLOW Jamaica: PR & Marketing Shell. Nothing more.
Last year, prompted by a woman in distress seeking to escape an abusive and potentially dangerous domestic situation, I did a blog post entitled: “Domestic Abuse in Jamaica: Where are the safe houses for women seeking refuge?” You see, I was trying to identify where she could get safe harbour immediately. I came up empty. Since then, the government has announced plans to establish 3 national shelters and I’ve received confirmation that the Woman Inc crisis center is up and running. However, another recent encounter with a woman seeking to escape and resolve a violent domestic situation caused me to revisit the issue of resources and advice available to women in similar situations.Continue reading Advice for Securing Justice in a Domestic Abuse situation in Jamaica
Yesterday someone came to me with a real and urgent need. One of her employees had broken down and told her that she was struggling. The employee had been having marital difficulties and was planning to separate from her husband. Her desire to split was not sitting well with him. He had threatened to kill the both of them and now the woman was in urgent need of somewhere to stay while she finalised alternative rental arrangments that would see her living on her own. I promised to make some calls to see what could be done. I thought it should be easy enough. The woman didn’t have children and she was employed. All she needed was a safe haven for a few days for herself and her clothing. She could pay.
|Photo courtesy Loop Jamaica|
I reached out to my Village, a small community of professional sister-friends. They immediately responded. One, a lawyer, gave advice about restraining orders and reporting to the police and offered her services. Another sister-friend, always practical, suggested AirBnB. That was a great suggestion. I found furnished short term accomodation in Kingston, Portmore and Spanish Town for USD35.00/night and up. Another Villager was able to tell of a newly renovated house in an area where the rents weren’t to high which was available for rent at a modest rate. I shared all this info with the person who had come to me for help on behalf of the woman seeking refuge
No Where to Run to: Escaping Domestic Abuse in Jamaica
I was still trying to find a shelter or half way house though. New rentals require a 2 month cash deposit and so the woman seeking to leave her husband would most likely prefer options that didn’t put her too much out of pocket. Plus options are always good, right?
I reached out to a priest via Facebook who immediately responded. He gave me a number for Eve for Life and a name there. He promised to tug on his own network and get back to me. His response was empathetic and caring and he sensed the urgency of the situation. I called Eve for Life, but the person I wanted to speak with wasn’t available. I was put on to anther person though with a direct cell number. She didn’t answer when I rang, but immediately Whatsapped me back with an apology (she was in a meeting) and a promise to call me ASAP. I called Woman Inc. Several times. No one was available. I left a message via Facebook Messenger with a brief description of the issue and all my contact info. I reached out to the Twitterverse. Tweeps immediately retweeted and were quick with suggestions. Most people suggested I call Woman Inc. I was grateful for the quick responses and compassion that my solicitations elicited. The woman from Eve for Life eventually called me back. She too was empathetic, seized of the urgency of the situation and willing to help. She said she knew of an organisation that operated safe houses and promised to call someone there on my behalf. She told me that she would get them to call me directly. I remained grateful.
All of this happened between 8am and early afternoon yesterday. It is early afternoon 24 hours later as I type and I have yet to be guided to a safe house. The woman who had originally come to me advised me towards the end of yesterday that the woman seeking to leave her husband was eventually able to get help from her sister. Thank God. I pray that she is safe.
To be Clear: I am in no way condemning Woman Inc or Eve for Life. These groups are doing good I know. And they operate from a small resource base. I know this. And sometimes it is not possible to help everybody.
But I’m putting my own experience in trying to find help for someone out there hoping that someone more in the know than I can tell me definitively where women fleeing a dangerous situation can go to. I was trying to find somewhere for a woman running solo, with money. I thought it was simple. What if she was broke or destitute with children? That would be a much more complicated situation to deal with.
Tips for escaping domestic abuse
Until I learn of a name and number for a safe house resources, here are my own suggestions for women wanting to and needing to leave a dangerous, undesirable situation:
1. Have some cash…easier said than done I know. I know. But even USD300.00 can buy you some time and space via AirBnB.
2. You need a sister friend at a time like this…someone who can and will accomodate you for a few days. Live good with people, confide and ask for help.
If you have more info re: resources that actually work in situations like this, please share. I will also share what you tell me and we could be saving someone’s life. I was grateful for the empathy, concern and advice. But at the end of the day, I got no real help for this woman.
UPDATE MAY 12 2019
Since this post was written, I’ve received confirmation that there is one shelter available. The NGO Woman Inc operates the country’s only official facility for battered women — the Crisis Shelter. But the Crisis Shelter is only able to accommodate 12 women and their children at a time temporarily. They run a 24-hour hotline which can be reached at 929-2997.
The government of Jamaica has announced plans to establish shelters in each of the 3 counties of the island. The Government has bought a guest house which is being set up as a shelter for abused women and should be fully operational this year.
Two additional shelters for abused women are to be established during the 2019/2020 fiscal year. This will bring to three, the number of national women’s shelters across the island, with one in each county.
Published in the Daily Gleaner July 11 2017
I imagine that the harassment is along the lines of taxi drivers and tour operators and vendors trying to woo visitors off the ships to spend their money with them. Imagine that you are a visitor to this island. This wooing is likely to take the form of a relentless verbal assault, as it were, cajoling you to look and buy in an environment unfamiliar to you. Perhaps you don’t even understand what is being said, but the tone and body language and posturing have now converted what should have been a leisurely stroll into an excursion into hell, where all you want to do is get back to the relative safety of your cabin.
Now put yourself in the place of the average citizen who resides here driving to work in the morning. You stop at the red light, and one or two or even three windscreen wipers swoop down on you. They yank up your wiper blades before you cyaan even mouth a polite “no thanks” and insist on cleaning your windscreen, turning abusive when you indicate helplessly that you have no money to give them. The abuse is verbal (“Yuh too mean, Mummy!” or “Yuh a gwaan like yuh betta dan people!) and is sometimes physical, damage being inflicted directly to your car.
Or let’s say you commute using public transport. You enter the bus park (pick any one), and immediately, the ubiquitous loader man approaches you, verbally assaulting you with a running commentary on how nice you look, and he knows where you are going, and this is the bus you must take, all the while holding your arm and dragging you to his’ bus, literally shoving you into the vehicle.
The emotional and physical strain and the ever-present possibility of personal danger associated with anticipating and dealing with the harassment meted out by windscreen wipers and loader men are not insignificant, and many of us choose our routes specifically to avoid this sort of trauma. I understand the cruise ships’ decision. Too easy.
It is important to understand why this harassment happens in order to eradicate it. There will never be enough police to arrest every single harasser and keep would-be harassers in check. The craft vendors, tour operators and guides, windscreen wipers, and loader men all do what they do out of need. They are grabbing on desperately to the only chance they have identified to provide for themselves and their dependents.
Their relentless assault, though, that aggressive push and determination to make you accept and pay for a service/product that you do not need, is directly linked to the culture of patronage that political leaders have fostered. This practice of selective benevolence, meted out to some of the many existing in a state of depravity instead of creating the environment that allows the collective to level up, has perpetuated the fight for scarce benefits and spoils.
Recipients of the largesse are envied by the overlooked, and the resulting resentment feeds a sense of entitlement. “Why not me?” I imagine that the harassers don’t see themselves as harassing, per se. I imagine that this is how they process the situation: “I need. You have. I ought to have. Take what I am offering you and give me some of your money in return.” The harasser’s need trumps any other variable in the dynamic.
Where development plans are crafted and executed, excluding and ignoring the very real need that exists in communities, rest assured that the justification that I have just outlined will prevail. Until patronage is replaced with enabling, until observing and craving are replaced by real participation, tour operators, vendors, windscreen wipers, and loader men will continue to do the only thing they feel they can do to survive.
It is late in the day to halt, and then reverse, these dysfunctional cultural paradigms that have formed and become entrenched through the years of our national development. But to give up now is to accept defeat. We need our leaders to craft and enact developmental plans in harmony with local communities. It can be done.
Published in the Daily Gleaner September 2016
The millennials on my timeline responded. And they appeared, for the most part, to reject in full the talk-show host’s rallying cry.
Others on my timeline, closer to my age (not millennials), bemoaned the apparent apathy of the younger generation and were quick to call them self-absorbed, shallow and apathetic.
I think it is important, though, to go beyond mere labels and seek to understand why this younger generation appears to have no fire in their bellies.
First of all, our millennials are products of Jamaica. What they are today is informed by what they have seen around them for several years now.
One millennial rejected the call to march, stating very definitively that she is not interested in “empty symbolism”. Why empty? Why merely symbolic?
LACK OF LEGITIMACY
The State lacks legitimacy. Our young people see chaos and loss of life when the State, when it suits it, reneges on international agreements on extradition. They see the State failing to fill the void created with the extraction of the don from the community and the resulting upswing in crime. Justice looks different depending on who you are, who you know and where you come from. They see this. They see laws being passed in record time when pressure is applied from alien nations to which we are beholden.
They see governments applying fiscal discipline only when a foreign third-party holds the handle. They hear about kickbacks on national capital projects and then hear nothing more about investigations and repercussions. Coupled with this, they see a reluctance on the part of the powerful and those who want to be powerful to speedily enact campaign-financing legislation.
Our millennials face high unemployment. They see a glorious picture of their country in the document that is Vision 2030, and no further reference to the vision going forward. They hear talk, talk and more talk, but see preservation of the status quo, which excludes them and excludes real improvement unless those with power stand to benefit.
Their apparent apathy is possibly simply a rejection of our preoccupation as a nation with form and appearance at the expense of real substance.
Jamaica reached where we are under our watch. Why do we, therefore, expect our young people to rise up and push back now? They are simply modelling our own behaviour.
Do all Jamaican citizens have an equal voice? Is enforcement of the law predictable? Are our authorities seen to be fair? To answer any of these questions in the negative is to support the argument that the State lacks legitimacy.
Our young people will continue to demonstrate this so-called apathy, being true to our own example in allowing governance lacking legitimacy.
Published in the Daily Gleaner June 16 2017
THE EDITOR, Sir:
Once upon a time, The Organisation was losing millions of dollars per year in inventory variances. The main warehouse was a mess. Antiquated processes, haphazard putaway systems, zero accountability with receivals, and poor management making collusion too easy were the status quo.
With obscured visibility, both literally (goods were placed randomly and without order within the warehouse) and because of the inaccurate data on the system, thieves had a field day. They deep-dived under the chaos and enriched themselves.
Then one day, we planned and executed an operational turnaround. An automated warehouse management system was instituted and warehouses were racked and binned. New ways of operating led to visibility and accountability. Inventory variances all but disappeared. With the imposition of order, lawlessness had no context in which to flourish.
What if Kingston were clean? What if litterbugs were prosecuted?
What if the horrible, brutish taxi drivers who create third lanes were prosecuted under the law?
What if traffic violations, regardless of perpetrator, were always prosecuted?
What if schools partnered with the police force and the Transport Authority to get our children awaiting buses in the HWT Transport Centre to comport themselves with dignity and decorum?
What if justice was equally swift, regardless of brown or black skin, or address?
What if the flow of raw sewage below Torrington Bridge was dealt with as quickly as if it were flowing in Kingston 8?
Would the crime statistics in Jamaica change?
What if they had thrown a spear that morning instead of greeting them with curiosity?
The riverside village was alive with movement. Children were running around, playing games which mimicked the activities of their elders. The boys pretended that they had just returned from the hunt, four of them struggling with the imaginary weight of their bounty. Their shouts of triumph spoke of years to come when they would assume the very real role of protectors and providers in their community. In the shade of the ancient tree, little girls played at grinding flour and making cakes. A few pretended to wash clothes. The women tended their gardens, nursed babies and kept a watchful eye on the children. The men sat in a circle planning their next foray into the jungle.
“Look, look!” shouted one woman who had gone down to the river’s edge to collect water.
As the villagers looked out on the river they were greeted with a strange sight. Floating down the river, on a vessel larger than they had ever seen, were men with skin that had no colour. They were clothed in a manner unlike anything they had ever seen. Several of the men appeared to have one eye which protruded from their faces like a hollow stick. The people were curious. The large vessel with the curious looking men approached the shore slowly, and meeting no resistance, docked and disembarked.
And so it began.
The white men were allowed access to the village
They impressed the villagers with things hitherto unknown.
And villagers from other communities were captured and taken away from their village to become slaves.
And the white strangers did not act alone.
|Scene from the movie “Amistad” based on true events|
Let’s Go There…
They were facilitated in the first instance by being granted access, and they were then aided and abetted by members of the community, made easy in a context of an already existing system of slavery. The villagers turned over their own slaves in return for various offerings made by the white man. The villagers also went on hunting expeditions with the white man to capture would be slaves from rival tribes, again in return for gifts and protection. As the white men grew comfortable and more greedy, and as captives escaped the slavers’ nets and returned with tales of horror to the village, the villagers realized that the white strangers had taken advantage of their ancient traditions in order to exploit. The slavery that the white men instituted did not resemble what was being practiced in the areas of Africa they sought to plunder.
But it was too late.
Having been granted access, the white man was able to overcome any delayed resistance now offered. His guns, medical knowledge and boats gave him superior fighting power, the ability to actually survive in this dangerous (to him) tropical climate and granted him access where once there was none. Hundreds of thousands of Africans were roughly displaced and cruelly deployed in lands way across the seas. Hundreds of thousands of Africans perished and were killed on the way to these alien territories. Hundreds of thousands of Africans were enslaved and brutalized and murdered by these white men who leveraged their position in a land that was not theirs, a land that they plundered again and again and again to enrich their homeland in Europe.
What if they had thrown a spear that morning instead of greeting them with curiosity?
To be clear: this question is not about casting blame for what was to come on those who were enslaved and murdered. A sequence of events occurred that ended in what has become an inescapable part of history. Access and then support from the village enabled the wicked motives of the white strangers.
Eventually, the slave trade, as the forcible removal of the peoples of African came to be known, was outlawed. Slavery itself was eventually abolished throughout the Americas, and European colonies demanded independence and self rule. Throughout the period there was resistance and revolt on the part of the enslaved peoples. There were also white people who organised and fought against the trade in slaves and practice of slavery.
Anti-colonialists who fought for independence from their European masters envisioned prosperous, orderly societies, where the dignity of the citizen underpinned ever law, every decision and governance on a whole, where cultural norms were truly their own, and not those superimposed by those who had no right to be in charge. Look around though:
The Democratic Republic of the Congo in Africa.
Haiti in the Caribbean.
Is this what self-rule was meant to be?
Once again, centuries later, we have granted men, not of our own tribe, strangers to our village, access. Once again, some of our own village are aiding and abetting the stranger, to the detriment of the whole. And once again, we find ourselves on a course not really of our own choosing, so many of our own existing in unjust and hard and terrible, destitute circumstances.
Access has been granted by the few who seek to enrich and protect themselves, while giving not one damn as to legacy, nationhood and true freedom for all.
Dylann Roof was welcomed by worshipers in their church Charleston, North Carolina. He was a stranger in their midst, a young white man, an incongruous presence in this old, black place of fellowship. Suppose the worshipers had suspended their prayer and study to probe a little, seeking to determine Roof’s reason for his being there? Suppose access had not been automatic, might the outcome of that terrible day have been different?
|Dyalnn Roof. Photo courtesy of MSNBC|
|The Victims of the Charleston Massacre|
Those of our village entrusted with the responsibility of keeping us safe and protecting our interests have granted access in return for their own protection and their own enrichment.
How else does one describe and explain a 1.5% “agent’s fee”payable on national capital projects?
This access has resulted in selective prosperity and mass impoverishment, creating a ripe context for Powerful Capital to set our economic agenda. Repeat after me: “I.M.F.”
|Image courtesy of balcostics.com|
This access has resulted in a new colonialism by a people who look nothing like us, under the guise of partnership and cooperation. But how can an impoverished, desperate people really partner with a larger, stronger, richer people? The loss of choice lands to these “partners” and potential environmental degradation is what we can count on. That’s not partnership.
|Cartoon by Clovis of the Jamaica Observer|
Access has been granted and the stranger in our midst is being aided and abetted by our own. If history is anything to go by, we know how the story ends.
He dismissed them as the #articulateminority. He said the “average Jamaican” wasn’t interested in the things that seemed to consume those Jamaicans who agitated from the relative comfort of their keyboards and touchpads. He sought to divide us into middle class, educated keyboard warriors versus the masses that accepted t-shirts, curry goat and hot Guinness. He sought to dismiss us. That FORMER minister of government betrayed his ignorance of a changing world and lived to eat his words on Thursday February 25 2016.
On Thursday February 25 2016, the lowest voter turnout in Jamaican history booted the PNP from government. There was a 3 week period of campaigning, a period where we the electorate were denied the opportunity to hear and interrogate (albeit through our surrogates, the journalists) the plans of those seeking to serve through leadership. A 3 week period of campaigning that saw the ruling party offer up every excuse in the book NOT to debate: “How did he get that big house?” ” He called me a con-artist” I kid you not. Issues of national import, like waste management, environmental conservation, primary and early childhood education, security and health care took a back seat. Sigh.
The usual trappings of mass rallies, on-stage antics, hot, empty rhetoric all to the background music of those god-awful vuvuzelas were never in short supply. According to the pollsters, it was going to be a close race.
Righteous indignation raged on Twitter and on Facebook. “How dare they…” was the common sentiment echoed in cyberspace. I observed Comrades and members of the Showa posse arguing their points of view with vigour during this 3 week period. I saw fence sitters literally make up their minds up to the night before election day. I saw the pictures of purple inked fingers on election day. And I KNEW that the so called #articulateminority could no longer be dismissed. It appeared to me that they…WE…were shaping opinions, were framing the dialogue and we were determining what was important. The Articulate Minority was angry. We were angry at what was being dished up to us. We wanted to plumb issues that were important to us. We believed that our leaders were answerable to us (gasp!) We wanted to see our leaders and would be leaders defend their positions and answer for actions past. And when we were denied, we weren’t happy. At all.
I am eagerly anticipating the elector analysis that will be published in a few weeks as promised by the Electoral Office of Jamaica. I could be wrong, but I think that the record low voter turn out would have been worse had it not been for the youth vote and the #articulateminority. I think that naturally larger base of PNP supporters, unable to vote for the PNP in the face of their display of arrogance, opted to stay home, as they would rather die than vote for the JLP. My assumptions only. We’ll see once the data is published.
The defeat of the PNP in this particular election signals a change that will forever shift the paradigm that defines politicking in Jamaica. And it’s for the better methinks. It is a little harder to bamboozle the electorate, Guys. We have information. We spread information. WE determine what is important. WE tell you what we want to discuss. IGNORE US AT YOUR PERIL!
My own 20 year old daughter voted for the first time, and so did many of her friends. I scrolled her Twitter timeline with keen interest and many “Ohhhhhhs” realising that our very own millennials had strong views about the PNP, JLP and voting.
“This government was too arrogant to get my vote. Dem essentially screw di country…and pat demself pon di back fi it…”
I’m uncomfortable with the moniker “Articulate Minority”. I feel as if it reduces us to a temporary, insignificant, curious looking and sounding bunch. It has served as a rallying cry. A few of us gathered to protest during the Outameni Scandal, the genesis of our Christening by the Honourable Former Minister. I recoil every time someone sums us up as such. I much rather prefer #JamaicaTwitter or the more succinct #Twitta.
|The #ArticulateMinority is birthed.|
Let me be honest: I’m scared about the JLP tax plan. I stand to take home less money per month than I currently do if they implement the plan in its current iteration per the 10 Point Plan. But I’m also scared about the PNP’s continued emphasis on fiscal austerity to the exclusion of growth…won’t everything grind to a halt if all that is done is to extract more and more taxes? And where will that leave us? Passing successive IMF tests allows us to 1) assure the IMF that we’ll be able to repay them and 2) qualify for more loans. I want more than that. I want to flourish.
The morning after the Election, my almost 13yr old son who had stayed up until the end to see who was declared winner (Sure you can stay up, Son…this is history! It happens every 4 years…you can sleep on Friday night) responded to my fears about the JLP plan and my concern about economic growth: “Mummy: if the JLP gets Governance right, and reduces political corruption, then we’ll have growth. Nothing is more important than good governance.”
You hear that, Andrew Holness and the JLP and our Opposition PNP? Nothing is more important than good governance. We’re here to stay. You can’t take our voice. Listen up.