Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Who will protect our women?

(Originally published in Guyana’s Stabroek News on 12 May 2012)

A woman died this week after law enforcement officers went through her Sophia neighbourhood shooting off their guns. She ran to the door out of fear for her son’s life and then just collapsed. Those same heartless officers then refused to take the woman to the hospital. This is a woman who had children and helped to feed other children, but those who are sworn to protect and serve society treated her as nothing.

Last week a Muslim woman who had been viciously assaulted (her top and hijab were ripped off of her!) allegedly by member of the Anna Catherina Policing group went to the Leonora Police Station to file a report and was abused even further by a law enforcement officer at the station. Such humiliation and torture inflicted on this woman by the “protectors.”
In February, a “protector” at the Sans Souci Police station in Wakenaam bluntly refused to take a report from a domestic violence victim. The officer reportedly told the victim and her mother that such a matter was not for the police; instead, he said it was a matter of a private nature and he advised her to take her own action. I sure hope that woman is still alive today. If she is, it is no thanks at all to the nation’s “protectors.”
How many cases of violence against women never see justice because those in law enforcement either do not do their job or conveniently turn their eyes the other way? The epitome of all that is wrong with the nation’s protectors comes in the person of the former police commissioner Henry Greene, who was accused of committing a rape at gunpoint and then found a way to escape facing a charge. It is just so disgusting that it makes me want to spit!
I could go on and on about cases like these, where the protectors are in fact either part of the problem (by inaction) or the entire problem (by active commission of a wrong) when it comes to violence and abuse against women. These protectors are most certainly not the solution, which is what they are paid to be.

Bad Romances

(Originally published in Guyana’s Stabroek News on 5 May 2012)

I often wonder how many women settle for relationships that are not mutually satisfying. How many spend day after day wishing they had a better relationship while living with a spouse or partner who could not care two cents about having a thriving relationship?
I am talking about the kind of relationships where the woman does everything, like nurture the relationship, bears the brunt of the household chores and at times even looks the other way while he talks to another woman on his BlackBerry.
As women, we hear some of these Sisters talk about their situations and try to help them through the tough times. Others quietly bear their hurt and pain, hoping one day the man will wake up and be that loving and caring partner they are so sure he truly is, deep inside.
Sadly, there are women who live this way for years and years until the multiple sharp barbs to the heart have calloused them so much that it is difficult to tell their dead feelings from those of the man who made them this way. Society expects women to stay in such relationships no matter how punishing. A woman is supposed to stand by her man and hope her goodness will rub off on him.
We all know, of course, that the man does not change. He doesn’t even want to change; does not see a reason to do so. In fact, most men will see that goodness from the woman as a licence to do even more that will hurt her.

The revolution should be feminised

(Originally published in Guyana’s Stabroek News on 28 April 2012)

As I was casually browsing the many booths with information and goods from the various women’s organisations at the Association for Women’s Rights in Development (AWID) Conference in Istanbul, Turkey last week, I spotted some T-shirts that grabbed my attention. Although I had already walked past the booth, the message on the T-shirts made me do an about face. Just as I was turning around, a voice from the booth said, “Stella?” The thought struck me as to how unusual it was to hear my name being spoken in Istanbul by someone besides my Guyanese colleague. It was a Sister from Jamaica who is also a Facebook friend and, as it turned out, the person who created the T-shirts that grabbed my attention.
The message on the shirts stopped me because it was obvious it could only have come from a Caribbean Sister. The shirts read, “The Revolution Should Be Feminised!” After chatting with my Jamaican Sister, I bought a T-shirt to hang in the S4 Foundation office as a reminder that any revolution that does not include women is not a valid revolution.
On the topic of revolutions, today in the US there will be marches in many cities around that nation by women (and men who care about women) who are fighting back against the injustices meted out to them. They are taking a stand. They are making their voices heard as their very own government representatives try to take away their reproductive rights. It is sickening to me how something as priceless as a “right” or justice can be used as political tools, as if men should be able to give and take these precious commodities whenever it strikes their fancy.
In America, the women are now struggling for their right to choose when they reproduce. I’m not talking about abortion alone; I am also talking about access to birth control. The desire for men to control women’s bodies seems insatiable. This struggle in the US will have global consequences and the American women cannot fail. They must persevere and win this war.
In the past year in the US there have been a record number of laws passed to infringe on women’s reproductive rights. This is going backwards, but it is true. Decades ago, Margaret Sanger said, “No woman can call herself free who does not own and control her body. No woman can call herself free until she can choose consciously whether she will or will not be a mother.”
In other words, by taking away a woman’s right to choose when she procreates, you are taking away her freedom as well. And to what end? To sate the egos of men who cannot handle the likes of a woman who thinks and makes decisions for herself? Or to hold all women to the most extreme versions of religious theology, even if they do not practice that religion themselves? 

Feminist Economics 101

(Originally published in Guyana’s Stabroek News on 21 April 2012)

Picture this:  the world’s brightest women on economics coming together with thousands of women’s rights advocates from around the world to address the global economic situation as it applies to the female half of the world’s population. What a dream!
This dream is reality for me this weekend in Istanbul, Turkey as I attend the Association for Women’s Rights and Development’s (AWID) 12th forum entitled, “Transforming Economic Power to Advance Women’s Rights and Justice.”
AWID is an international feminist membership organisation that works to strengthen the voice, impact and influence ofwomen’s rights advocates, organisations and movements internationally to effectively advance the rights of women.

I came to this forum to get a better sense of the global scope of the women’s rights movement. With 2,200 women’s rights advocates from over 100 nations, I am getting that and so much more. It is beyond my ability to describe the feeling of seeing a sea of Sisters from around the world greet and encourage each other.