Highlighting Men's Health: A Pancap Initiative For Ending the Aids EpidemicRead Now
Global Frontier this week highlights a Share Fair on Men’s Health, an initiative by the Caribbean Community's Pan Caribbean Partnerships Against HIV/AIDS (PANCAP) held on March 14, 2019 in Trinidad and Tobago. It is an illustration of a prototype through an interactive methodology and active participation of practitioners. It addresses the critical issues of men’s health with a focus on accelerating prevention to achieve the UNAIDS’ 90-90-90 Targets, a scientific approach to ending the AIDS epidemic by 2030. The main features are: How to get 90% of men with HIV knowing their status? How to get 90% of those knowing their status on treatment? How to get 90% of those on treatment with viral loads in the blood low enough as not to transmit HIV.
The Share Fair, a component of The PANCAP Knowledge for Health Project, is funded by PEPFAR-USAID and implemented by the Center for Communication Programs, John Hopkins University. It included a ‘knowledge cafe’ highlighting successful men’s health programmes. In so doing, it provided a space for National AIDS Programme managers, health professionals and representatives of Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) in the Caribbean, to showcase best practices, discuss critical challenges, and provide recommendations for increasing access to services for men, including men who have sex with men and other key populations in achieving 90-90-90.
The Share Fair was a response to the UNAIDS Global AIDS Update 2018 showing that gay men and other men who have sex with men accounted for nearly a quarter of new infections in 2017. The report also highlighted that efforts to reach men and boys, and particularly gay men and other men who have sex with men, are constrained by health services insufficiently tailored to their needs and limited community-based services.
Dr Shanti Singh-Anthony, Coordinator of the PANCAP Knowledge for Health Project hailed the activity as a success. She said it highlighted “ innovations from country programmes that have achieved positive results in relation to increasing access to prevention, treatment, care and support services for men and boys. Implementers of programmes who are challenged to reach men with health services can use the innovative practices to increase men’s access to quality health services.”
The link to the event taken from the PANCAP.org website is: https://spark.adobe.com/page/iuc4XSGTBTrG1/
See the National AIDS Programme coordinators, health professionals and representatives of civil society in the Caribbean at work. Engage in a dialogue with PANCAP’s Knowledge for Health Programme. Share your experiences. Make a difference to the challenge of ending the AIDS epidemic.
A significant event uniting young people across the globe occurred on Friday March 15, 2019. It was deemed a student strike for action on Climate Change. Young climate activists are hoping to spark a widespread dialogue about climate change. The coordinators of the event were obviously following in the footsteps of their peers in Parkland, Florida, who led a national conversation in the USA about gun control after a mass shooting at their school. But it was sixteen-year-old Greta Thunberg that kicked off the "climate action" movement last summer in Sweden and subsequently gained attention when she delivered a powerful speech at the United Nations climate summit in December 2018. The wave of 'students skipping school’ under a banner such as "US Youth Climate Strike" was replicated, according to the BBC in student marches in more than 100 countries including South Africa, India, New Zealand and South Korea. And in Europe, students marched in London, Lisbon, Vienna, Rome and Copenhagen, among others. Some rallies were reported to have attracted tens of thousands. This happening raises several questions: What were the demands? Why the urgency? Which countries contribute the most to the global problem? How to accelerate the momentum of this global movement toward achieving the targets of Sustainable Development Goal #13: Climate action by 2030? The targets of SDG 13 aim to take action to combat climate change and its impacts by regulating emissions and promoting developments in renewable energy.
What are the Demands?
Although student demands varied from country-to-country, the common concern was the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The menu of demands is best illustrated on the Youth Climate Strike website:
Why the urgency?
Economic development and climate change are intricately linked. The linkages are particularly so among indicators of poverty, gender equality, energy and the environment. The youth are rightly concerned about the slow pace of action taken by governments and the private sectors at the national, regional and international levels. Despite numerous international commitments, the situation is serious according to a 2018 report from the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). It states that the planet will reach the crucial threshold of 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels by as early as 2030. This will trigger greater risks of extreme drought, wildfires, floods and food shortages for hundreds of millions of people. Temperature records for the planet, monitored independently by the National Centers for Environmental Information, go back to 1880. They show that the planet is already two-thirds of the way toward exceeding the target for greenhouse emissions with global temperatures having warmed about 1 degree C. They also show that the most recent years , 2015-2017 are so far the three hottest years on record.
Therefore, avoiding going to even higher levels will require significant action in the next few years. Global net emissions of carbon dioxide would need to fall by 45% from 2010 levels by 2030 and reach "net zero" around 2050 in order to keep global warming around 1.5 degrees C. Lowering emissions to this degree, while technically possible, would require widespread changes how we deal with energy, industry, buildings, transportation and cities.
Which Countries Contribute most to the Global Problem
While the window on keeping global warming below 1.5 degrees C is closing rapidly, implementing the emissions pledges made by195 countries that were signatories to the 2015 Paris Accord do not add up to us achieving that goal in the 11 years left to 2030. The agreement is to combat climate change and to accelerate and intensify the actions and investments needed for a sustainable low carbon future. The major burden resides in countries that contribute most to the high shares of global carbon dioxide emissions from fuel combustion. These are China (28%), USA (15%), India (6%) Russia (5%) and Japan (4%).
How to overcome?
Ironically the most affected countries contribute least to the global problem They are the Caribbean, Indian Islands and Pacific Islands. As a result, they have combined through the Small Island Development States Forum referred as the SIDS DOCK to make demands on four principal functions from the Paris Accord:
In March 2014, in partnership with the United Nations Industrial and Development Organization (UNIDO), the Government of Austria extended support under a Memorandum of Understanding, with a grant of 1 million euros, for start-up activities for Centres for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency in the Caribbean the Pacific, African and for a centre in the Indian Ocean region. These new centres are supposed to act as hubs, assisting SIDS to translate commitments to actions. In this regard, SIDS DOCK is highly complementary to the work being done under the UN Sustainable Energy For All (SE4All) Initiative. What this means is that SIDS is the largest group of signatories, with the highest ambitions and SIDS DOCK coincides with the demands of the 2019 Youth Students March for Action.
With special reference to youth initiatives, there are several pillars on which to build partnerships to achieve the SDG #13 on climate action. Among these pillars are the SIDS Innovation, the Zero Hour Movement, and the CARICOM Climate Change Youth Forum.
SIDS an example of genuine partnership around an innovative idea
The Hon. Roosevelt Skerrit, Prime Minister of Dominica in his country’s capacity as Chair of the SIDS DOCK Steering Committee, said that SIDS DOCK represents a significant achievement in solidifying SIDS-SIDS relationships and cooperation. He called it “an extraordinary lesson learned of what can happen when a genuine partner takes ‘a chance’ on a new and innovative idea that has the potential to help SIDS adapt and become more resilient to the changing climate and sea level rise.” Following hurricanes Irma and Maria that devastated Dominica, Prime Minister Skerrit advocated for, and is leading the charge to establish a Climate Resilient Island State. This is a major innovative goal in the framework of SIDS and the Paris Accord.
Zero Hour is a movement of a diverse group of youth promoting a conversation around climate and environmental justice
Zero Hour facilitates training and resources for new young activists and organizers (and adults who support their vision) wanting to take concrete action around climate change. The aim is for youth organizing to protect their rights and access to the natural resources and a clean, safe, and healthy environment that will ensure a livable future where they just not survive, but flourish.
The Caribbean Community Climate Change Youth Forum
This CARICOM Institution referred to as 5Cs is intent on sending a clear message to youths across the Caribbean, understanding their critical role as decision-makers and implementers in a climate-aware society. Its programme, Climate Change and Youth – Education today for tomorrow’s leaders is an outreach campaign, particularly geared towards the High School audience piloted in Belize. The emphasis is on understanding the individual contributions, highlighting options of individuals to mitigate and adapt to climate change and developing a climate change tool kit in the form of a data driven booklet, possibly displayed digitally to reach the widest cross section of youth.
These examples of innovations that are intended to remove the misconceptions and mainstream the schools' curricula and public awareness campaigns designed to reach young people efficiently and comprehensively.
The future of Climate Action through Collective Leadership - The potential of the Caribbean Youth Ambassadors Corps
Connecting the Pillars of climate action is vital to SDG #13 by 2030. Around the world, as attested to by the Youth Climate Action, there are several possibilities for sustaining the role of youth. Yet a potentially vibrant source for connecting these pillars goes almost unrecognized. It is the CARICOM Youth Ambassadors (CYA) Corps that falls under the umbrella of the Caribbean Community.
The CYA has received a fillip under the current regime of CARICOM Secretary General Ambassador Irwin LaRocque, who has convened annual engagements of CYAs, thereby institutionalizing their roles within the decision making apparatus of the Caribbean Community. They have been actively engaged under the Youth Advocacy Programme of the PANCAP Caribbean Partnership against HIV (PANCAP) located in the CARICOM Secretariat. The CYAs interface with national youth groups and 'marginalized' youth. In 2010, the CYAs completed a report The EYE on the Future which it presented to CARICOM Heads of Governments in Suriname as a template for action. Many of the architects and participants in that venture have graduated to leading positions in International and regional organizations, one is as cabinet minister in a national government. Others are private sector executives, professors, health, education and legal practitioners, media operatives and respected advocates for social justice and equity in leading NGOs.
Within the objectives of SIDS, the CYA is a unique structure championing rights-based approaches to adaptation and resilience-building In so doing it would help to build a movement of people creating, demonstrating and advocating for climate justice and climate resistance It however needs financial support to consolidate its true potential.
The Caribbean has a golden opportunity to influence the next round of student climate action by focusing on collective leadership with specific objectives:
As Ms Ezbai Francis CYA from St Lucia describes the task - " sensitize, collaborate and mobilize"
The Venezuela RealityRead Now
This week we carry a fascinating perspective on Venezuela that is indeed a Latin America and Caribbean reality. It was carried in the March 12, 2019 issue of Global Americans, an NGO initiative dedicated to smart news and research for Latin American and Caribbean changemakers. It is reproduced with the permission of Professor/Ambassador Jorge Heine
Cúcuta’s Showbiz: Latin American politics as living theater
by Jorge Heine
Fifty years ago, political scientist Charles W. Anderson referred to Latin America as “a living museum.” By this he meant the co-existence of regimes that seemed to belong to very different eras, if not centuries: traditional military dictatorships like Alfredo Stroessner in Paraguay, as well as
bureaucratic-authoritarian ones like Argentina and Brazil; old-fashioned, patrimonial autocracies, like Anastasio Somoza in Nicaragua and François Duvalier’s Haiti and established multiparty democracies like Chile, Costa Rica and Uruguay; two-party systems like Colombia and Venezuela, and one-party- dominant ones, like Mexico’s.
Today’s Latin America is more along the lines of “a living theater.” Comedy (closer often to farce), tragedy and drama are all in full display in presidential palaces throughout the region, with comic opera and operetta making occasional appearances on the playbill. Events in late February in Cúcuta, a Colombian town on the Venezuelan border, are Exhibit A of this new theatrical performative tendency.
Orchestrated by Colombian President Iván Duque, who played the leading role, and with supporting actors like presidents Sebastián Piñera of Chile and Mario Abdo Benítez of Paraguay, it was portrayed as a grand operation to restore democracy in Venezuela. This veritable “diplomatic encirclement” was to bring to an end the Maduro regime, or so the script went. Dozens of trucks with humanitarian aid were poised to cross the bridge from Colombia to Venezuela over the Táchira river. As if on cue, the Venezuelan Armed Forces were then supposed to open the border, defect from the government and allow the self-proclaimed acting president of Venezuela, Juan Guaidó, to take over from President Nicolás Maduro. Although banned from leaving the country, the 35-year old, photogenic Guaidó slipped into Cúcuta, and was the undisputed star of the show. So much so, that Piñera and Benítez found themselves scrambling through Guaidó’s bodyguard-line to get their photo-ops next to the beaming young engineer.
Led by billionaire-cum-celebrity Richard Branson, a rock concert (“Venezuela Live Aid”) to raise $100 million for the whole endeavor was held in situ and included attractions such as Colombian cumbia singer Carlos Vives. The high note of the day was provided by Spanish singer Miguel Bosé (who sang for Pinochet in the 1980s in Viña del Mar), when he elegantly asked former president of Chile and now UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle
Bachelet, “to move her butt and get herself to Venezuela” (both the United Nations and the International Committee of the Red Cross had refused to be part of the show—including the concert and the shipment of humanitarian aid).
In the end, no truck crossed the San Martín bridge, a ship loaded with humanitarian aid sent from Puerto Rico to Venezuela returned with its full cargo to the island, and Maduro strengthened his grip on the country.
Rarely has the region seen such an undiluted diplomatic fiasco. But then, perhaps that was the point. Stagecraft has replaced statecraft.
Not to be outdone, a few days later in Paraguay, Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro, a former Army captain, paid homage to the man who ruled that country with an iron fist for 35 years, dictator Alfredo Stroessner, in the presence of his counterpart, Abdo Benítez, the son of Stroessner’s private
secretary. Yet, lest he be accused of showing too much affinity for the old right, Bolsonaro soon pulled other rabbits from his hat. An avid Twitter user, during Brazil’s Carnival Bolsonaro outdid himself by tweeting the picture of a naked man touching himself as another man urinated on him. Later the president posted another, asking, “What are golden showers?” Displaying his common touch and appealing to his base, while attending the World Economic Forum in Davos, the Brazilian president had lunch by himself in a supermarket cafeteria, rather than to do so with other participating heads of state in posh hotel suites. He has though, agreed to visit the White House on March 19, when presumably he won’t eat at the food court in Pentagon City.
Coups, cocaine, corruption, and Cúcuta
In Honduras, the farce has gone into overdrive. In 2009, the country experienced one of the last old-fashioned military coups d’etats, which included the signature feature of detaining the incumbent president at the crack of dawn, and hoisting him, still in his pajamas, into a plane and out of the
country. The ostensible reason for the coup, as those who led it said themselves, was the government’s initiative for a new constitution, which might have allowed the possibility of presidential re-election, forbidden in the current charter. This is such a no-no that a coup was mandatory. Yet, the current president, Juan Orlando Hernández, a leading supporter of the coup,
and elected in 2013, got the Supreme Court to waive that constitutional ban to allow his re-election in 2017, in what was declared by independent observers and The Economist a fraudulent vote.
After stealing the election, the United States recognized him as the president and the region has hailed him as one of the Americas paramount democratic leaders. President Hernández’ younger brother, Juan Antonio (“Tony”) was arrested last November in Miami for long-term drug-trafficking to the United States on behalf of the Sinaloa cartel. His closeness to narcotics traffickers was such that he even allegedly had a type of cocaine named after him. Tony is now behind bars.
Yet, even countries that have done well these years find it hard not to be pulled to the stage. Peru has had among the best economic performances of any nation in the hemisphere this century, growing at an annual average of 6.1 per cent from 2002 to 2013. Yet, every single elected president in this period, Alberto Fujimori, Alan García, Alejandro Toledo, and Ollanta Humala—barring the most recent—is either in prison or has an arrest warrant over their head, a world record that led the New York Times famously to ask, “Does Peru need a special prison just for former presidents?” And even the most recent, Pedro Pablo Kuzcinsky, a banker-turned politician, elected president in 2016 under an anti-corruption platform, was forced to resign in 2018 when it turned out he had received payments from Odebrecht, the Brazilian construction company, while holding public office.
Across the Andes, in Argentina, things are not much better. Once among the top five richest countries in the world, and blessed with the best agricultural land anywhere (the pampa húmeda), and untold (though mostly under-exploited) mineral wealth, Argentina regressed from development to underdevelopment, and fluctuates from boom to bust with bipolar frequency. After its most recent international default (in 2000-2001), and a roller coaster ride under the Kirchners (Néstor Kirchner, 2003-2007, and Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, 2007-2015), Argentines and the international community held out hopes for conservative Mauricio Macri, a millionaire businessman who, it was said, would balance the books and straighten out Argentina’s foreign debts. A businessman would clean up the mess left by the peronista politicians, or so the fairy tale went. Yet, a little over three years into Macri’s term, Argentina is drowning in red ink, the peso has hit rock bottom—requiring the International Monetary Fund to shore up the country’s Central Bank reserves—and talk of yet another default has already started.
Venezuela, the country with the biggest oil reserves in the world, and once so rich that Venezuelans in Miami were known as “dame dos” (“give me two”, as whenever they wanted to buy something, they bought not one, but two items ) now undergoes periodic blackouts, and is unable to feed its people, let alone provide basic services. Its president, Nicolás Maduro has found it hard to fill the shoes of his once boss, Hugo Chávez, whose “21st century socialism” model is now in tatters.
Much is made of Venezuela’s humanitarian crisis, and rightly so. Yet, in some ways Haiti’s humanitarian crisis is a lot worse, although nobody pays much attention to it. The country never recovered from the January 2010 earthquake that devastated it. Despite the billions of dollars committed by the international community for reconstruction, nearly ten years later, refugee camps still abound, and even the white stucco, birthday-cake-like presidential palace is still in ruins. Imposed from abroad, hapless Michel Martelly, a former crooner who had never held public office nor run anything before becoming president (2011-2016), limped through as the leader of the hemisphere’s poorest nation. His handpicked successor, Jovenel Moise (2017-present) has not fared much better. A businessman, accused of pocketing some of the proceeds from the discounted oil provided by Venezuela to Haiti under the Petrocaribe scheme, Moise has faced weeks of popular protests. The opposition managed to shut down the country for a week in February, and U.S. and Canadian travel advisories have decimated the tourist industry. Haitians have emigrated to countries as far away as Chile, which 100,000 of them now call home.
As if the large number of existing regional organizations were not enough, a new one has been announced with great fanfare. It carries the imaginative name of PROSUR, taking a leaf from the export-promotion agencies (ProChile, ProColombia, ProMexico) that populate foreign ministries. The lead has been taken by a number of countries (Chile, Colombia, Peru, Argentina) that left another, previous organization, UNASUR, alleging it was “too ideological”—which this one presumably isn’t, even though it is launched by another side of the ideological aisle.
Cúcuta was a trial run for what we can expect from PROSUR. The show goes on.
Jorge Heine is a public policy fellow at The Wilson Center in Washington DC. He is former Chilean Ambassador to the People’s Republic of China; former Chilean Cabinet Minister and Ambassador; former CIGI Professor of Global Governance at the Balsillie School of International Affairs; and Professor of Political Science at Wilfrid Laurier University His latest book (with Brigitte Weiffen) is 21st Century Democracy Promotion in the Americas: Standing Up for the Polity (Routledge, 2015).
Reflecting on #Balance for Better and contemplating an International Day for Gender EqualityRead Now
This blog is being written on International Women’s Day 2019, the theme of which is Balance for Better . It focuses our attention on the movement for women's rights that is multipurpose, multi-sectoral and multinational in scope and activism. It however provides an opportunity to reflect on the origins, aims and future of a movement that is inclusive.
Origins of Women’s Day
The origins of Women’s day is identified with the Socialist Party of America which organized a Women's Day on February 28, 1909 in New York. The following year (1910) the International Socialist Woman's Conference suggested that Women's Day be held annually. However it was only after women gained suffrage through the right to vote in political elections in Soviet Russia in 1917, that March 8 became a national holiday there. Claire Zillian explains purple is the color of International Women’s Day , signifying justice and dignity. Women she elaborates have depended on clothing color as a symbol of protest. In the UK and USA white was the official color of the suffrage movement. It was worn on election night 2016 in the USA. Black has been the choice of the #Metoo movement, as well as by females in the film industry at the Emmy awards in 2019. White was also a symbol worn by Democratic women in Congress for President Donald Trumps 2019 state of the union address, in protest against sexual harassment. [Fortune Magazine, March 7, 2019]
There have been many variations in the aims and outcomes since International Women’s Day was founded more than a century ago. It became a prominent celebration by the socialist movement and communist countries. It was heralded in the USA in 1910 as 15,000 women marched in New York demanding better working conditions and voting rights. After it was adopted in 1975 by the United Nations, it evolved as a Day for celebrating women’s social, economic and political achievements and calling for gender equality and empowerment. Today, International Women's Day is a public holiday in some countries. In others, it is a celebration of womanhood. In some countries, it is a day of protest. It is largely ignored elsewhere.
Sustaining pillars: Gender equality and women’s empowerment
In many ways, the aims and aspirations that underscore International Women’s Day are consistent with those issues that confront women and girls throughout the year. It connects with the goals of UN General Assembly (Resolution 54/134) designating November 25 as International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, which also marks the start of the "16 Days of Activism" preceding Human Rights Day on December 10 each year. Its emphasis on gender quality raises awareness of the fact that women around the world are subject to rape, domestic violence and other forms of violence. It was aptly formulated by former UN Secretary General, Ban Ki Moon’s campaign in 2014, UNITE to End Violence against Women.” It also is deeply entrenched in the goal of Women's Empowerment which is a process, not a product. It is about equipping and allowing women to make life-determining decisions; having the capability to make important decisions in their lives; and being able to act on them.
These aspects of change however require credible advocates and leaders that could influence institutional responses, mobilize communities for change and champion the empowerment of women and girls.
Illustrations through the response to HIV
There are so many areas to which prescriptions to achieve gender equality and women’s empowerment may be applied . Among them are the family, household, workplace, schools, communities, religious organizations and sports. Given the recent and greatly encouraging news from the University of London and Imperial College London that an HIV positive man has been functionally cured, it is useful to note the work at the International Partnership for Microbicides, to expand women’s HIV prevention options with new technologies. This means that innovation is front and center of ending the AIDS epidemic.
The work of the Partnership demonstrates that gender equality and HIV prevention go hand-in-hand. Today, women bear the brunt of the HIV epidemic and, worldwide, young women ages 15-24 are more than twice as likely to acquire HIV as young men of the same age. In this respect “ gender inequities play a large role in limiting women’s ability to negotiate safe sex, or even select their partners. Condoms, while highly effective, are often not a feasible option for many women”. [Partnership for Microbicides 2019 World AIDS Day Message]
The Partnership promotes building smart new ways to help women stay HIV-free and protect their sexual and reproductive health. It also advocates for innovation so that women have a range of tools that fit their needs and circumstances. These include condoms, daily oral pre exposure prophylactic (PrEP), vaginal and rectal microbicides, injectables, implants and vaccines, as well as multipurpose prevention products that prevent both HIV and unintended pregnancy.
First Ladies in Africa and the Caribbean as Credible Advocates
The Organisation of African First Ladies against HIV/AIDS (OAFLA) founded in 2002 currently includes 37 members. They work to cultivate a spirit of solidarity and the exchange of experiences among African First Ladies. Its mission is to contribute to the health and well-being of children, youth and women through advocacy, resource mobilization and strategic partnerships. Given that HIV in young women ages 15-24 in South Saharan Africa remains an urgent problem, OAFLA has developed an ambitious partnership totaling $385 Million for the DREAMS project committed to help girls to develop into Determined, Resilient, Empowered, AIDS-Free, Mentored and Safe women. This is being organized through parenting, care giver programmes, cash transfers, educational subsidies, combination of socio-economic approaches and interventions to reduce risk of sex partnerships, school based HIV prevention and interventions that empower girls and young women. Its mission is to increase capacity of women leaders to advocate for effective solutions to respond to the ongoing HIV/AIDS epidemic, and act against stigma and discrimination in the fight against HIV/AIDS. For more details see www.dreamspartnership.org
The Spouses of CARICOM Leaders Action Network (SCLAN) is a non-governmental organization endorsed by CARICOM Heads of Government at their Inter-Sessional Meeting in Guyana in February 2017. It was formally established in September 2018, with Mrs. Kim Simplis Barrow, Spouse of the Prime Minister of Belize, being elected Chair.
SCLAN’s vision is “a Caribbean free from HIV, hepatitis, TB, early pregnancy, and violence, where women and girls know their value and ability” Its mission is aligned with former UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s “Every Woman, Every Child” and the Global Initiative and the Global Strategy for Women’s, Children’s and Adolescents’ Health (2016-2030). In this regard SCLAN in collaboration with OAFLA is pursuing joint programmes to achieve global solidarity consistent with the theme of 2019 World AIDS Day. In collaboration with Gilead, several national projects have been launched. Jointly with the PANCAP Coordinating Unit, CARICOM Secretariat, SCLAN is “pressing forward for the health and well-being of women, children and adolescents”. The aim is to increase awareness and to stimulate interest, especially among First Ladies to advocate for the development of programmes that will support the safety, physical and psychological well-being of women, children and adolescents around the world.
Its Vice Chair, First Lady, Her Excellency Sandra Granger of Guyana is a PANCAP Champion for Change which ensures that within the Caribbean, gender equity is high on the agenda. For more information see www.specialenvoy.bz
Both in the case of OALFA and SCLAN there is recognition that gender equity and women’s empowerment require the involvement and engagement of men and boys. Mrs Juliet Holness, spouse of the Prime Minister of Jamaica and Executive Committee member of SCLAN has launched Save our Boys Foundation to respond to the challenge of raising resilient, successful and resourceful boys who become strong, responsible and admirable men.
Innovation through joint action with Men
Joint action among women and men is an essential pillar of gender equality. While the longest running national celebration of Men's Day is in Malta, where events have occurred since 1994, the stage is set with the International Men's Day (IMD), an annual international event celebrated every year on 19 November. It was inaugurated in New York by Thomas Oaster, February 7, 1992. After a lapse of 7 years the project was reinitialized in Trinidad and Tobago by Dr. Jerome Teelucksingh, Lecturer at the University of the West Indies, St. Augustine, on 19 November 1999 to honour his father's birthday and also to celebrate that date when Trinidad and Tobago's football team had united the country with their endeavours to qualify for the Soccer World Cup in France. Teelucksingh‘s vision has been sustained as more than 80 countries worldwide now celebrate International Men’s Day. Its grass roots activists have promoted International Men’s Day: not just a ‘gendered’ day but one where all issues affecting men and boys can be addressed. Their goal is to remove the negative images and the stigma associated with men in our society. It revolves around six pillars that parallel those of International Women’s Day. They include: promoting men’s and boys health, male role models, gender equality, and family life and humanitarianism.
On this International Day as we reflect the meaning of the theme, "Balance for Better ”, we may wish to contemplate retaining the separate celebrations for men and women but work toward a joint International Day for Gender equality.
It is fitting that Winston Bailey the enigmatic calypsonian known as the Mighty Shadow was a celebrant at the 2019 Panorama Steel Band competition, one of the major events of Carnival in Trinidad and Tobago. He was honored along with recently deceased - internationally acclaimed steel pannist and musical arranger, Professor Ken Philmore and musical composer and calypsonian, Winston Scarborough better known as 'The Original De Fosto Himself'.
Shadow died on October 23, 2018, days before being awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Letters posthumously at the University of the West Indies graduation ceremony, St Augustine campus, Trinidad and Tobago.
Global one Frontier has reproduced this tribute to Shadow with the permission of the author, Mr. Bokko Rennie. It is a thoughtful portrait of this legend within the calypso art form and a powerful force in shaping calypso’s up-tempo descendant, soca.
Bukka Rennie, a national of Trinidad and Tobago is an historian, writer and advocate. Among his publications is The History of the working class in Trinidad and Tobago 1919-1956 (Minority Press, USA) He attended St Mary's College in Port of Spain and Sir George William University in Montreal, Canada.
Wlliam Blake a British philosopher- poet who lived in the period 1757-1827 wrote the following words in one of his poems: “O see a world in a grain of sand/And heaven in a wild flower/Hold infinity in the palm of your hand/And eternity in an hour..." Listen now to Shadow- Winston Bailey, in his calypso "Evolution": "I am locked in a dungeon/in the middle of evolution/can't find the key/to escape destiny..."
Here's Blake again: "A robin redbreast in a cage/Puts all heaven in a rage/A dog starved at his master's gate/Predicts the ruin of the State/The lamb misused breeds public strife/And yet forgives the butcher's knife... And Listen again to Shadow: "Everything is in harmony/Until the farmer get hungry.../The farmer comes searching the nest/The cock bawl out loud in Protest/Cook curry ochro!..."
If you make the connection between those quotes, the revelation comes. Nature and time and space and all social activity are directly linked, integrated and interrelated. As Blake once wrote: “the sun rises and humanity rejoices and moves, the sun sets and humanity stops and sleeps.” Similarly Shadow would sing in his "My Belief": " I believe in the stars and the dark night/ I believe in the sun and the daylight/ /I believe in the little children/I believe in Life and its problems..."
I have always maintained that, like William Blake, Shadow in his very simplicity and apparent childlike lyrics remains a most complex artist.
Unlike our numerous social commentators who comment on particular and specific events and issues of a political or socio-economic nature, Shadow contemplates natural phenomena and man's relations to the universe. It explains why his approach to most topics: poverty, pressure, friendship, honesty, jealousy, survival, truth, human rights etc. ,all of which are titles of actual Shadow calypsos, signify that tendency of all philosophers including Shadow to draw concrete lessons from abstract treatment of subject matter.
William Blake was no different in his simplicity, poetic abstractions and glorifying of nature. With such an approach both Blake and Shadow force us beyond the ordinariness of daily existence to contemplate the meaning of Life itself, our purpose on Earth, the essence of death and its consequences, the juxtaposing of nature's opposites and how we stand in relation to the rest of the universe; the stars, the moon, the sun, the animals, trees and the birds, etc.
Blake, over the past centuries, came to be well known for the following poems: "Tiger, Tiger, burning bright/In the forests of the night..." and "Little Lamb who made thee? /Dost thou know who made thee?" And more so for the ending of the "Tiger" poem where he questions: "What immortal hand or eye/Dare frame thy fearful symmetry? /Did he who made the Lamb make thee?..."
Likewise Shadow's philosophical questions and statements as evidenced in "What is Life?", "I Believe", "Everybody is Somebody", "One Love", etc. shall in time guarantee the immortality of his work. Shadow symbolically says in song: “you only telling me what to do, telling me where to go, but the knowledge I want to get, is how to escape Mr. Death…” (Toe Jam?)
Besides their great ability to simplify abstract thought and to seek truth out of the clashing of opposites e.g., "the ladder of success is written in distress", both Blake and Shadow also hold in common a sense of alienation from official society. Blake grew up in 18th century England when the simple pastoral life of the countryside was giving way to the overcrowded towns and the exploitation of child-labour that was deemed a commercial necessity in the midst of the widespread Industrial Revolution. At that time there seemed to be little value placed on human existence.
Blake rejected such development and created a body of poetic symbolism to make the meaning of his imagery more powerful. That also allowed him to protect himself from censorship in a time when one could be executed for sedition against Church or State, from which he, Blake, barely escaped on one occasion. Blake's alienation was reflected in his rejection then of all social convention. To him churches or organised religion were "mills of Satan" in which "Satan was called God and compelled man to serve him in abject submission." This God Blake called "Urizen" and he described him as "satanic holiness, revengeful, and a brooding, dark power." Sounds familiar. That is exactly what Farrel is to Shadow. Blake’s “Urizen” and Shadow’s “Farrel” are identical as spiritual, creative force that illuminates them for the world to see.
Shadow emerges out of the pastoral settings and closeness to nature of Les Coteaux, Tobago, to confront the madness of an urban existence that signifies him as "alien". He comes in the midst of a quest, a demand, and an imperative of political Independence, to transform society unto an industrial basis as a platform to facilitate true development, but this "de-colonisation" process is bogged down by Euro-centric parameters that rejects the genuine self-determination of a people as it rejects everything about Shadow's persona: his blackness, his ethnicity (Tobagonian-ness), and most of all his artistic expressions which are described as "growls and groans and animal-like noises." Despite acclaim by the masses, official society kept seeing Shadow as a clown and his lyrics as childish, crass foolishness, and his singing was described as "baying", in other words, inhuman. Simply put; Shadow's raucousness disturbed the smooth urbane existence of the Port-of-Spain brown-skin middle-class creoles.
But the fact is that Shadow emerged after 1970, in the wake of a groundswell of "black consciousness" that clearly establishes that the Eurocentric creole-culture, the culture of official society, could no longer accommodate or embrace the divergences of all who settled here by force or choice and now wished to proclaim their own ways of seeing and doing. Shadow philosophically spearheads this groundswell, he becomes both the medium and the message as he confronts official society and attacks the Calypso Monarchy.
To accomplish this, Shadow summons inspiration and creative strength, not from "Heaven" as the ethics of this Western, Graeco-Roman-Christian world would want to suggest, but from "Hell", in order to overcome and break the musical monarchy ("The Threat").
However the inspiration is not immediate in coming so he considers going back to Tobago to plant peas, when "Farrel suddenly turns up. Victory comes as a result and it is then that we are told that this new "King" shall be a most exacting and revengeful one ("King from Hell"). It is the psychology of intense alienation that produces the brooding revenge of both "Blake’s Urizen" and "Shadow’s Farrel".
In Shadow's Hell he is comfortable. It is a state of mind that allows no limits to creative power. Farrel is the psychological manifestation of this. Farrel is what Winston is not. There is a constant struggle between Farrel and Winston, a struggle of personalities, a struggle between two worlds.
Winston is the tendency of compromise and surrender. Winston has been beaten down by society. Winston is the laid back, quiet, unassuming personality, while Farrel is uncompromising and cannot be accommodated. When Farrel and Winston combine you get "Shadow", a reflection of myth and reality, a new sense of power. Logically then the main symbols of Shadow as an artist have always been "death", "hell" and "children".
"Children" represent the new birth, the new consciousness and thrust against the old order and arrangement, while "death" and "hell", as sources of inspiration and strength, represent the space and time and action of social transformation.
Anyone can trace Shadow's use of these symbolic themes in all his calypsoes and show how he expands the symbols as he goes along to incorporate new imagery and new meaning. In short, Shadow turns all the norms upside down and around.
He was the first calypsonian who in dealing with man/woman and gender relationships in song put the sexes on equal footing and in fact in most instances placed women in control of the situations and in a position to determine outcome especially where their bodies and their sexuality are concerned.
That is quite obvious in "I Come Out to Play", "Rap to Me", "Country Boy", "Shift Yuh Carcass", etc and that in itself was revolutionary when one considers what obtained previously. Moreover, Shadow’s revolution was not only in terms of content but also in terms of form, for in searching for the best means through which to express his novel ideas, he found that it required a whole new approach to calypso, and in so doing ended up freeing calypso from the limitations of its traditional form and structure for all the others like Shorty to follow from 1975 onwards.
That in fact has been Shadow’s greatest contribution, he opened up the Art form, and it is why he is so revered by the present day Rapso exponents like Ataklan.
Describing him as the William Blake of Calypso was an attempt to get people to delve deeper into the man's work, the man's reasoning and into the stirrings of his soul.
One person felt that the analogy to Blake was far-fetched. Why is the analogy to Blake and Blake's England in the throes of early Industrialisation being viewed as far-fetched? Rejection and alienation and violence to the human spirit, violence to creative intelligence, violence to the essence of humanity, is the connecting link.
Both Shadow and Blake experienced rejection and, in turn, rejected the basic underpinnings of Eurocentric society. Blake rejected the God of organised religion in his time. So too Shadow was inspired by "Farrel" since there is really no conception in old African Religions of a Devil and all Gods are ascribed human attributes that are both "good" and "bad".
Finally, Blake in his time and Shadow, now, have created in their art very similar symbols of life and death, and of man's relation to nature in attempt to express their feelings, their reasoning and their truth. And they both did so with a childlike innocence that is not to be construed as childishness.
I have no doubt in my mind about the close affinity of these two in their thought patterns and approach to subject matter. This is rather strange for two men from different epochs, who could never have met but only share the same initials: “WB”. Listen to both of them:
I asked a thief to steal me a peach;
He turned up his eyes.
I asked a lady to lie her down;
Holy and meek she cries.
As soon as I went
An Angel came. He winked at the thief
And smiled at the dame
And without one word said
Had a peach from the tree
And still as a maid
Enjoyed the lady.
What is wrong with dis world
Like it gone outa control
Lunatics in politics
Like they all come out for kicks.
They legalise alcohol
And sell it to Rufus
After which he had ball
And started to cuss
A policeman called Spinks
Came up and arrest him
First he paid for the drinks
And now he paying fuh drinking.
Do you see the common approach? Shadow came from Les Coteaux with these stirrings in his soul, confident, according to Leroy Clarke, in his own obeah and "jumbies" swirling around him. It is all about native sensibility and wit as the only basis from which to see and act differently. One calypsonian commentator said: “Nobody could compose like Shadow because nobody thinks like Shadow.” That reminds me of what he said to me during our last discussion when I went to his Mt. Hope home to discuss the Liner Notes to the special album that was launched in Europe. I said to him: “there is a certain musical arranger who claims that he made you.” Shadow laughed and said: “But he stupid, he shoulda make more.”
Fare thee well, Winston McGarland Bailey. Walk good, my brethren, and thanks for being YOU!
Act to change laws that discriminate: A GlobalMandate and a Caribbean Response to Ending theAIDS Epidemic.Read Now
The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) draws our attention to the significance of Zero Discrimination Day. Its observance provides an opportunity to reflect on the seminal 1948 UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights that has enshrined the equal dignity and worth of every person. Appropriate too, is the call for actions worldwide to change discriminatory laws and practices which among others, are significant barriers to access to health and other services. They are in large measure, impediments to achieving many of the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals, which include reducing poverty; achieving gender equity, quality education and the end of the AIDS epidemic as part of integrated health; and tackling the challenges of climate change as well as peace, security and social justice.
In a poignant statement, Michel Sidibe, Executive Director, UNAIDS, affirmed that "Human rights violations are happening all over the world because of discriminatory laws and practices" He warned that "laws must protect , not cause harm" and that "all countries must carefully examine their laws and policies in order to ensure equality and protection for all people without exception". He also referred to a number of countries which in 2018 made landmark decisions to change discriminatory laws and bills. These include the Supreme Court of India that struck down Section 377 of the Penal Code which criminalized same sex relations. The Philippines lowered the age of voluntary HIV testing without need to obtain consent from a parent or guardian to 15 years. Malawi removed the provisions from a draft bill that would have criminalized HIV non- disclosure, exposure and transmission.
What is more important, UNAIDS has identified a range of laws that are discriminatory and impede access to health and social service thereby restricting freedom of movement and violation of human rights. They include travel restrictions against people living with HIV; criminalization of same sex relations and transgender people; the need for parental consent for adolescents and young people below 18 years to access HIV testing services.
All these are challenges faced by the Caribbean in its attempt to accelerate the response to HIV/AIDS and thereby fulfill the UN Mandate to which all countries are committed i.e. to end the AIDS epidemic by 2030.
The Caribbean Response
The Pan Caribbean Partnership against HIV/AIDS (PANCAP), currently led by Dereck Springer, its Director, has been making a valiant effort to bring together relevant stakeholder groups to discuss what can be done to end AIDS related stigma and discrimination. Its Justice for All Programme has produced 15 actionable recommendations, most of which have been endorsed by its partners that include parliamentarians, religious organizations, youth leaders, development partners and representatives of the private sector, NGOs and key LGBTI populations who are most affected. Of the 15 actionable recommendations in the Justice for All Roadmap, three (3) have posed a challenge to implementation. They are (a) elimination of discriminatory laws and practices against same sex relations; (b) access to sexual and reproductive health, especially by adolescents; and (c) adopting comprehensive age appropriate sexual education through the Health and Family Life Education curriculum especially targeted to - 'in' and 'out' of school youth
The Process toward the Elimination of Discriminatory Laws in the Caribbean
In this blog we deal only with discriminatory laws and will focus on the sexual and reproductive health and Comprehensive Sexual Education in another blog.
The legislative framework in the Caribbean is at odds with the inclusive rights approach for a successful public health response to HIV. Eleven (11) CARICOM Countries have laws that criminalize consensual sex between same sex adults; two (2) criminalize same sex relations; three (3) have laws which restrict entry of people who are HIV positive; thirteen (13) deem sex work illegal.
Ironic, in this regard, is that since 2012, the CARICOM Legal Advisory Committee comprising Attorneys' General approved the implementation of the PANCAP Model Anti-discrimination Legislation consistent with the human rights approach. To date, its elements are implemented only in Suriname and The Bahamas.
PANCAP's sensitization fora with national parliamentarian groups is supported by a grant through the 10th European Development Fund (EDF). These are follow-ups to a regional consultation of parliamentarians held in Jamaica in May 2017 on the theme: what can parliamentarians contribute to ending AIDS by 2030. Accordingly, the current rounds of national engagements have focused on the legislative, representative and oversight roles of parliamentarians and have identified various bipartisan parliamentary Committees supported by technical resources of partners such as UNAIDS, UNDP, UNFPA, the University of the West Indies Rights Advocacy Programme (U-RAP) and the Caribbean Court of Juridical Reform and Institutional Strengthening Project (JURIST).
The parliamentarian consultations in Belize, Suriname and Trinidad and Tobago have all agreed to accelerate the PANCAP Model legislation that includes provision for prevention of discrimination in employment and other areas such as harassment, victimization and vilification; access to prevention and care; and the establishment of an Anti-discrimination Commission to deal with complaints, investigation and conciliation. The decision of Jamaica to include Arlene Harrison Henry, The Public Defender in its Antidiscrimination Coordinating Group is a useful initiative.
However, while there is anecdotal evidence that homophobia in most of the Caribbean has reduced considerably over the past decade, there are major pockets of influential stakeholders that continue to advocate for the retention of discriminatory laws that mainly though not exclusively effect the LGBTI community. In the meantime, Governments of the region have been fairly silent in stating positions, arguably because of their fears of the electorates' emotional response to the issue. In some countries, notably in Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago, there have been articulated threats of votes being directed by some elements of the religious leadership against any political party or candidate who lends support to what is regarded as "the homosexual agenda". As a result, resolution of discrimination is increasingly being dealt with through litigation in the courts of law.
In August 2016, Chief Justice Kenneth Benjamin declared that section 53 of the Criminal Code which criminalized "carnal intercourse against the order of nature, violated the rights of a gay man (Orosco) in the Belize Constitution." He further ordered that that section should be read down so that it did not apply to consensual acts between adults in private.
In April 2018, Judge Devindra Rampersad said that sections of the Sexual Offences Act , which prohibits "buggery" and "serious indecency" between two men and criminalized consensual same sex activity between adults are unconstitutional. This decision has caused a polarization opinion among different segments of church leaders. Archbishop Jason Gordon stated that while the Roman Catholic Church does not support homosexuality, "buggery should not be criminalized at this time" [Trinidad and Tobago Guardian April 16, 2018]. This is in distinct conflict with the views of mainly the Evangelic and Muslim leadership.
Other decisions by the Caribbean Court of Justice, the highest appellate Court in CARICOM, are instructive. While ruling against Maurice Tomlinson's challenge of the provisions of the Belize and Trinidad immigration laws for impairing his free movement as a gay man, the CCJ "cautioned that [CARICOM] Member States should strive to ensure that national laws, subsidiary legislation and administrative practices are consistent with and transparent in support of, the right of free movement of all CARICOM nationals".
In its November 2018 decision, The CCJ ruled that "a law [Section 153 of the Summary Jurisdiction Offences Act] in Guyana that makes it an offence for a man or woman to appear in a public place while dressed in clothing of the opposite sex for an "improper purpose" is unconstitutional" and should be struck from the laws of Guyana.
Most recently at the Parliamentarian Forum in Jamaica (February 2019) attention was paid to the recommendations from the legal Environment Assessment from a cross section of parliamentary, representational and outreach roles. The most critical issue revolved around advocacy against the recommendation of the Offences against the Person Act to make it a criminal offence for an individual to willfully or recklessly infect a partner with any sexually transmissible disease that can inflict serious bodily harm. Attention was also given to amending the Public Order Laws, advocating for increased access to sexual and reproductive health for youth, engaging private sector in financing of projects for People Living with Aids (PLHIV) and Key populations.
Taking Action to Change Discriminatory Laws
Lancet Commission Report Advancing Global Health and Strengthening the HIV Response in the Era of the Sustainable Development Goals: the International AIDS Society (July 2018) makes the argument for including the HIV response into the broader issues of global health and universal access to health. However, it also identifies major barriers such as a deteriorating environment of human rights, sound governance and global cooperation together with growing official hostility toward civil society. Another major challenge it identified is the decrease in adherence to democratic norms that risk normalizing human rights violations and degrading human rights commitments. When compounded by discriminatory practices within the health and law enforcement systems, they result in a heavy toll on migrants and other disenfranchised and marginalized groups. For example, the experiences of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities in the Caribbean were fully ventilated in the various PANCAP consultations.
Through its Justice For All (JFA) programme PANCAP has bought together in national and regional consultations faith leaders and key populations; parliamentarians and faith leaders; parliamentarians and key populations; National AIDS Programme Coordinators with parliamentarians, faith leaders and key populations; and CARICOM Youth Ambassadors and marginalized youth in the youth advocacy fora. These multi-stakeholder consultations have assisted in in advancing respectful dialogue and accommodating diversity of views within the broad consensus of the JFA roadmap. They have therefore provided a template for action.
In their Declaration following the Regional Faith Leaders Consultation (February 2017) it was agreed that the Regional Consultative Faith Leaders Steering Committee should include a representative of the LGBTI Community. In the Joint Faith Leaders and Key populations consultation in Suriname (February 2018), it was agreed that in pursuit of the goals to reduce stigma and discrimination, key populations would engage in respectful dialogue with faith leaders, recognizing that they are not a homogeneous group.
A composite view is provided by Lord Bishop Howard Gregory, Anglican Bishop of Jamaica and the Cayman Islands. His sanguine advice is for faith leaders to advance a civil discussion without additional polarization within our region. In his words: " I believe that the church's role should be one of mediation and dialogue, rather than confrontation and polarization .... It is through the exercise of such leadership and engagement that the Government and political leaders would be able to take meaningful decisions and citizens would have an intelligent and defensible understanding of the issues" [Jamaica Sunday Observer July 6, 2014]
These illustrations of activities in the Caribbean clearly demonstrate the value and the role of PANCAP in fostering functional cooperation. They are consistent with CARICOM's Heads of Government Declaration (2000), the health of the region is the wealth of the region. They also portray the significant lessons that the accelerated approach to HIV provides toward Zero Discrimination. These are essential approaches in this era of the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals.
Edward and Auriol Greene Directors, GOFAD.