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.
A Modified version of an address given at Woburn City Hall Chambers, Massachusetts, January 21, 2019.
In this 100th year of his birth and in this period of Black History month celebrated in the USA, it is pertinent to reflect on the sermon delivered by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. at the National Cathedral, Washington, D.C. on March 31st, 1968. Dr. King was assassinated on April 4, 1968.
In Dr. King’s words: “I would like to use as a subject from which to preach this morning: "Remaining Awake Through a Great Revolution." The text for the morning is found in the book of Revelation. There are two passages there that I would like to quote, in the sixteenth chapter of that book: "Behold I make all things new; former things are passed away."
I am sure that most of you have read that arresting story from the pen of Washington Irving entitled "Rip Van Winkle." The one thing that we usually remember about the story is that Rip Van Winkle slept twenty years. But there is another point in that story that is almost completely overlooked. When Rip Van Winkle went up into the mountain, the sign had a picture of King George the Third of England. When he came down twenty years later the sign had a picture of George Washington, the first president of the United States. When Rip Van Winkle looked up at the picture of George Washington—and looking at the picture he was amazed—he was completely lost. He knew not who he was.
And this reveals to us that the most striking thing about the story of Rip Van Winkle is not merely that Rip slept twenty years, but that he slept through a revolution. While he was peacefully snoring up in the mountain a revolution was taking place that would change the course of history—and Rip knew nothing about it. He was asleep. Yes, he slept through a revolution.
Recently, a Native American Elder at the Indigenous People’s March at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC was mocked by a group of high school kids from Kentucky. This disregard for our historical heritage is but one of the many of the challenges Dr. King addressed during his lifetime . Among those that still plague our country are structural racism, poverty, inequality and inequity, a criminal justice system in need of repair, income inequality and so much more.
Dr. King in this sermon went on to say that “... one of the great liabilities of life is that too many people find themselves living amid a great period of social change, and yet they fail to develop new attitudes, the new mental responses, that the new situation demands. They end up sleeping through a revolution.” He went on to remind us that: “We must all learn to live together as brothers or we will all perish together as fools. We are tied together in the single garment of destiny, caught in an inescapable network of mutuality. And whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly. For some strange reason I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. And you can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be. This is the way God’s universe is made; this is the way it is structured.”
There are people sleeping through a revolution when action required on issues such as human trafficking, gun violence, school shootings, immigration, wars around the world for example in Syria and Yemen, young black men and women dying while in police custody, inequity in education, climate change and so much more.
Dr. King would definitely be addressing these issues if he were alive today. When he took a stand against the war in Vietnam and seeking to arouse the conscience of the nation, he was ridiculed. When asked by a reporter, “Dr. King, don’t you think you’re going to have to stop now opposing the war and move more in line with the administration’s policy? As I understand it, it has hurt the budget of your organization and people who once respected you have lost respect for you. Don’t you feel you’ve got to change your position? Dr. King responded, “Sir, I’m sorry you don’t know me. I’m not a consensus leader, I do not determine what is right or wrong by looking at the budget of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. I’ve not taken a sort of Gallup poll on the majority opinion, ultimately a genuine leader is not a searcher for consensus but a molder of consensus.”
This great sermon is well worth listening to in its entirety and it is available on YouTube along with many of Dr. King’s other great sermons (https://youtu.be/AFbt7cO30jQ). His prophetic words are as timely today as they were 50 years ago. And he said, “the time is always right to do what is right.”
As we reflect on the significance of Black History month, let the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr prevail. Let remember him and be enthralled as much by his soaring speeches and sermons as his life and call to action. Look around our communities - do you see any inequity and inequality? Are our places of work sufficiently diverse or diverse at all? Who are those who have a seat at the table and which voices are missing? Look around and see what we are missing, who/what is invisible to us. Will we have the courage to do what is right? Will we remain asleep through the revolution that is taking place today? Or will we get into action? As the youth say, “Are we woke?”.
Author: Hermayne Gordon
[Sir George Alleyne, The Grooming of a Chancellor, University of the West Indies Press, 2018]
The Grooming of a Chancellor is an enthralling portrait of life of Sir George Alleyne, a renaissance man. His extraordinary work in medicine, public health and development; his leadership in the international arena and academia together with his humanitarian efforts have contributed to his reputation as a global icon. This clearly articulated biography reveals Sir George Alleyne as quintessential role model. His passionate commitment to human development underscores this fascinating, honest and human memoir replete with a rich sense of humour and wit. It provides an opportunity to celebrate the emergence of a Barbadian boy of humble origins standing astride of a colonial experience that produced Windrush, and the fluctuating fortunes of a Pan Caribbean movement to becoming an internationally respected advocate of global solidarity, equity and social justice.
The Family as an agent of socialization
It is clear that the nurturing by a father who was a teacher and a mother a home maker who later became a librarian were essential ingredients in channeling young George Alleyne’s ambitions. They provided a vibrant environment for him and his six siblings: a reverence for books, a revelry in family debates where all ideas contended and a profound respect and affection that they shared for each other. In his reflections, Sir George emphasizes the importance of family in his development: as he described it, “a nuclear family with established roles such as security of belonging, allegiance and a sense of responsibility, a sense of humor and a “joy de vive”.
An Education System combined with an exceptional intellectual Gift and Discipline
If the family was a critical component of George’s socialization, the Barbados educational system provided another, which he seemed to master due to his exceptional intellectual gifts and commitment to hard work. These were hallmarks that would prevail in his sustained high achievements at the University of the West Indies; outstanding record as a teacher and a researcher; with an output, including 7 books, over 200 articles, 180 guest and distinguished lectures and most recently as Chancellor of the University of the West Indies, 50 graduation speeches. When asked how he could successfully switch to medicine, graduating at the top of his class after specializing in the classics in high school, Sir George’s answer provides a major lesson for us all. He said, “the discipline of preparation, the essentiality of planning, the priority to be accorded to punctuality were all hard-wired into me during those critical years at school.”
Champion of Caribbean Unity
With special reference to the Caribbean, his contributions influenced decisions, policies and programmes embraced by CARICOM Heads of Government, government officials, leaders of non-governmental organizations, the private sector and most of all his students, his regional and international audiences and the youth. Reading about the many pioneering ventures leave no doubt of the well deserving conferral of the highest regional accolade by CARICOM Heads of Government in 2002, Order of the Caribbean Community. Among the litany of his contributions include:
▪ Initiating the Caribbean Cooperation in Health 1984 now in its fifth iteration
▪ Shaping of the Nassau Declaration, 2000, “the health of the Region is the Wealth of the Region” (2000)
▪ Being one of six signatories to the formation of the Pan Caribbean Partnership against HIV/AIDS (2001)
▪ Chairmanship of the Caribbean Commission on Health and Development that produced the seminal
blue print for tackling health priorities (2004-2005)
▪ Piloting The 2005 Report of the Commission on Caribbean Health and Development in the public domain and advocating for its recommendation that formed the basis of the Port of Spain Declaration: fighting to reduce the Non Communicable Diseases (2007) and the international leadership of the Caribbean in the Commonwealth, the Summit of the Americas and at the UN High level Meetings 2011 and 2018
▪ Acting as a catalyst in the formation of the Healthy Caribbean Coalition, which under his patronage has become a highly acclaimed international NGO.
▪ Inspiring the establishment of Caribbean Public Health Agency, the merger of 5 Caribbean public health institutions into one agency.
▪ Advocating for functional cooperation as a pillar of regional integration so adequately illustrated in the fields of health and education in which he was involved, but whose successes may also apply to tourism, agriculture, and most of all foreign affairs and community relations.
Dominant Sprit in Pan Americanism and the wider International Community
The combination of his incisive intellectual leadership, management skills, diplomacy and boundless humility are understated yet aptly documented in this book. It captures not only his outstanding academic achievements and invaluable contribution to the Caribbean Community but also in the global arena.
The lessons for successful career shifts are etched in the chapters on his scientific career, becoming professor of medicine and his extensive international experience. These, together with his reflections on the myth of retirement are all gems of wisdom and inspiration. They illustrate that among the main ingredients for success are building a track record for high quality work, establishing goals, keeping an open mind on available options, choosing mentors and being amenable to taking advice and guidance. A profound lesson from his clinical experience emerged during his early years as an intern " I learned that no one has the right to remove hope from a patient and sometimes what appears to be pandering to whims was satisfying some of the hope". Then later as a member of the Tropical Metabolism Research Unit at UWI he was emboldened by 'a small dose of arrogance' that "I or rather we West Indians could be as good at research and explaining clinical phenomenon as any other persons".
These are tenets that Sir George carried to some of the most prestigious engagements as examiner in the MRCP examinations in London and The Royal College of Physicians of Canada, the opening of the new nutrition centre in Chiang Mai and with the Universities in Nigeria, Ghana and Sierra Leone, among others.
Sir George's move from professor in medicine UWI to administrator in public health at PAHO/WHO illustrates further, lessons in nimble approaches for changing gear, adopting to a new bureaucracy and having to master a new language, Spanish. It is fascinating to note how acumen, commitment, discipline and political instincts played a role in his elevation to the position of PAHO Director. His being appointed and reappointed unopposed for his 10years at the helm is a testimony to his towering reputation. This he was to enhance by his creative leadership and dominant vision of equity in health.
Between his two terms at PAHO, Sir George embarked on a new international challenge as a candidate for the post of Director General of the World Health Organization in 1977. His observation of the election process is that "it has to be one of the most fascinating lessons in international politics that I have experienced" and so it was from all accounts. The capacity of a small country like Barbados to mount such an organized and brilliantly executed campaign; intensive lobbying, negotiations that were at times scurrilous, a field of contestants whittled from seven to two, leaving the final result to 4 rounds of voting before Dr. Gro Brundtland of Norway, emerged the victor. As Sir George reflected that "this is the first time I had lost any contest", his reputation and prestige soared.
As the first UN Secretary General Special Envoy for HIV in the Caribbean, which followed immediately after his 10-year tenure as Director of PAHO/WHO, Sir George's presence and influence in the international arena. It ushered in a new era that quite clearly illustrates the masterful management of the overlapping roles with his tenure as Chancellor of UWI and Director Emeritus of PAHO. His account of the hectic schedule in this period reinforces the "myth retirement".
Returning to UWI: at the Pinnacle
The audacity that heralded Sir George's inauguration as as Chancellor of UWI a position he held for 17 years is fully demonstrated in his choice of music for the academic procession, Bob Marley's “River of Babylon… there we sat down, yea we wept when we remembered Zion” Sir George reminded the gathering that the theme song was the musical version of Psalm 137; 1-4 which was "one of the most poignant expressions of longing and lamentations, both physical and spiritual.
Vision of Equality and Justice
Especially in these “strange and uncertain times”, illustrated by “racist nationalism” and “angry isolationism”, it is reassuring that Sir George’s biography epitomizes a vision of equality and justice shared by Nelson Mandela and Martin Luther King. He believes that the future of the Caribbean and a world governed by these principles can achieve more peace and more cooperation in the pursuit of a common good. These same principles reinforced the socialization of a young scholar who at UWI, by his own admission, transitioned from "being a Barbadian to becoming a West Indian". Hence, he explains the dissolution of the West Indies Federation as due to jealousy, short sightedness of leaders who could not see beyond national parochial interests. But he maintains his pride of things Caribbean. He refrains from equating this vision with faith which by definition is belief without data. He is emphatic that “[while] much of the religious dogma is not really vital to me now. I believe that the relevance of many of the nostrums for a good society remain with me and the centrality of the essential commandment, do good and love ye one another is one by which I try to live”
This book is indeed essential reading. The importance of family is enshrined in the dedication of this book to his wife, Lady Sylvan Alleyne and children Carol, Andrew and Adrian. But it is to Lady Alleyne, herself an accomplished professional and former Professor on whom praise and glory must be given. She is truly revered by Sir George as his 'lover, partner and nurse'. Indeed this trinity of attributes over years of marriage must be acknowledged as contributing to the blooming and grooming of a Chancellor.
CARICOM’S Implementation Deficit and the Neglect of Functional Cooperation: A Community for ALL
The – CARICOM Heads of Government in Montego Bay 4-6 July has a golden opportunity to change the directions of the Community, triggered by the insightful recommendations of the Golding Report, Reviewing Jamaica’s Relations within the CARICOM and CARIFORUM Frameworks, March 2017. There have so far been several forums and valuable opinions and assessments of this Report. Except, very tangentially, the role of functional cooperation, has been underestimated if not neglected.
It is worthy of recall that CARICOM Heads of Government at the Twenty-Eighth Session of their Conference held in Barbados in July, 2007, adopted the Needham’s Point Declaration in which they expressed their determination to make functional cooperation a priority within the Community. This was to be one of the principal means by which the benefits of the integration movement can be distributed throughout the length and breadth of the Community, including the Associate Members and among its entire people, thereby engendering a ‘Community for All’. They therefore pledged to invest in functional cooperation for the further development of the human and social capital of the Region. But as with so many others this pledge fizzled.
The earliest reference to functional cooperation appears in the decisions adopted at the Seventh Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government held in October 1972 at Chaguaramas in Trinidad and Tobago. The original Treaty of Chaguaramas which created the Caribbean Community and Common Market in 1973 identified three main objectives of the Community, namely, the economic integration of the Member States by the establishment of a Common Market regime; the coordination of foreign policy of Member States; and functional cooperation, including the efficient operation of certain common services and activities for the benefit of its people. The Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas, which was adopted in 2001, reiterated the importance of functional cooperation as one of the main pillars of the integration movement. The activities under functional cooperation referred to in Articles 4 (iii) and 18 of the Treaty include air transportation, meteorological science and hurricane insurance, health, intra-regional technical assistance, intra-regional public service management, education and training, broadcasting and information culture, harmonization of the law and legal systems of Member States, the position of women in Caribbean society, travel within the Region, labour administration and industrial relations, technological and scientific research, social security, other common services and areas of functional cooperation as may from time to time be determined by the Conference.
This concept was explicitly articulated during the Twenty- Seventh Meeting of the Conference held in St. Vincent and the Grenadines in July 2006, at which the Heads of Government agreed that there was an urgency in addressing functional cooperation that paralleled developments related to trade and economic cooperation, and stated in this regard that increased attention should be paid to those issues that would enhance the welfare of citizens, including the reduction of poverty, social protection, human resource development, health and education among others.
A second consideration is that it is also necessary to develop mechanisms that would create opportunities for increased participation in the work of the Community by all Member States, including a Member State such as The Bahamas which does not participate in the CARICOM Single Market and Economy arrangements; the Associate Members which, it is felt, should also play a greater role in the activities undertaken by the Community; and the wider consideration of cooperation with networks of countries, referred to as “the variable geometry of integration”. Functional cooperation is therefore seen to be an extremely useful mechanism for fostering multilateral and global solidarity to achieve the pragmatic economic objectives.
The recommendations of the Task Force included in the Needham Point Declaration approved by Heads of Governments in 2007 were that:
The failure of CARICOM to move forward with this template for action is due as much to the non-responsiveness of the designated Lead Head for this area (Bahamas), as well as other Heads of Government that did not press the issue. In contrast, in the same period, the ASEAN countries accelerated their implementation of functional cooperation Its Secretary-General of stated that “functional cooperation has become a way of integrating ASEAN’s political and economic goals with its social, cultural, scientific, technological and environmental objectives”
As we optimistically hope for positive changes, there are contrary signals reflected in a failure to make the CARICOM Youth Ambassadors and civil society pivotal to regional revival. We are therefore reminded of an observation by the celebrated West Indian Commission with respect to the transformational CARICOM Charter of Civil Society signed in Antigua and Barbuda in February 1997: “the Charter can become the soul of the Community, which needs a soul if it is to command the loyalty of the people of CARICOM”
The Community could discover its soul by reversing its neglect of functional cooperation intended to propel a Community for ALL.
We are pleased to launch Global Frontier Advisory and Development Services (GOFAD). It aims to be a conduit for sharing information and encouraging dialogue on contemporary issues. Global Frontier is not in reference to a geographic location. It is a virtual space in which ideas contend, best practices identified and the strategies for creative leadership emerge. In this regard leadership does not necessarily revolve around individuals but may be inspired by ‘a collective’ working to implement specific programmes and achieve specific goals.
This launch is taking place at a time when a new universal agenda has emerged. Its focus is on ending poverty, protecting the planet and ensuring prosperity. This new agenda is the successor of the millennium development goals. It is captured in 17 goals and 169 targets under the 2030 Sustainable Goals (SDGs), approved by 192 Countries of the UN, in September 2015. It is intended to stimulate action in the next 15 years in areas of critical importance to humanity and the planet.
Global Frontier, out of necessity and interest in the agenda for developing countries, is concerned with a selected group of goals. Among them are eliminating poverty ( #1); good health and wellbeing (#3); quality education (#4); gender equality (#5); decent work and economic growth (#8); climate action (#13)and peace, justice and strong institutions (#16). In the coming weeks we will address appropriate actions for each of these priority goals and seek to engage in a discussion on how individually and collectively we can contribute to a sustainable future. In this respect we will partner with the private and public sectors and with multilateral agencies as well as NGOs and civil society groups.
Conscious of the importance of creative leadership, our appeal will specifically, though not exclusively, be to the youth. The discourse is intended to yield a transformational vision. It will pay attention to the voices of the poor and marginalized; advancing human rights for all and empowering women and girls. Our aim is to let ideas contend and ‘champions for Change’ emerge.