Children: Whose Responsibility?

A couple days ago the official Twitter handle of Prime Minister Andrew Holness tweeted that ‘Social responsibility means you should have the children you can afford to give the best life.’

I saw it this afternoon thanks to a colleague who retweeted it. The tweet reminded me of a conversation I had with a few people some time ago regarding my views on child bearing, child caring and this business of responsibility.

Yes, having and caring for children is in fact a social responsibility, but not just the social responsibility of parents; I believe extended families, the community and the state all have roles to play. It is for this reason that I believe, for example, that children should have free access to education – tuition, books, etc; healthcare should be free for all children and pregnant folks; communities should have fully functional entertainment and social development centres; and safe, green and play spaces should be available and accessible to children. It is also the responsibility of the community, the state and parents to ensure that children are protected from harm, including the nasty and disgusting abusive people dem outta road.

Once someone decides that they want to give birth to a child, caring for, supporting that child, and giving that child the best life possible cannot be their responsibility alone. After all, having children benefits the whole society. Therefore, raising skilled, educated, healthy, productive children who respect the dignity in humanity ought to be the social responsibility of parents/family, community and state. We cannot reasonably expect that parents alone should bear this ‘burden’.

Affordability of children is not something prospective parents alone should consider. The state and the community have roles too. We have a responsibility to ensure that if someone decides to have a child, we are creating the best possible environment for that child to thrive. It is our children who will manage families, communities and the state later on in life. How can they just be the responsibility of parents? Come on now!

And this habit we have of beating down on people who are affected by poverty every time we raise the issue of childcare needs to stop. Minimum wage already a beat down pon dem.

We need to be careful that we don’t suggest that people affected by poverty should avoid having children.

Sometimes pregnancies are unplanned, all when family planning and contraceptive use ‘up like 7’. We cannot continue to pretend that we live in a world where anything but abstaining from sex or tubectomy or vasectomy is foolproof where contraceptive use is concerned. So if someone affected by poverty should use the free condoms made available by the government and NGOs and ‘get ketch’ say on two or three occasions, what should we say to them? Are we going to insist they have a vasectomy or a tubectomy?

And even when abortion becomes legal, are we going to insist that they get an abortion?

The state needs to do a better job at ensuring that every child born into this country has a good chance of contributing to our development. Prospective parents also have that responsibility. And so does the community. Children are the responsibility of parents, the community and the state. And if you disagree, that’s fine. But consider who will be making decisions about families, communities and the state in a decade or two.

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A love letter to my mentors

The first time I heard the term ‘unplanned mentor’ was actually just a couple years ago. Strange, but true.

At the time, it was Imani Duncan Price who was articulating her mentorship relationship with Omar Davies, and the impact it had on her professional development.

I didn’t ever have mentors – planned or unplanned. I did have a few folks on whom I relied for professional advice of sorts, people whom I admired because of their work and professional ethic, but never had I ever had mentors.

Until

13416797_10206312079393181_6643712433019870475_oI began to engage and claim Taitu Heron and Nadeen Spence as my own.

I met Taitu Heron in a job interview in 2013 (though I didn’t remember her name until after I engaged her as part of a documentary project later that year).

I knew (of) Nadeen for some time, several years actually. I engaged her for the first time in a professional capacity in 2014.

13268517_542650139272321_5912347877832929410_oAs time progressed, these women became important to me and begun to impact my professional life.

But it wasn’t until late 2015 that I started to claim them as (unplanned) mentors – Taitu at first and later, Nadeen.

In 2016 we got even closer and their impact began to transcend the professional; it became personal too.

13268161_544148355789166_2574838199413314601_oI love them dearly, not just in the way I love people because they are human beings, but in a way that a niece loves her favourite aunt, or a daughter loves her mom, or a girl loves her best friend, or a Latoya loves her Note4.

And they love me too, I have no doubt.

10288775_514254875445181_8390274212784013329_nThey see the beauty and beast in me and they nurture the beauty and tame the beast when it’s not appropriate for me to be beast-like.

They are my guiding light, and the three of us make one lovely family.

We do have conflicts from time-to-time, and I will occasionally (or more than that these days) tell them two bloodcarts, but that changes nothing. I’m not even sure our conflicts can last more than an hour – our spirits and our energies just won’t allow it.

We never hold grudges or keep record of wrongs. We just live and fuck shit up!

I love you Tai. And I love you Nadz. And I will be eternally grateful for the bosom of your love, the illumination of your guidance, and the safety of your homes.

Love,

Latty

Finding Common Ground: Where #EvilSpirts and #GoodSpirits Converge

Yesterday I attended the #EvilSpirits forum that was put on by Wayne West and the team at the JSSACHAR Foundation.

The forum was quite interesting and indeed spirited, but not very confrontational in my opinion, which was a pleasant surprise.

It was a truth-stretching space, stretched so much that one would wonder if it was really just a satirical set.

The audience was treated to several presentations focused on the evil powers of international aid agencies that are sexualising our children through Comprehensive Sex Education (CSE) and the Health and Family Life Education (HFLE) curriculum. We were also advised that Appropriate Sex Education (ASE) is what we need, which takes a more biblical, moral, and ethical approach to sex education.

We were told that

  • CSE can mean anything and everything including porn;
  • CSE promotes sexual freedom and promiscuity;
  • CSE promotes early sexual activity;
  • CSE promotes the LGBT agenda;
  • CSE threatens children’s health;
  • CSE promotes abortion as a right;
  • CSE promotes diverse sexual orientation;
  • CSE promotes high risk sex behaviour such as anal intercourse;
  • CSE disrespects parents;
  • CSE disregards religious values;
  • the HFLE promotes homosexuals as superior to heterosexuals;
  • the HFLE is anti-development and anti-ethical;
  • removing the ‘buggery law’ will lead to sexual anarchy;
  • there should be no sexual rights for children.

We were also told that

  • ASE for children must include abstinence;
  • ASE should encourage persons to save sex for marriage;
  • ASE insists that there should be no sexual activity for children;
  • ASE promotes a biological (and not a sociological) view of gender;
  • ASE protects and promotes the rights of parents.

And we were advised that

  • parents should be wary of international bodies & aid agencies such as UNICEF, UNFPA & UNESCO promoting and attempting to institutionalise CSE;
  • the highest authority of morality is the church.

But that’s not really why I’m writing…

I am writing because I want us to start thinking about the way forward in a very practical, conciliatory way.

How can Sexual and Reproductive Health & Rights (SRHR) advocates and health practitioners who understand the real world and people of faith who are more preoccupied with the Bible world, reach a point of common understanding for the benefit and welfare of all?

Where can we find common ground?

On what issues do we agree in principle?

What are some possible starting points?

Following the forum I was a part of a group of about six people who were engaged in dialogue about church, Christianity, SRHR, and sexuality. It wasn’t hostile. Views were allowed to contend, even though  for some time there appeared to be no common ground. Truth be told, I was really there for the fun at first, but then I recognised the value of the dialogue.

As folks shared their views including some of my young advocate friends (on whose faces I could see the pain and struggle), I realised in that moment just how draining advocacy work can be in religious spaces, and I felt their pain.

But alas there was hope!

I asked Carol Richards (I think that’s her name) who was leading the charge for Christian folks in the dialogue, whether, in her opinion there was such a thing as marital rape – because I know Wayne West et al believe there really should be no such thing… To my surprise she said of course a man can rape his wife, of course a man can abuse his wife, and it’s wrong!

She got me there. It was our common ground. And the energies shifted. We were high-fiving and sh!t!

Of course we ventured into sexuality stuff, and as she spoke about the goodness of her sanctified husband’s sexual prowess, I spoke about the goodness of my wife’s. At one point she said but the Bible says woman mustn’t love woman, and I exclaimed ‘but it nice!’ We all had a good laugh – no hate, no judgement, no ridicule, no name-calling, just real refreshing dialogue and debate.

As we departed she asked us all where we were from – I quickly exclaimed with hand in the air: J-FLAG! She then asked the others if they were from J-FLAG too. My colleague who was there said yes and the other persons shared their respective affiliations. She then suggested she must be a magnet for our spirit, lol! Mi tell ar shi ah goodaz.

So although she was there and would be considered a Wayne West et al supporter, she was also very conciliatory and practical in her exchanges with us. And we need more of this on both sides. We have to be willing to shift a little to the middle, and it doesn’t mean we are ‘giving up our rights’.

This little post-event conversation taught me a lot and I hope J-FLAG, WMW Jamaica and other civil society organisations can arrange for people like her to engage in more dialogues of this nature. We need to move (all of us – both sides) if what we want is, in fact, a just, safe and equitable society for all.

 

 

The Social Justice Ten

Nadeen is at it again. Brilliant piece on politics and social justice representation

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So a question people tend to ask me often when they hear me declare my intention to vote, if of course who are you going to vote for.  That would be easy to understand if I voted along family lines, but I don’t.  I am the voter who loses all sense of what else is happening around her, who wants to catch each new item, each breaking story and who engages everyone she meets in conversations about the latest political hot topic.  Exhausting, so for this election my friend Latoya Nugent and myself have been bitten by the same bug, we want to delve some more into the political history and culture, into the voting behaviour and into the manifesto.  Having done that we still had not come up with a formula to figure out who to vote for.  But then after all we hit it, we came up with a…

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Calling It For The Women

I had to reblog this.

Very interesting piece.

#WomenVoteJA

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So I am about ready to declare some of the seats in this election.  I am particularly focused on the seats being contested by women.  Both the PNP and the JLP have fielded candidates in this 2016 general elections, the NDM has not fielded a full slate of candidates but they have put forward one woman and from assessing the names of the other candidates outside of the NDM it would appear that there is one other woman.     The PNP has 13 women in their slate of candidates, while the JLP has put forward eleven(11) women as candidates.

Getting more women on the ballot has been the focus of a number of women throughout Jamaica.  The formation of the 51% Coalition just over four years ago, following the National Policy of Gender Equality (NPGE) established a focus of the need for greater attention to be paid to the candidate selection…

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Get It Right MOE

The Guidance and Counselling Unit ensures that the school facilities which are in place are effectively utilised for the total development of the individual student[…]

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photo credit: Jamaica Gleaner

I read with concern the comments uttered by the President of the Jamaica Teachers’ Association regarding how Guidance Counsellors are expected to treat with students who identify as lesbian or gay. In his esteemed thinking and understanding of Jamaican legislation Norman Allen declared that we could not reasonably expect Guidance Counsellors to provide counselling, care, and support for students who identify as [lesbian or] gay.

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Excerpt from the Offences Against the Person Act 1864

As justification, he cited the existence of the Offences Against the Person Act (where the ‘Buggery Law’ is located), which prohibits anal sex between males, AND between males and females. The Act, among other things also prohibits any form of (sexual) intimacy between males.

Side note:  the Act is completely silent on sexual behaviour between females.

By his analysis, if for example, a female heterosexual student shares with a guidance counsellor that she is engaging in anal sex with her boyfriend, then that Guidance Counsellor should not provide counselling, care, and support for the student. Again, by his analysis, if a student (perpetrator) was guilty of assaulting another student, then the perpetrator should not receive counselling, care, or support from the school’s Guidance Counsellor.

His logic baffles me at best.

Perhaps the time has come for the Ministry of Education to proactively engage all categories of school staff, especially Guidance Counsellors on a Sexuality 101 sensitisation within the context our legal framework. And include a reminder in all of this that the wellbeing of our children must be their (our) priority, in keeping with this excerpt from the Ministry of Education’s website:

The Guidance and Counselling Unit ensures that the school facilities which are in place are effectively utilised for the total development of the individual student, to enable him or her to lead a more fulfilling life. The unit develops services and programmes for the personal/social, educational, and career development of all students. In addition, the unit coordinates the training and development of counsellors in schools and is responsible for several programmes including the HIV/AIDS Programme in Schools, the Programme for Alternative Student Support, the Safe Schools Programme and the Health and Family Life Education in Schools.

Thank You J-FLAG

NTCG Logo June 2008

I don’t have a lot of experience working with Civil Society Organisations; the closest I came to having any sort of experience with CSOs was four months at my dad’s church – I designed and implemented a short training programme for point persons in the church to provide more youth friendly services for the youth population of that church and neighbouring communities.

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I have spent most of my professional life teaching and going to school.

So when I landed at J-FLAG all I had was several years of teaching experience and a few letters behind my name. Honestly, a part of me was doubtful about the impact I could have because it seemed like a world of work in a world that was largely unknown to me. But with much support and drive in the 16 months I have been there, I have learnt, done, and grown more than I ever did in my life prior to J-FLAG; well, with the exception of 2010 when I was teaching full time, enrolled part-time in a PGDip programme, and enrolled full time in an MSc programme (which I had to hide for the most part for policy reasons, shhhh).

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I was able to learn, do, and grow exponentially in my time at J-FLAG also because of a sort of uncodified philosophy of the organisation: ‘we’ll show you the sea, we’ll dump you in there regardless of whether you can swim, but you gotta figure out the rest’. That’s kinda how the organisation works, which is why it tremendously builds the capacity of those who are largely intrinsically motivated and are passionate about their work.

I will be perpetually grateful to J-FLAG for its impact on my personal and professional development and I don’t care if anyone has a problem with me writing about this every day. Thank you, and Happy Belated 16!

Peace.

Today

Christ Church

Today was a special day for me.

It was the first in a very long time that I participated in a church service outside of attending thanksgiving service, the christening of my godson, or my dad’s annual appreciation service.

When I go I usually enjoy it, but I am rarely, if ever moved by the proceedings.

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Today was different. Today was very different. Today felt like a celebration of the human family with all its diversity. And indeed it was. Because today, at Christ Church, Vineyard Town, Anglican Priest Father Sean Major-Campbell hosted a special service in observance of the upcoming December 10 internationally recognised Human Rights Day.

Mass

Today, in Mass, he delivered a very powerful sermon urging all Jamaicans to

  • uphold and respect the rights of each citizen
  • live together in peace in spite of our differences
  • speak up in defence of the human rights of the vulnerabilised
  • and to use the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as our guide to healthy living.

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In his humility and in keeping with his value to lead by example, he washed the feet of two openly lesbian Jamaicans – Jamaicans who, in their own micro and macro ways are contributing to Jamaica’s National Development Plan – Vision 2030.

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He also invited a transgender man – FJ Genus to briefly share with the congregation what life has been like for him here in Jamaica.

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FJ was touched. He expressed a feeling of gratitude and appreciation to be allowed to speak in a space that is often considered by some to be a hostile space for the LGBT community. But today it was not so.

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It was not hostile.

It was not discriminatory.

It was not stigmatising.

It was not judgemental.

All were welcome with open arms to the delight of many, including Jamaicans for Justice’s Chairman – Dr. Barry Wade who expressed that more services of this nature were needed.

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Dr. Michael Abrahams in his piece on ‘Justice’ challenged Jamaicans to demand justice, everywhere there is injustice. We do not only want justice he said, we NEED justice. He also articulated (in no minor way) that Jamaica needed more Christians like Father Sean to advance the human rights of all of us.

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In the end, I was quite pleased. It was pure awesomeness! Well done Father Sean!

Peace.

Click to view more photos from the service.