Fear

1460ab2b886f9ff2567224457967

Vulnerability is at the core, the heart, the center, of meaningful human experience  Brene Brown

Your head is light and heavy at the same time, the back of your throat itches as if you’re going to cry, but that’s impossible because your eyes are parched, starving for moisture. And how is it conceivable for you to be frozen, yet your limbs are shaking uncontrollably. Your heart’s throbbing fifty beats per second but somehow your lungs are hungry for oxygen. And what are those things churning in the pit of the stomach that makes you feel as if you’re about to throw up and wet yourself simultaneously? How can you be numb and yet all your nerve endings are screaming in pain?

It’s the nastiest feeling in the world…being afraid. And to be honest, I can’t tell which is worst. Being afraid as a child or as a woman? And what does it mean when in both those instances, you’re afraid of the same things?images

 

There are so many things to be afraid of; the dark, heights, reptiles. And as survivors…being judged, ridiculed, intimidated. Aphenphosmphobia. That’s the name they’ve given my fear. The fear of being vulnerable. The fear of opening my mouth and having words spill out that opens me up and leaves me bare…defenceless.  Is that what we’re all afraid of? I suppose, to some extent, this veneer of anonymity offers some form of protection so technically I’m not really allowing myself to be vulnerable. Technically. But it is a start. Perhaps someday the facelessness will be stripped away and I will indeed be left bare and…open. I’ve heard it being said that the first step in getting over your fear is admitting it. Will you take that step with me? Will you tell me what you’re afraid of? Maybe we can help each other overcome them. Maybe one day we won’t be afraid anymore.

R.

IGIG Blogger 2017 

images (1)

There is strength in sisterhood

 

From the diary of a Jamaican Schoolgirl

I AM A GIRL and I can’t change that. But these days being a girl scares me. Don’t getme wrong, I’m glad I’m a girl, but you see, as soon as I turn around one of my sisters is missing. I look again and she turns up dead. One by one they fall around me and I can’t help but think I am next.

So… When the bell rings I don’t stay around to chat with friends anymore. I sprint hom quickly, remembering to never look back. I must admit I have been getting fitter, but mentally I am drained. It takes a lot of brain power to be cautious but I have to be. I don’t want to imagine my mother crying like the other mothers I see on the news because I wasn’t cautious enough.

Mummy’s routine hurl of “tek off the dutty shoes innah mi house” has never been so welcoming. By this I know I am finally in a safe space. Home. It’s the only place that I feel comfortable these days. Not in the classroom, not at church and not in the company of those kind officers daddy used to work with. Home.

As I watch the nightly news from the settee, mummy is standing close to the kitchen doorway, ocassionally glancing on the TV. There it was. Another one. She sees the worry on my face, comes over and puts her arm around me.

“Mi chile, it’s a dark world out there. We just have to pray. I cover you everyday before you go to school so I know you will return to me in the evening.”

She grows silent and stares at the TV, but she’s not watching it. She’s thinking. Worrying. She knows it’s not a must that I come home safely and she can’t even convince herself that everything will be ok. It’s in the glare of her eyes, in her breathing. Fear. But she doesn’t want me to be afraid….

When Girls don’t want to be Girls

When Beyonce’s ‘If I were a boy’ came out, it was a big hit. I don’t believe it was particularly because of her good singing voice or the music video, though I must admit I have never watched the latter.  I believe it became a huge hit more so because it brought across a message that resonated with many females. In the song Beyonce expresses her desire to experience life as the opposite sex and highlights the ease with which the male goes through life without the scrutiny of larger society as he rolls out of bed, goes beer drinking at leisure and is promiscuous. Beyonce’s song highlights what is inarguably an inequitable society that some believe favour the boy and by extension the adult man.

As an adult female, I can say without controversy that I was blessed to be afforded equity within my home. Coming from a female headed single parent household with six siblings, chores were allocated not based on the sex of the child or what is believed to be the prescribed role for a specific gender. Instead, chore allocations were based on the health and age of the child. Being the youngest, I of course received the lightest chores. In my home everyone had the opportunity to cook, clean etc or should I say everyone must cook, clean and wash. Looking back, I thank my mother who in her wisdom produced children that are well rounded but even more importantly haven’t been subjected to gendered chores and thus will not perpetuate the culture.

Sadly, not all my female peers were as fortunate as I was. Within their homes there seemed to exist the nucleus of inequality and inequity between their male siblings or relative and themselves in the terms of chore allocation and recreational activities and privileges. In addition, this was exacerbated by the fact that the pervading perspective is that the female can become pregnant and so there is the need to constrict or police her activities.  This is of course evokes my ire and should irk any well thinking Jamaican who understands the necessity of both male and female to the reproductive act.  In light of this, what is needed is the education of both sexes by societal institutions about the implications of early sexual engagement and the need for males to be equally sexually responsible.

gender.jpg

In the failure of society to hold males responsible what I have come to realize is that it is not uncommon for young girls, and I speak to the Jamaican reality, to feel unhappy with being a girl.  In their minds, the male is the ideal human being in that he is more privileged than the female- seldom criticized for and reprimanded for being sexually irresponsible (unless he chooses the homosexual lifestyle) or for his failure to participate in the domestic chores, never criticized for being overweight and he is almost never criticized for his mode of dress.  One then has to agree with donkey here, the world indeed isn’t level.  I am therefore afraid that we have spawned a society where girls don’t want to be girls.

hands.jpg

In speaking to some of the younger males the situation becomes even more dismal.  The archaic modus operandi should remain the same-girls should be domesticated and rapaciously subjugated.  To this some argue misogyny.  I on the contrary argue patriarchy.  It is common knowledge that patriarchy crumbles when interfaced with equity and it is for equity that I advocate.

The I’m Glad I’m A Foundation (IGIG) emerged in response to the above reality that many Jamaican girls are unhappy with their status as females.  Particularly, this is true when one descends the rungs of the socioeconomic ladder.  Thus, the IGIG foundation seeks to assist young girls ages 13-17 years to move beyond the mindset that girls were born to suffer and thus the life ahead is one of abuse, illiteracy and domestication.  In the words pf Matt Dunn, “All a (girl) actually wants is to feel special”.  Hence, we also seek to help these girls to appreciate the female anatomy, build their self-esteem and to plan for their careers.  This is done through an annual one week summer camp.  This year the camp will be from July 24th – July 30th, 2016 at the Mary Seacole Hall, UWI Mona with the theme being “RISE” as we encourage them to rise up above the obstacles that society places before them.

-W.S.

Your Best!

I have the best friends. Literally; for every mood I could possibly have I have a friend that can either facilitate it or get me out of it and I love them dearly. It so happened that one day I was having a conversation with one of these girls and she said she thinks that if I wanted to be an A+ student she had no doubt that I would be. Initially, I was immensely flattered- I mean I was of course an intellectual bad-ass if I had the potential to be Awesome and CHOSE not to be *snaps fingers* But on closer examination I realized that I was communicating a very unfortunate message to my friend: Firstly, I didn’t want to be an A+ student and secondly, I simply chose not to be. And at that moment reality hit me upside the head that there was nothing less bad-ass than choosing not to be the awesome that I could be.

The thing with mediocrity is it doesn’t happen overnight; it starts with small decisions. The accepting of the B+ when we know we could have gotten the A, the striving just for the finishing line rather than sticking our heads out for first place or the holding back because we are afraid of falling flat on our faces. Okay, maybe the latter is reason to hold back but seriously What’s more embarrassing than being a second rate version of you? I ask myself when did I stop wanting to be the best and perhaps it started when I got into deeply intellectual conversations where I would come to the conclusion that we were all striving to be the best and when we were all the best it would be an anomaly and I just wouldn’t be special anymore because I would just be another person like the rest or perhaps it started when it just seemed like the more comfortable of the decisions, but either way in holding back I just became the disappointed girl with okay grades and a confused state of mind. I had talked myself out of being the best and had lost my passion as a result.

best

You see there is nothing wrong with being passionate and there is nothing wrong with wanting to be the best, even if you end up becoming one of the best because what would have mattered is that you gave of your best. It wasn’t a watered down, candle under a bushel version of yourself but an unapologetic, confident individual who wasn’t afraid to show themselves and by extension the world their true form. Our potential is usually seen by those we are surrounded by but there is a time in our lives when we need to see it, recognize it and claim it for ourselves. Have a first person view of yourself: You are smart, your dreams are valid and worth pursuing. Want them with every particle of your being and choose to pursue them with the best of your ability.

And most importantly, be deliberate in your pursuit. Your achievements are not just sheer luck or some freak accident, it was the result of hard work and dedication and you have a right to not only say it was but also be proud of your effort and the fruits of your labour. Don’t trivialize your success to make someone else feel better (don’t quote me to support your bragging habits either) because it will only make them feel comfortable where they are which will lead to a very serious sense of complacency

But I digress-

The point is Want to be the best and Choose to pursue it; whether it be grades, a dream career, your own business or invention.  You owe the best version of yourself that.  

-M. Bell

 

Pet Peeves of the education system

The world is a collection of diversities from the shape of the clouds to the species of trees and insects, to shades of our skin and the colour of our eyes as humans.  Even our hands, which are in principle the same; each finger has different finger prints.

multiracial

Furthermore, when we measure we do not use the same unit of measurement for a bottle of water as we do for a bar of chocolate.

Where am I taking you with these seemingly random comments?  Nowhere else but a nonstop ticket to our ‘glorified’ education system.  Given all the diversity found so naturally in our ecosystem one question remains to be answered, ‘Why do we use one generic method of force-feeding our children information and expect each child to do well?’

I am an avid believer in the Ministry of Education’s slogan ‘Every child can learn, every child must learn,’ however there is a critical flaw in the Ministry’s approach in attempting to make this statement true. Just like the natural diversity illustrated by the planet, a diverse means of teaching is required to reach every child as indeed each child is capable of learning but at different paces and through different means.

It is therefore necessary that I attack the blatant issues that keep me awake at night.

First, the core of the education system must be examined.  This of course is the labelling process which comes to fruition from childhood education into ‘bright’ and ‘dunce’.  Many may see no issue with such a process as it is seen as the norm but it is a severe problem as this labelling creates a rigid dichotomy from the initial stages.  This dichotomy creates the mindset of being a failure in the minds of young children who have been labelled as ‘dunce’ by a generic model of education which does not cater to the vast cross-section of thinking that exists in children.  Can you imagine the psychological effects this can have on a child?

Psychological effects such as the self-fulfilling prophecy.  The term “selfmirror-fulfilling prophecy” (SFP) was coined in 1948 by Robert Merton to describe “a false definition of the situation evoking a new behavior which makes the originally false conception come true.”

In the words of my grandmother “the tongue have power!” Dear education system, this is not OK!

To add to this already sad reality that exists for normally functioning kids, our system fails to adequately recognize children with learning disabilities such as autism, dyscalculia and dyslexia to name a few.  The earlier the recognition of such disabilities the better for the child and the parents who should be assisted and given access special facilities.  This illustrates that the very foundation (early childhood) of our education is weak.

Another dilemma is the idea of success that is painted by society itself where a child is only ‘successful’ when pursuing professions such as being a lawyer, doctor or nurse.  These professions belong to the service industry which although important is not the avenue for economic growth that is desperately needed in Jamaica.  The industry that will pave the path for the growth is that of the manufacturing industry as production creates productivity.  Hence, the persons with skills in engineering, farming, industrial trades, construction trades, computer science and entrepreneurship are a necessity.  Thus, our education system and our culture need to expose children to the wide variety of career fields available to them and not simply the traditional fields.  Each child needs to know that they have a niche and the education system should be such that they can find it.

Every talent, skill or ability is useful.  The Jamaican government needs to recognize this and harness the untapped potential of the youth.  The education system’s unilateral approach leaves too many behind which should not be case.  In the 21st century where there is so much knowledge and techniques at our fingertips, it is a shame that so many of our children get lost in the system.  In fact, they may leave school without the core skills because of the ‘one size must fit all mentality.’

Of course, you may challenge my critiques by saying we do not have the money for such radical reform.  However, I put it to you that our current system is way more costly when school leavers are unable to gain employment and turn to crime or rely on handouts to survive.  There are so many potholes in our education system much like our roads which simple patching will not resolve.  A complete reconstruction is necessary and I kindly ask the authorities to examine the effectiveness of the education system and fix the numerous issues that arise.  I assure you that after remedying education, many other chronic problems will be significantly reduced.

S. Davis

Protector or Perpetrator?

Growing up in Jamaica I always heard that it takes a village to raise a child. The village was expected to provide the necessary care, protection and guidance to the child until he or she became an adult. That notion found support in  the International Conventions that Jamaica adopted, notably the Convention on the Rights of the Child. The Convention on the  Rights of the Child was guided by the Declaration of the Rights of the Child adopted by the General Assembly in 1959. The Declaration stated that “the child, by reason of his physical and mental immaturity needs special; safeguards and care, including appropriate legal protection, before as well as after birth.” Adults were thus given the duty and responsibility to care for children. But what happens when the persons who have been tasked with protecting them become the ones hurting them?

In May, four high school teachers in Clarendon were charged with child molestation and sexual assault. The commanding officer for the Clarendon Police, Senior Superintendent Fitz Bailey reported that they received information that one of the girl’s father was aware of, and helped, to facilitate his daughter’s engagement in sexual activities with men on the premises. He even received money from the men which he was using to send his daughter to school.

That girl had no one in her corner as those who were tasked with protecting her were using her for their own benefit with no care for her welfare. The police must be applauded for finding and apprehending the perpetrators. However, any attempt at ‘bigging up’ the police   should be done with some restraint as members of the police force have themselves taken on the role of perpetrators.

In April, a district constable in Kingston was caught brazenly having sex with a 14 year old girl at a police station! With this reality who does a child turn to for refuge?

cry

One can argue that the church may be a source of refuge. But even members of the church have come up lacking. In May 2015, it was reported in the Gleaner that a 53 year old pastor in Westmoreland was charged with having sex with a child under the age of 16 and  grievous sexual assault.

It takes a village to raise a child. So has the Jamaican village failed? I think we have.

Citizens turn a blind eye to teenage girls and older men having relationships robbing them of their innocence. Who is protecting our children when those who have a duty of care to do so themselves become active perpetrators?

Statistics show that most children who have been abused were hurt by someone who they know.

In the light of what is happening we need to provide comprehensive sexuality education for our children. Children need to know it is okay to speak up if they are touched in a  manner that is uncomfortable. We also need to do away with the notion that “it is not my business what happens behind closed doors” or that “the problem should be kept within the family.” When we do that we are giving perpetrators a haven in which to operate. Victims of child abuse often say that tried to speak out but no one believed them; or that they didn’t say anything because they thought no one would.

We need to recreate the villages that use to take care of our children. The laws alone cannot do it. What good is the law when we don’t speak or act when we know that people are hurting our children?

stop

Instead of saying “a just bad she bad”, report sexual grooming. Instead of saying it was the girl who forced herself onto a man. Report the man because he and not her is the adult, thus, he should know better.

Our role is to educate children to make informed decisions later in life. But as we all know children live what they learn. By keeping quiet and not acting, we are teaching our children that it is normal for a 14 year old to have ‘sex’ with a 35 year old. When in truth that is a sexual offence. We are also teaching them that their voice is not valid when they tell us that they have been abused, and we refuse to acknowledge or believe it.

As Jamaicans, it is our responsibility to look out for our children. With the traditional protectors namely teachers, pastors, police and parents taking on the roles as perpetrators; we should be more vigilant and proactive about the safety and innocence of our girls and boys. Let us give them the benefit of the doubt, families should be nurturing and the first barrier of protection.

We as neighbours, friend of the family and even complete strangers should take a stance. Our village is failing and if something is not done immediately it will be gone forever.

-Harris.