Monday, December 27, 2010

Wind chimes for political change

This week marks one year of the assumption of political leadership of the United National Congress by Kamla Persad-Bissessar. It spiraled a chain of activities that saw her becoming Trinidad and Tobago’s first female Prime Minister – a process I mapped in the book Through the Political Glass Ceiling (2010) which was launched the week before the elections. The book boldly pointed to a potential victory by Persad-Bissessar when all other analyses hedged, only stretching their necks out to, at best, suggest a dead-heat election race with no clear winner. Through the Political Glass Ceiling, which has since made its way into key libraries of the world, clearly mapped a process of underlying and oft-ignored social, cultural and political currents of the last 60 years locally and internationally that paved the way and made almost inevitable Persad-Bissessar’s political victory in the May 2010 election.
One of the chapters in Through the Political Glass Ceiling is titled To Be Woman and Leader. For long they were considered mutually exclusive concepts. Women who become leaders are often asked how they balance both, in denial of recognition that women are born leaders, who birth leaders, and shape the hearts and minds of future leaders.
National winds of change found a responsive global chime. The wave of national popularity since May rippled across the globe and saw her voted in internationally among Time Magazine’s top ten female world leaders and among the Independent Newspaper 16 women taking over the world. She strutted down a Glamour Magazine’s runway as one of 18 women leaders of the world who have remained focused on the issues of women’s empowerment. She refocused UN commitments at the World Summit and lectured to Harvard on Leadership and Cooperation among others.
Women as agents of change will be theme of several activities in the year 2011, as nationally and internationally, the world will reflect on how a more balanced positioning can advance equity and fairness to its disadvantaged and dispossessed. Some of the experiences of Persad-Bissessar, detailed in Through the Political Glass Ceiling, would themselves be analysed at various national and international forums and the obvious question is sure to surface - how has she transformed the environment in which she functions? How has she functioned as an agent of change? How has her leadership impacted the UNC, Trinidad and Tobago? The world?
One of the key failures of women leaders have been in trying to enforce-fit into the male – and so far clearly deficient culture and environment (for how could any Government claim success when there is such vast discrepancies in wealth with more than 80 percent of the world’s population living on less than USD 10 per day and more than 40 percent less than USD 2 per day?) Lack of confidence and loss of focus on that simple fact has felled many-a–female leader. It seems easier to fall into patterns of failure, rather than trying to transform one’s sphere into one in which all, including women and children can function on an equal footing – one recalls attempts by former British PM, Margaret Thatcher at deepening her voice so her tones blend into the male-dominated political sphere. Persad-Bissessar will be well-poised to keep the confidence and the focus.
In the frenzy of the first year of governance, there might not have been much time to step back and reflect on how governance might be responding to the call for change but as the year winds down and a new one begins, it is naturally given to reflect on the successes of 2010 and think of repositioning for the challenges of 2011. The symbolic impact seen in the accolades heaped on her leadership in 2010 will be seeking substance in 2011. The platform of people-centred government represented by the People’s Partnership came at a time in 2010 when the world was looking for a new model of governance, as Through the Political Glass Ceiling posits. 2011 will be the acid test of whether a woman, a leader, an agent of change, the centre of this new model, will hold.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Women and Tech Toys

At the height of the shopping frenzy that characterizes yuletide and year end, we try to allow ourselves to be entertained by what advertisers seem to think are their clever insights into gender roles – old mops, mopping on being replaced by new tech savvy cleaners; speedier, hi-tech chore-achieving equipment to entice lazy men out of sofas to take up their share of household responsibilities; men inveigling their children’s support in one scheme or the other to outwit their nagging moms.
In their oblivious reinforcement of gender stereotypes, the advertisers seem to be missing the obvious – that many of the new hi-powered equipment meant to make household work easier (and to encourage men to participate) are better meeting the needs of the expanding numbers of single, female headed households. Some avid sociologist might want to take up this observation as further evidence of male marginalization - the new catchphrase in ongoing gender-based analyses. Meanwhile, clearly unknown to the advertisers, women are relinquishing the nagging, and are taking up newly invented high-powered easy-to-use equipment, and just doing it themselves.
A friend of mine was engaged by a UK company some years ago to do market research on how women use technology. The growing purchasing power of women’s pocket books were making females more attractive subjects of scientific research and development as corporations did not want to miss out on the opportunity to bite into some of those hard-earned bucks. Cell phones and computers, for instance, were beginning to be turned out in pinks and reds and pastels – to cater for the possible interest by women in these gadgets, of course, until someone thought that women’s interest in these tech toys might go beyond skin deep – and they might actually be interested in the applications and functions of these new age devices. This research project has since evolved in the UK, into a television series called Lady Geek that ranges through the bewildering maze of new apps, particularly on smart phones, to help women understand which may be best suited to their needs.
I have spent the last several years searching the shelves of technology for a basic household, uhh accessory. (Not quite an appliance, nor a tool, I have to call it a household cleaning accessory). Older generations would call it a mop. I have explored local and international household department stores. I have seen a world of mops, steamers and vacuum cleaners capable of handling various kinds of floors, hard or carpeted, but have not found one that can suit my needs, and that, very simply is a mop – one with scrubbing and vacuum functions that, dries as it wet-cleans, can cover 10,000 square feet of ground space in one cleaning without leaving its bristles or frayed fibres or microfibers in its wake because they cannot live up to the size of the task.
Sometimes, frustrated in my quest, I may drift into tech stores, hoping against hope that some genius might have invented my dream mop as this year’s gadget of choice. To defray the inevitable disappointment, I may allow myself to be lured into the fascinating world of the newest smartphones, computers and their apps that have now been transported from our palms to the galaxy. Now there I can find almost everything I need from such a device, having evolved from wanting a phone that can be tucked into my bra where my mother tucked her wallet (let’s face it, where do you put it when you’re decked for an evening out!) to a device that serves most of my general on-the-go phoning, computing, surfing, reading, music, photographic and video needs with all the required applications – and that can fit, if not into my bra, certainly in a neat purse without the danger of neck and back damage, slim-line, and of a colour of choice. So for those who were about to ask, if I can’t have a mop for Christmas, certainly a galaxy fits the tech tab.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Go Barefoot for Human Rights

‘Barefoot and pregnant’ is an image that has been associated with disempowered women, dependent and entangled in a cycle of poverty, frustration and self-negation from limited life chances resulting from unplanned, unaffordable pregnancies. Similarly, aspects of the feminist movement have also frowned on lengthening and thinning heels on women’s shoes as similar representations of internalised repressions. In fact, shoes and rising heels have been associated with improved standards of living,and lifestyles that allow persons to afford shoes to potect themselves from dreaded poverty-associated diseases, and the roughness of the ground.
Now leading women in the civil society movement have adopted the metaphor – at least half of it, ‘barefoot’ – and extended it, to remind the world of the violations of human rights around the world. Go barefoot – lose your shoes is the rallying call to the world to remind ourselves of these violations. Led by CIVICUS - a world alliance of civil society interests, based in South Africa and headed by Ingrid Srinath – men and boys, women and girls shed their shoes and trekked barefooted through most of the CIVICUS World Assembly activities in Montreal recently, to signal their commitment to defending the rights of persons around the world.
On Human Rights Day, December, 10 – mark the date - the CIVICUS led campaign - Every Human Has Rights – will rally people to focus, even for a few moments, to think about other people whose rights have been violated in the hope of building understanding and to begin to make the fight for human rights part of everyone’s lives. This year’s rally around the sloan Go Barefoot – Lose Your Shoes, will zero in on people living in poverty – people who don’t have food to put on their table, let alone shoes to put on their feet.
In particular, we may want to think of the women and children in the some 20 percent of the population of Trinidad and Tobago whose existence hover around the ‘poverty line’.
I have found that more horrifying than what is conjured by the metaphor of ‘barefoot and pregnant’, is the statistic – of 20 percent of our population being barely able to afford life’s basics , given that T&T’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per head is said to be some USD 20,000. In lay terms, that means, that if this country’s wealth was more equitably distributed, every individual will be earning some TTD 120,000 a year.
Human Rights day was introduced to keep focus on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the anniversary of this Declaration with its 30 Articles of the rights of men and women. In printed form, the 9 cm by 12 cm booklet of 15 pages defines human rights as right to life, liberty, security, property, education, equality before law, freedom of thought, religion, opinion, peaceful assembly, political participation, equal pay for equal work, right to join trade unions, right to a standard of living adequate for health and well being.
Other less known, are ‘right to nationality’, family, equal access to the public service, free development of personality and right to protection of moral and material interests from any scientific, literary or artistic production.
Trinbagonians, with the endemic liming culture would be pleased to know it also includes the right to participate in cultural life, enjoy the arts, share in scientific achievement as well as – note this –“rights to the freedom to rest and leisure and periodic holidays with pay.”
It is clear that many of these rights still point to the unequal status of women in many parts of the world where women still do not enjoy right to property, freedom of thought, equal pay for equal work, and right to enjoy adequate standard of living for health and well being and access to social and public services and utilities, and many have no prospect of experiencing “rights to the freedom to rest and leisure and periodic holidays with pay.”
Go Barefoot, lose your shoes, is based on the belief that the world would be a better place if every person walked a mile in another person’s. Wouldn’t it? Try it and at noon on December 10, take off your shoes, step out onto the street and walk around the to reognise that Every Human Have Rights. Some details in the box on what you can do.

Dr Kris Rampersad is a media, cultural and literary consultant, and author of Through the Political Glass Ceiling – Race to Prime Ministership by Trinidad and Tobago’s First Female. Email kriscivica@ yahoo.com



What you can do:
1. Raising profile of rights
Lose your shoes and walk around your office, church, school etc, barefooted. Take pictures and videos to upload onto the Lose Your Shoes website.
2. Raise awareness
Stories and case studies online and used in digital promotions will help demonstrate that violations of human rights are one of the biggest obstacles to eradicating poverty and people action to uphold Universal rights.
3. 12 steps for human rights
Take the pledge to take the12 STEPS FOR HUMAN RIGHTS by starting with actions on the day and then throughout the year – one each month, simple actions from signing a petition, to attending an event or watching a video and sharing with friends.
For more actions, see http://loseyourshoes.org/

Monday, October 18, 2010

‘Multikulti is dead!' 'Long live multiculturalism’

Trinidad and Tobago and the Caribbean are trying to develop cultural and multicultural policies on mandates handed down to by the developed world where such policies are themselves failing ... so in whose images are we trying to develop them?

‘Multikulti is dead! Long live multiculturalism’

Can T&T bring sanity to the global multicultural hype?

While we reel at the emphatic denouncement of multiculturalism directions in Germany owing to the German’s Chancellors’ pronouncement this weekend that ‘Multikulti is dead’ in Germany, the local Ministry of Multiculturalism hosted a conference ‘Towards A Multiculturalism Policy for Trinidad and Tobago’. Its keynote lead speakers were foreign academics and technocrats from the developed world, Canada and the United Kingdom, who admitted that they had no answers for us on our efforts towards a multiculturalism policy.
It is time we take charge and bring some sanity to this debate that is largely reactionary, surrounded by hype, misconceptions, and preconceived notions. Our losing our heads, ignoring our vast experiences – some of them excruciatingly painful, yes - in building our multicultural environment, by trying to borrow and bow to pressures from societies whose realities are far removed from us, can only be to detrimental effect.
Apart from the few, unresourced and sporadic voices of civil society from the Caribbean and those of us in the culture sector involved in multiculturalism and cultural policy research and actions, trying to represent what this region can bring to the debate and actions, Caribbean Governments and States have been largely inaudible, invisible and relatively inactive in the international discussions.
Compared to our societies, which are already multicultural, the multicultural conversation in the international arena of ‘Northern’/developed societies has largely been in reaction to ‘globalisation’ and directed at immigrants, who are seen to be potentially disruptive of the ‘mainstream’ social and cultural existence, and hence those policies are attempts to ‘integrate’ them into ‘mainstream’ (Canadian/British/French/German) societies in efforts at what they call social cohesion. In the case of Canada, it has also been motivated by the State’s larger politically sensitive relationships with Quebec.
Beyond that, the developed world's outlook assumes that its one size fits all – a warning that has also been sounded by Mario Vargas Llanos, the recently crested 2010 Nobel Laureate for literature; assumptions that ‘policy’ and even ‘systems’ as they are defined by the West/Developed/Northern countries whose societies have evolved systems of law, education, politics very different from our multicultural amalgam, and very different from our attitudes and practice of policy - will work for us.
The international processes also place primary responsibility for multiculturalism in the hands of the State. This creates a dangerous situation of institutionalising political partisanship in ‘managing’ cultural diversity, when from all available evidence such involvements by States in culture have resulted in heightened tensions between and among groups. Germany is but one example. Chancellor Merkel has been one of the leaders in the multicultural conversation at international negotiating tables - that Germany’s attempt to forge a multicultural society has failed, as she denounced elements of the society’s migrants and pronounced that immigrants must adopt German and Christian values. We have seen in recent times, similar soundings and measures by the French and Australian Governments. These are the outlooks that have also been shaping the directions and defining the international instruments, as the UNESCO Conventions, that we have just signed as well, and unless we understand what we are getting into and the implications for our societies, our cultures and our culture sectors, we are likely to be sounding the same bugle – ‘Multikulti is dead’ - as Germany et al pretty soon.
One need not be a prophetess to see, or a rocket scientist to forecast, what those policy directions are doing/likely to do to their societies. Even in the cases in T&T where attempts by the State have actually been to the detriment of the culture sector.
There is a danger that we are on the road to disrupt the delicate socio cultural balances we have succeeded in building. Are we following blindly the shortsightedness of the international trends that are yet to clearly define the differences and the relationship between culture, cultural products and multiculturalism and diversity, and often use them interchangeably and see them as one and the same thing?
It is clear that much of what is driving the international directions are from the experiences of the metropoles of the developed world and very little of that applies to Trinidad and Tobago, in particular, or the Caribbean, in general. We have largely evolved a unique brand of multiculturalism from many migration streams - an asset that we often overlook in pursuing our general tendencies to force-feed the experiences of alien societies and their systems on ourselves. For this, we run the danger of replicating the severe shortcomings and social disruptions they are experiencing and have experienced in theirs.
That can only be detrimental to the social balance we have evolved – not painlessly – here; one that we take for granted but one that we must recognise as fragile and can be easily be shattered if we allow ourselves to be absorbed into the international hysteria about multiculturalism. Instead, what are we doing to try to enlighten that conversation with the experiences, knowledge and practices that we have evolved, and leverage that international environment to the benefit of our populations?
Confidence in our assets, especially cultural ones, has not been one of our strong points, and we continue to drift in a sea of defining ourselves in images handed down by those claiming to be better developed. That is the bridge that must be crossed before we take the precarious step ‘Towards a Multicultural Policy for Trinidad and Tobago.’
The answers may not be as elusive to us as it is to those in the developed world who are now coming to grips with the challenges of multiculturalism. We may just have to tap into our own knowledge-base to switch on the light to our experiences and strengths to determine if and how we can reshape and or impact the international conversation and directions mapped out by the instruments; whether we can make them more relevant to apply to us.
It means that we must reassess our approach hitherto in this conversation, reposition ourselves to take charge of it and impact on it in ways that can be meaningful not just to the region but to the world.
If we look closer home, in the region, there is ready evidence - in how Jamaica is already reeling from having jumped to the international drum without looking inward first, and Grenada is quickly following suit. We have seen what has happened in the EPA-CARIFORUM negotiations which leaves the culture sector no wiser or richer in regard to trade issues.
It is time for more enlightened leadership on the global debate on multiculturalism, and that can only come from the Caribbean. So which of our leaders are going to step up to the challenge?

Dr Kris Rampersad is a media cultural and literary consultant, author and researcher on comparative global trends policies and actions on multiculturalism. See connectcp.org/KrisRampersad

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Breaking News about women in T&T news

We in Trinidad and Tobago pride ourselves in the strides women have made in education, in management and in leadership. We recognise and celebrate a number of feisty women who bring us the news and function as editors, commentators and hosts of various media shows in print and electronically. But here’s some breaking news: the perception is one thing; the actual figures tell a story. How have our women in the media actually been impacting and changing the sphere in which they work?
Global media monitoring day, November 10, 2009 might have been an ordinary day at work for newsroom staff. It was, however, a special day for the Network of NGOs of Trinidad and Tobago whose team monitored T&T’s news media to feed into the report Who Makes the News of the Fourth Global Media Monitoring Project (GMMP). GMMP is the world’s oldest and most extensive research on gender in the news media. It monitors women’s voice/presence on national radio, television and print news. The GMMP exercise on that randomly chosen, fated day revealed a startling picture:
1. That presentations of women in the news had changed only marginally over the last decade;
2. That not unlike the global norm, the world that is reported in the news is mostly male; women continue to hover to near invisibility in the news;
3. Very little news – just under 10% of all stories – focussed specifically on women;
4. Overall, news stories were twice as likely to reinforce gender stereotypes rather than challenge them;
5. News stories on gender (in)equality were almost non-existent as in the 70-plus countries monitored;
6. Women were rarely central in stories that comprised the bulk of the news agenda. Less than 20% of news subjects – the people who are interviewed or whom the news is about – were women;
7. The sex of the journalist made a difference in whether or not women made the news: there were more female news subjects in stories reported by female journalists (25%) than in stories reported by male journalists (20%);
8. Expert opinion was overwhelmingly male with women comprising only 17% of experts who appeared in news stories;
9. As newsmakers, women were under-represented in professional categories.

Although it may be slightly skewed in terms of representation of the general picture given its focus on one random day, the GMMP 2010 report does show that gender parity is still a somewhat distant prospect for T&T and indeed in many regions of the world. News was more often being presented by women but it was still rarely about women. On this randomly chosen day, women were outnumbered by men as newsmakers in every major news topic.
In the Network’s view, news media remain the major and most influential source of information, ideas and opinion for most people around the world. It is a key element of the public and private space in which people, nations and societies live. A nation or society that does not fully know itself cannot respond to its citizens’ aspirations. Who and what appears in the news and how people and events are portrayed matters. Who is left out and what is not covered are equally important. Across the world, the cultural underpinnings of gender inequality and discrimination against women are reinforced through the media.
Specifically, in the analyses, of media parity for women in T&T, who delivered the news in T&T? On that day, 16 percent were Women and 84 percent were male; while the overall presence of women and men as news announcers in radio were 14% female and 86% male.
Who are the newsmakers in Trinidad and Tobago? Politicians and criminals. These two categories dominate with government officials, politicians, president, government numbering 26 stories on that day and criminal and suspect comprising ten stories. The Male to Female ratio in these two categories was 90% versus 10%, and 88% versus 12%, respectively. The presence of female and male news subjects in Trinidad and Tobago by medium – radio, TV and newspapers showed Print- Female subjects 24%; Male subjects 76%.
Other newsmakers were the police, military, paramilitary group, prison officers and in all instances featured men; similarly too for stories with lawyers, judges, magistrates, and legal advocate. The picture eased a little when it came to business persons, executives, managers, and entrepreneurs where women commanded some 23 percent of the scene compared to men, at 73%.
In terms of gender functions assigned by/in the news, women were marginally seen as news subjects or experts/commentators (only 8 percent), and as spokespersons (only 34 percent) with men commanding all three areas.
In like manner, in construction social ‘victims’, in all categories victims were male subjects including areas such as accident, natural disaster, disease, poverty, domestic violence and crime.
In 35 percent of the cases, the news equated women’s identity through representation of their family status, while such identity was ascribed to men in only 16 percent of the cases.
Significantly, female reporters identified men by their familial status 27% of the time and women 25%; while male reporters identified women 50% of the time in this way and men only 9%. Also significantly, female sources were equally sought by male and female reporters (50/50). However male sources were sought more by female reporters than male reporters (59/41). In effect, it also showed that female reporters reinforced gender stereotypes 100% of the time and male reporters 94%. This disparity however only represents one story in which the male reporter neither challenged nor reinforced stereotypes.
Overall, the Network found that ‘Politics and Government’ was one of the most highly discussed topics and also represented one of the highest percentage differences between male and female reporters - 74% versus 26% respectively. The gender gap was also strongly felt in topic ranked third ‘Social and Legal’ with 83% versus 17% and in ‘Celebrity, Arts and Media’ with 79% versus 21% male to women. ‘Crime and Violence’, however presented an almost equal figure of 51% versus 49% and women led only in two lower-ranking categories of Economy and Science and Health by small margins.
Not unexpectedly, the overall presence of women was highest in relation to the least popular topic ‘Celebrity, Arts and the Media’ (64%), while the two highest ranking topics ‘Politics & Government’ and ‘Crime & Violence’ presented the greatest disparities of men to women, with 93% versus 7%; and 95% versus 5% respectively.
Female subjects were present 100% of the time in the following topics: Women’s movement, activism, events, demonstrations, gender equality and advocacy, beauty contests, models, fashion, beauty aids, cosmetic surgery, and Celebrities, Arts and Media. Other high female representation showed 50-60% representation in reporting related to: Education, child care, nursery, pre schools to University, adult education, literacy; Economic policies, strategies, models; Medicine, health, hygiene, safety, disabilities, medical research, funding and ‘other’ (minor) stories on politics and government. There was a male subject in 100% of the time in 20 out of 50 topics and an overall percentage of 85.
Some of the statistics are in the chart below.

Charts:




News Sources Female Male
Local 25% 75%
National 33% 67%
National and other 33% 67%
International 9% 91%
Presence of women and men as announcers in domestic and foreign stories in T&T, Nov 9 2009.


News Topics Female Male
Politics and Government 13% 88%
Crime and Violence 7% 93%
Social and Legal 17% 83%
Economy 0% 100%
Science and Health 100% 0%
Celebrity, Arts and Media, Sports 0% 100%
Presence of women and men by topic in T&T, Nov 9 2009.



News Sources Female Male
Local 60% 40%
National 49% 51%
National and other 67% 67%
International 9% 91%
Domestic and international news by female and male reporters in T&T, Nov 9 2009.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Book traces T&T PM’s road to victory | NationNews - Barbados

Book traces T&T PM’s road to victory | NationNews - Barbados

TTFC Achievements Magazine

TTFC Achievements Magazine

Jyoti Communication: Book review: Through the Political Glass Ceiling - from the CARIBBEAN CAMERA

Jyoti Communication: Book review: Through the Political Glass Ceiling - from the CARIBBEAN CAMERA

Kamla hailed as 'a woman in control' | Trinidad Express Newspaper | News

Kamla hailed as 'a woman in control' | Trinidad Express Newspaper | News

Magazine lists Kamla among top female leaders | The Trinidad Guardian

Magazine lists Kamla among top female leaders | The Trinidad Guardian

PITRI PAKSH: CEREMONY FOR THE LIVING | The Trinidad Guardian

PITRI PAKSH: CEREMONY FOR THE LIVING | The Trinidad Guardian

Friday, October 1, 2010

The Trinidad Guardian -Online Edition Ver 2.0

The Trinidad Guardian -Online Edition Ver 2.0

T&T politics: A new direction? - Caribbean360

T&T politics: A new direction? - Caribbean360

An exciting discovery - Sea Shells Far From Shore | Trinidad Express Newspaper | News

An exciting discovery - Sea Shells Far From Shore | Trinidad Express Newspaper | News


An exciting discovery - Sea Shells Far From Shore

By Richard Charan
By Editor, South Bureau

The man who found it thought it was treasure of the pirate kind - only without the wrought iron and wood chest.

How else could the mind explain, he would say later, all these crystals and sea shells emerging from the ground? And at a place so far from the coast - eight miles at least - past hills and valleys and homes and highways?

A great hiding place, Bob Ramoutar first thought, when his giant excavator unearthed the shells while digging into a hillside in early September.

His discovery while clearing land for a housing development off rural La Cuesa Road, Freeport, has piqued the interest of researchers at the University of the West Indies. A suggestion that the find could have been a shell midden left behind by Trinidad's early people (similar middens have been found in other parts of Trinidad) was dispelled by Dr Basil Reid, senior lecturer in Archaeology at the Department of History, University of the West Indies, when the massive scale of the find began to emerge.

Shells by the millions, no billions, some resembling what you might see washed up on a tropical beach, others the size of an adult's hand, none having any business so far from the sea, the layman would think. And mixed up in it all, quartz (rock crystals).

This, Dr Reid said, might be something of interest to his colleague, Dr Brent Wilson, senior lecturer in Paleontology and Sedimentology, Petroleum Geosciences Programme, at UWI's Department of Chemical Engineering.

Wilson has examined images of the shells found at the site - there are at least five distinct types, and made observations. The discovery, Dr Wilson said, would be sure to excite the Geological Society of Trinidad and Tobago, of which he is an executive committee member.

This is what Dr Wilson reported.

"I concur with Dr. Reid that this is most likely not a man-made shell midden: from the photographs showing the site, the number of shells is small compared to what one would expect in a midden. Also, they appear to be widespread. Instead, this appears to be a community of shells enclosed within a muddy deposit, and probably has a geological rather than an anthropogenic (man-made) origin.

The shells themselves are thick and heavy, one being an oyster. Many show a heavy ornament of ribs. Such molluscs typically live in shallow water, where the thick shells protect the creatures from damage during heavy seas. The ribs also confer strength and stability to the shells, a bit like steel added to the framework of a building (when the contractors remember put it in, that is!)

I would hesitate to give an age for these shells, other than to say that they do not look old in a geological sense (i.e., we may be talking thousands rather than millions of years). I shall assume that this is so. Sea level has not been constant throughout geological time, but has gone up and down as ice caps at the poles have alternatively melted and grown. At times when the ice caps are particularly small, sea levels will be high, the melt water being released into the oceans. Perhaps, then, the shells mark a time when sea level worldwide was higher than it is at present.

There is an alternative explanation: Trinidad is in an area where two of the world's few crustal, tectonic plates meet. Southern Trinidad lies on the South American plate, while northern Trinidad lies on the Caribbean plate. (There's a thing few realise: drive from Port of Spain to San Fernando and you go from the Caribbean to South America, the actual point of passing from one to the other not being far north of the Forres Park Flyover.)

Plate boundaries are characterised by tectonic activity -- a fancy term for earthquakes. These occur as the plates rub together, producing uplift such as had formed the Northern and Central Ranges. The earthquakes can be very powerful and destructive to lives and property. (It was earlier this year suggested that Trinidad has enough stress stored within the Central Range to produce a magnitude 7 earthquake. Unfortunately, we cannot say when it will take place.)

Perhaps, then, the shells mark a period of one or more major earthquakes, when a section of the seafloor was uplifted, bringing the shells with it.

It might be suggested that the shells were transported inland during a tsunami associated with an earthquake. However, this is highly unlikely. Tsunamis (and storm surges associated with hurricanes) are not capable of transporting such large shells far. Instead, the material they would wash inland is fine sand and microscopic shells just a few millimetres across".

Bob Ramoutar intends preserving the site to allow researchers time to conduct a study.

richard.charan@trinidadexpress.com

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Why the fuss? Why Women?

Amid the much publicised participation by the Trinidad and Tobago at the United Nations Summit to review the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), somewhat overlooked locally was the announcement by the UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon for a USD 40 billion plan aimed at saving the lives of 16 million women and children over the next five years. The UN has placed this within the framework of a new organisation, UN Women, to focus on how redressing the needs of women.
While from our small-island perspectives, it may sound like a whooping sum, in effect, it represents less than a miniscule fraction (some 0.0015 percent) of the net income of G8 countries.
Not to be ungracious, even this can significantly dent gender imbalances, if properly managed to ensure that the funds do indeed reach the vulnerable communities and impact on their lives in ways that are meaningful and long term. It is up to the national countries to form and implement plans and programmes to make this happen.
I have heard much skepticism from several quarters - including local women - who should know better, about why the fuss, why women?
This plan came about because development experts and the UN, now awakening to the voices that have pointed out links between the financial, food and other crises, and the economic and other effects of exclusion, discrimination - whether by design or accident - against women who comprise some one half of the world’s population and therefore at least 50 percent of the world’ economic potential and potential for future prosperity of their children.
The experts now acknowledge that the economic and political empowerment of women remain critical for the eradication of poverty, economic growth and sustainable development, and for the wellbeing of families and communities. Better educated women have a better chance in the job market and in decision making at all levels. This benefits the entire society. When women own and control resources and decent and productive work, they can ensure their families and children have a better livelihood – better health care and education for their children which can break the cycle of poverty and deprivation. This pivotal role of women is clearly recognised by the advertising industry, for instance, which has been tailoring their advertising to capture the imagination of women with purchasing power in our societies. It is not rocket science. There is a simple logic in the fact that lifting women from poverty is key to generating economic growth and development and can lead to greater prosperity for all.
Yet, in many countries, women still face barriers to ownership of property, access to education and work opportunities, if not just in law and policies, but also in practices that remain entrenched and internalized which gives them unequally access to be represented in economic and political decision-making and are unable to share equally with men in the benefits of development. Furthermore, women seem to be harder hit by the onset of the world financial crisis.
UN MDG records show that in Trinidad and Tobago, the employment-to-population ratio of men is almost 50 percent (73.1%) to women (49.3) and trends of the last few years with the world financial crisis and economic recession show greater declines in the ratio for women to men. UN data also shows that while there is some progress towards the MDGs overall, and in T&T in some areas for which data exists, inequalities persist not only between women and men, but also between women in urban and rural areas and from different income levels. These are the gaps that action programmes to utilise the UN-40 billion dollar plan should seek to bridge.
According to the UN, in the developing world, women are more likely than men to work in vulnerable employment – either as ‘own-account ‘ (self-employed)workers or as contributing family workers -- characterised by low earnings and productivity and lack of security and benefits. While own-account work is male-dominated, women make up the majority of those who contribute family workers. In 2009, one in every four employed women in the developing regions worked as a contributing family worker, compared to only one in every nine employed men. For most of the areas that will indicate the degree of meeting development goals there were no specific data for T&T, but following are some of the data from the Millennium Development Goals – Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment, progress chart 2010 prepared by the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Women & girls | Trinidad Express Newspaper | Woman Magazine

Women & girls
  • Published on Sep 24, 2010, 9:35 pm AST
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She could have been no more than twelve. She was brought from Guyana, she said, to work as a domestic. It had turned out that she had other duties, including serving her employer's sexual needs as well. We asked if she was in school. She shook her head in the negative. We asked if she would like to go to school. She nodded. Her eyes lit up at the thought but it was soon replaced by a cowering fear that her keeper would discover that she had shared with us this dream of a door to freedom. She hurriedly declared that she must go, fear filling her face, as we asked for a contact number or address. "Barataria", she whispered before scurrying away. 
Power and poverty combine in a lucrative trade in humans. This, coupled with inadequate national border patrols, lack of implementation of domestic labour laws, and underdeveloped community systems — community support mechanisms, shelters, a reliable community police — make Trinidad and Tobago open playing field for human trafficking. Official denial of the fact or that there is no recorded evidence has not made it go away. Various civil society interests have been raising the alarm of this country's involvement in the trade for some time now; there has been talk of links to the human trade with the escalation of kidnappings over the last few years. It is usually only when mention is made in international reports or in the occasional police raid on a 'gentlemen's club', that officials raise their heads, usually in denial. 
In the broadest sense, the trade has its basis in power structures that promote the unequal relationship between men and women that make women economically dependent; and systems and mechanisms that make equal access to resources by women and girls prohibitive (e.g.: to own property; open a bank account). It is spurred by increasing demands for sex workers, stimulated by tourism, and ironically — with medical advances in organ transplants — has gained impetus through a lucrative trade in human organs. 
Various international reports, including from the World Bank, note that Caribbean governments have been known to bury their heads in the sands, with continued denials, because the trade supports their tourist industries, the sole mainstay of many of their economies. The World Bank claims our countries also refuse to implement policies and programmes fearing that any such efforts will have a negative impact on the tourism trade. It is a spiral of disempowerment: women suffering the brunt of the impact of global inequalities on developing countries. 
Guyana, Colombia, Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica, Suriname, Brazil, and OECS countries are known as active participants in human trafficking for women absorbed into the 'entertainment' and 'tourism' sectors in the Caribbean. Estimates are that more than 60 per cent of Caribbean populations live in poverty; that some 100,000 women and children are exploited annually for sexual purposes in Latin America and the Caribbean; that more than 90 per cent of the some 40 million children in Latin America and the Caribbean who live on the streets engage in sex for money and favours. 
Research tells that criminal groups mislead women desperate to improve their life styles about immigrating for lucrative job opportunities, but instead sell the women and children, or force them into sexual slavery to repay costs. It leaves them vulnerable too to HIV/AIDS infection – the Caribbean is the second largest region for HIV/AIDS in the world. 
The US State Dept Trafficking in Persons Report, states: 
"Women and girls are lured with offers of well-paying jobs, and are subsequently exploited and controlled through threats, withholding of pay or insufficient pay, and physical violence. In coastal areas, traffickers promise rural women and girls jobs as domestic servants, then coerce them into working in shops or homes for little or no pay, or sell them to brothels." 
The labour shortages of the last few years have seen Trinidad and Tobago scrambling to source from outside. A partly illegal trade in 'domestic' workers from Guyana in particular and for 'store workers' from other small islands and Latin America has been growing, under the oblivious noses of the authorities and to the data collection agencies, as well, it seems. It is well-known that this region's has been casting its net wider, to source labour from China for instance, while large loopholes for exploitation persist with lax implementation of labour laws, and, as recently surfaced with Colombians and Chinese, additional problems with language and integration for examples. 
There may not be much data to support claims that women and children of the region are being sold into this kind of slavery, but the evidence can be readily sourced from communities if effective reporting mechanisms are put in place as part of the social support structure. One does not have to wait for the annual appearance of a citation in the US State report to stimulate the chorus of voices claiming and denying Trinidad and Tobago's involvement in human trafficking. Lack of data has been a perpetual 'out' for our Governments in official reporting on adherence to international democratic and human rights standards, including in its report to the OAS corruption disclosure mechanism (MESECIC). The availability of data does not imply that the problem does not exist, and who, if not the Government, has the responsibility for facilitating the collection and analyses of data. 
Increase in the minimum wage may be a step in the right direction but it is not enough. What is being done to strengthen the reporting and data capture? Apart from putting in place legal mechanisms — which in themselves are ineffective without enforcement — what other measures are in place for bringing offenders to book? Inadequate policing does not end at our shores. 
Even these will not be enough outside of a holistic approach to improving the delivery of social services in T&T. Certainly a gender policy would present a state position on women and children in this country and recognition of their human rights. Empowering and resourcing NGOs can help them provide necessary services including information capture, establishment of shelters for and rehabilitation/reintegration programmes for victims. 
The UN estimates that women form half of the world's migrants. They are mainly from developing countries. A large number are between ages 10 and 24, and these women send a larger chunk of their typically lower wages back home to support relatives than male migrants, making their earnings a sizeable chunk of external funding other than direct foreign investments that help boost local economies. Addressing their problems is therefore a key factor in global poverty reduction but at the negotiating table their plights are usually invisible. The plight of female migrants and gender-centred international and national policies and actions must be part of the agenda as the United Nations sits this week to review its Millennium Development Goals and look for measures to more effectively redress poverty. 

Dr Kris Rampersad is a media, cultural and literary consultant and international relations director of the Network of NGOs of Trinidad and Tobago.

Caribbean media and agriculture: A marriage of necessity? on Vimeo

Caribbean media and agriculture: A marriage of necessity? on Vimeo

Caribbean media and agriculture: A marriage of necessity? on Vimeo

Caribbean media and agriculture: A marriage of necessity? on Vimeo

Caribbean media and agriculture: A marriage of necessity? - Transcribed | dotSUB

Caribbean media and agriculture: A marriage of necessity? - Transcribed | dotSUB

Friday, September 24, 2010

More at stake for T&T in this UN MDG Summit …in real picture of national development vis-à-vis Summit Goals

At the UN’s Millennium summit 10 years ago, 192 governments signed a compact to reduce world poverty by 50 percent by the year 2015, reduce hunger, disease, achieve equity for women, provide universal education, health, drinking water and effect sustainable environmental management. Trinidad and Tobago joined world leaders this September to review progress in achieving the MDGs, but despite soundings of how well we have done, all’s not well in our front and the overall prognosis leaves much to be desired in all eight MDG areas.
We are no where close to halving poverty (Goal 1), with some one-fifth of our population hovering around the poverty line, despite astoundingly high GDP. Poverty levels is expected to increase as the full impact of the global economic, financial, food, energy and environmental crises and other largely externally generated negative forces set in.
Similarly, while the textbook figures for T&T in relation to universal primary education and literacy look awe-inspiring (Goal 2), the actual performances within the system: high levels of school violence, underperformance, dropouts and functional literacy are humbling. Furthermore, while (Goal 3) empowerment of women through education is commendable, lack of parity in the workplace and alarming levels of violence against women reduce the impact of educational achievements and it is yet to be seen how the new incorporation of gender affairs within the planning ministry will be effected with an holistic and effective gender policy with related implementable actions beyond the Children’s Life Fund and ‘child milk’ that would positively impact child mortality (Goals 4) and maternal health care (Goal 5), are yet to be put in place.
There is much work to be done nationally on actions to reduce environmental pollution, making polluters contribute to clean-up and resuscitation, encourage sustainable community livelihoods, make the Environmental Management Authority (EMA) more than just a political tool, and to secure sustainability in provision of water so the next dry season would not see the numbers of dry taps as the last. But the international community also needs to step its support for the Caribbean’s efforts againstenvironmental degradation and to prepare for the impacts of climate change. Although the Caribbean faces similar threats from temperature changes, melting ice caps, sea level rise, and dangers of sitting on a volatile fault line and active volcanic zone that jeopardizes not only coastal but inland communities international investment (financial and scientific) in these areas are only a miniscule fraction of what is paid to the similarly challenged Pacific region, for example.

Data Challenged
A key problem in all of this for assessment of T&T’s performance is lack of adequate data on several of the indicators, and that existing data are not in sync with MDG definitions. In fact the UN’s ‘regional’ classifications that lumps the Caribbean with Latin America has proven to itself be a handicap in data analyses for the Caribbean as such classification subsumes the realities of the Caribbean with Latin American contexts although they are in almost every instance - in its political systems, historical development, cultural orientation and economic structures - diametrically opposed. It also does not facilitate accommodation of the essential cross-regional and diasporic affiliations of the Caribbean. This results in skewing of all statistical and other representations of the Caribbean that is further handicapped by the lack of data collation and analyses in key indicator areas that could better represent national MDG performance.
One marker of performance, the UNDP human development index (HDI), points in no uncertain terms that our level of well-being is substantially below what may be expected from T&T’s high national (GDP) earnings. A simple comparison shows that Barbados with a GDP of USD 18,000, enjoys better living standards with a ranking of 90 HDI to T&T with its GDP of some USD 23,500 in a lower ranking of around HDI 84. But the HDI is not as clear as to gender or income inequality, levels of respect for human and political rights, and other factors.
Statistics as that above give meat to arguments by the developed world that the real problems of development countries’ attainment of the MDGs are nationally based – poor governance, ineptitude and corruption. The recent change in Government has yet to prove them wrong, and it will take more than rhetoric at the Summit to convince them of that.

T&T’s MDG challenges
While representation of T&T and the region at the UN should not degenerate into finger-pointing and recriminations about why the goals are not being met, we do expect clear, real, sharp and representation of the problems and challenges and proposals to deal with them. Certainly, our representation at the UN should include more definitive positions on the more real handicaps to MDG success – that despite national efforts, the derailment of the MDGs driven by forces that have originated mainly in the developed world which prompted the current Summit in the first instance, calls now for immediate giant steps by leaders to move beyond rhetorical commitments to decisive actions to ensure that the MDGs are back on track to attainability by 2015.
We might be taking steps at national levels but what are we saying to challenge the developed countries in failing to deliver on commitments made in 2000 where the MDGs were set and delivery of promised overseas development assistance (ODA) and World Trade Organisation (WTO) packages that will help to combat the already wide gaps of inequity in trading relations, being further widening by the onset of new challenges posed by high costs of new technologies that can improve our R&D systems and outputs, but which now inhibit our competitiveness in the global marketplace. Development aid would never be enough if it is being counterbalanced by the negative effects of policies that inhibit development of our agricultural and other sectors.
Additionally, in its 2009 T&T report on the MDGs, the UNDP notes that with its strong energy-driven economic base that would make it possible to finance advances in the MDGs, “T&T continues to be challenged to maintain favorable prospects for growth, job creation and poverty reduction in the face of exogenous factors such as a possible downturn in energy process.”
The true picture is that while we might have been making several gains towards the development goals, they are in danger of being reversed with our heightened vulnerability to factors as the externally driven drug trade, international terrorism, human trafficking, inflation in food, energy and commodity prices and the spiraling economic and financial crises. From this Summit should emerge more tangible policy offerings for trade facilitation, and genuine not exploitative global partnership arrangements; effective action to reform the Common Agricultural Policy and WTO, whose export subsidies and trade distortions are so negative for many developing countries; a decisive action agenda for climate change; more sensitive approaches to migration in the context of the global village, among others.
A clearer picture of T&T’s level of dependence on international forces may emerge if we look at migration and remittance data, for instance. Annual migration from T&T stands at more than 20 percent, more than 80 percent of which is to Northern America. The value of such migration to T&T in remittances is some USD 100 million. The fall-off from this for T&T migrants owing to the world financial crisis that has severely affected the US is yet to be ascertained, in as much as there are no estimates of what counter-value such persons could have had if they were absorbed into productive economic activity in T&T - the continuing hemorrhaging of national talents through migration, the exodus of nurses and other health professionals, for examples, which could otherwise significantly impact MDGs 4 and 5.
We might be moving closer to reducing bad governance and strengthen national instruments but we are still hooked on structural and systematic deficiencies within the UN system itself that is heavily influenced by the developed world.
This Summit would want to avoid the failure of last year’s much-hyped Copenhagen Summit which fell woefully short of delivering an effective global climate change agreement. The current MDG Review also gives focus on the continued relevance of the UN and international systems, and the credibility of our leaders. Future generations would not forgive them if substantive commitments to time-bound actions that will make development goals attainable do not emerge.

Dr Kris Rampersad is a media, cultural and literary consultant and International Relations Director of the Network of NGOs of Trinidad and Tobago for the Advancement of Women.
Email: krislit2@gmail.com

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Kamla: Beyond the Glass Ceiling

Review by Herman Silochan, courtesy Caribbean Camera, Toronto

Toronto: Aug 19, 2010: The election of Kamla Persad-Bissessar to the office of Prime Minister in Trinidad and Tobago last May is now being analyzed by regional political scientists. That the new incumbent is a woman, of rural background, of Indian descent, forces academics to work outside the traditional tool box of investigation.
First out the post is Dr. Kris Rampersad, a journalist, lecturer and political observer in her own right. Dr. Rampersad has brought out a selection of Persad-Bissessar’s speeches showing how the path to power was cut and maintained right up to the weeks before that euphoric night of celebration.
What gives the author’s book an insightful quality is that it was launched the week before Persad-Bissessar’s massive electoral win. Few guessed what the result was going to be because commentators, inured by decades of assessing a two-party system along racial lines, hardly bothered to look behind the scenes at a fluid seething electorate, many voting for the first time.
Dr. Rampersad’s opening essay to the book, titled “A Clash of Political Cultures: Cultural Diversity & Minority Politics in Trinidad and Tobago”, sets new interpretations for future elected office holders. This essay could be a good starting point for political scientists taking a new look at the twin island republic’s evolution into its now open accepted multicultural face.
“The whole perception of T&T society is that it is race-based, and projections coming out of this, are false,” she said in Toronto this week to promote her new book. “We inherited a Westminster style system and interpreters of the two party system it posits presents and represents that in terms of race and in the process overlook that Opposition politics was really accommodating elements of the country's diversity that could not seem to find a place in the ruling party.
Both in terms of the physical presentations and in representations of the country as a whole, you get wrong interpretations of what this country is all about. Take for example, our Embassies, High Commissions and Consulates, they do not reflect, or represent the fullness of T&T society; not the kind of society we know of a place where we have moved beyond racial tolerance to a cacualnessand comfortableness with each other and as a result we don’t have the kind of animosities and antagonisms seen in other societies coming to grip with their diversity.”
Dr. Rampersad points out that one of the enduring myths is that in sections of Trinidad there are Indian-only villages, or African-only suburbs. She insists that from times as long as one can remember, there have been peoples of different races living side by side, sharing ancestral values, and cuisines, for examples. Then you have the inevitable process of racial mixing. But it’s more than African or Indian; there’s Chinese, Syrian-Lebanese, European and Taino/Carib/Arawak. “There is no race based community in Trinidad, all are diverse. You must understand this if you want to understand the political face of the Republic and it seemed that the politics of the last 30 years has been unable to catch-up with this reality.”
Dr. Rampersad states with conviction that the evolution to a diverse political representation became more and more evident in the 1970s when cracks began appearing in the People's National Movement when key figures like Karl Hudson-Phillips and ANR Robinson abandoned the party. The victories of the National Alliance for Reconstruction (NAR) in 1986, and the United National Congress (UNC) in 1996 are the manifestations of a broad power sharing.
It was in this period that the young wife of a doctor, Kamla Persad Bissessar was thrust into the role first as alderman, then a parliamentarian, then Attorney General, then Acting Prime Minister. She might have come from a Hindu home, but her parents also had her baptized into the Spiritual Baptist Movement. During her law studies in Jamaica and otherwise, she expanded her cultural appreciation of other societies, strengths and weaknesses. Indeed, through the campaign and on election night, on stage, she danced to Bob Marley’s “One Love”, even as possibly a couple hundred tassa drums reverberated around the party headquarters.
Reading through this selection of speeches, you also see the wordings of broad representations, Persad-Bissessar’s loyalty to her boss, the Leader of the Opposition, and former Prime Minister, Basdeo Panday, in spite of jealousies and putdowns.
Remember too we are working in an outwardly machismo society, yet still inherently matriarchal. Feminists generally call this the “glass ceiling”.
Persad-Bissessar’s speeches, which represents over 60 years of the political history of the country and some 21 years of the political life of Mrs Persad-Bissessarshows she is no fluke to the nation’s highest elected office, that she had been addressing issues and problems when few cared to debate them. That she was not ever afraid to confront her allies or government ministers with blunt language. But she tempered her rhetoric with diplomacy, smiles and a sense of logic that was hard to refute; for example, her action confronting the Speaker of the House with his stupid decision banning laptops in Parliament when every other democracy in the world was incorporating them into the era of information led debate.
For lovers of Trinbago society, this is a good book to have, to appreciate the fullness of its roots, and as the author’s says, a good template for other emergent multicultural societies the world over.
The book is called Through The Political Glass Ceiling, Race to Prime Ministership by Trinidad and Tobago’s First Female – Kamla Persad-Bissessar.
Reprinted with permission of The Caribbean Camera, Toronto, Canada. http://www.thecaribbeancamera.com/home-page

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

2010-11 a crucial Budget to diversify economy through arts and culture

Trinidad and Tobago would be missing a crucial opportunity for diversifying the national economy if Government’s 2010-2011 Budget does not contain the necessary provisions to propel the arts and cultural sector from dependency to self-sustainability.
Arts and culture is a billion dollar industry elsewhere. It is the kind of returns from museums, from performances abroad, from sales and downloads of a range of cultural products in a world hungry for new entertainment on the one hand; and on the other, from fulfilling the cravings for new reflections of self and identity that our multiculturalism can provide. It has the potential to help individuals and communities to sustainable livelihoods. However, the structures and systems and investments necessary that can help us take advantage of this are sorely lacking.
The potential is not only our music, song, dance, drama, literature but outside-the-box industries of fashion and cuisine. We are sitting on a multi-million dollar revenue earner in literary tourism, but there are as yet no real facilities by which we can capture this international interest. Digitisation of access to these is also crucial. It is the duty of Government to create the environment to enabling and facilitate this; to promote public-private sector partnerships with individuals and groups in the sector, and to ensure that no one group or groups of organisations have the monopoly of access to these facilities.
At a time when the world is rapidly moving towards forms of energy other than petroleum, it is ridiculous to consider further incentives and tax reductions to the oil sector, when efforts should be concentrated at making that sector compensate for the imbalances it has created, and developing those sectors that have longer-term and more sustainable potential, particularly those related to the arts and culture sector. Europe and North America are trying to ‘buy up’ as much world cultures as possible, we seem all-too-willing to sellout our cultural assets and not even to the highest bidder– just look at the Economic Partnership Agreement between the European Union and CARIFORUM.
The 2010-11 Budget should present clear measures to provide effective tax and other incentives to the creative sector for the development of talents, products, communities along with a short, medium and long term vision that gives culture its rightful place at the centre of national development, not just piecemeal and tokenism. That would also include revising the mainstream (preschool/primary to tertiary level) education curriculum, teacher training, and education materials to reflect and enhance appreciation for local arts and multiculturalism, along with intelligently utilising the new arts megastructures to effectively cultivate and provide opportunities for creative enterprise and activities easily accessible to the masses. With this should come review of all ‘national’ competitions to lift the standards and quality of products being awarded by state and private sector funds, while helping to facilitate development of audiences, readers and participants. Where is our National Arts Council that is equipped and resourced to pull together and make holistic and effective the work of the National Carnival Commission, National Archives, National Trust, National Libraries and Museums for instance?
The spin offs are not only tangible economic benefits, but other social spinoffs – reduced crime, poverty, stress on social services and the intangibles of civic ownership, and national pride.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Friday, August 20, 2010

Monday, August 9, 2010

Commonwealth praise for book on Kamla's speeches


Commonwealth praise for book on Kamla's speeches

  • Published on Jun 6, 2010, 12:01 am AST
  • Updated on Jan 28, 2011, 4:07 am AST

A valuable addition to research on gender and women in politics in the Commonwealth. That's how Dr Mark Collins, Director of the Commonwealth Foundation described the new book by Dr Kris Rampersad, Through The Political Glass Ceiling —the Race to Prime Ministership by Trinidad & Tobago's first female, Kamla Persad-Bissessar, Selected Speeches. 




Speaking at the Commonwealth launch of the book at the Partners' Forum of the Ninth Women's Affairs Ministers Meeting (9WAMM) in Barbados on Friday, Dr Collins noted the need for research and documentation identified by various speakers and workshops of the meeting. He stated that the book, and the project for promoting social research and publishing which it
launches, are answers to that need.
Reviews Through the Politicla Glass Ceiling



He also pointed out that it is not common for a chair of the Commonwealth to change mid-term as happened in this case with the change of Government in Trinidad and Tobago which makes Mrs. Persad-Bissessar, the first female Caribbean chair-in-office of the Commonwealth. The launch was attended by representatives from across the Commonwealth. A copy of Through the Political Glass Ceiling was presented to Chairperson of the Foundation, Simone de Comarmond who endorsed Dr Collins appreciation of the book's as a needed documentation on gender development. 




The launch was in keeping with the Forum's theme, Gender Issues in the Economic Crisis Recovery and Beyond: Women as Agents of Transformation. All proceeds of the launch go towards supporting Caribbean research and publishing. Compiled, with introduction, contexts and analyses by Dr Kris Rampersad, the book features selected speeches of Mrs. Persad-Bissessar against the backdrop of the roles of gender and geo-politics among other factors in the contest for leadership between Mrs Persad-Bissessar and the country's longest standing political entity, the People's National Movement.



    Sunday, August 1, 2010

    Make this a budget for Arts and Culture

    The 2010 Budget should be devoted to strengthening Trinidad and Tobago’s arts and culture so we move beyond the lip service and put the proper structure, facilities and mechanisms in place to take advantage of the rich multiculturalism and arts for the benefit of both our human and political development, nationally, regionally and internationally.
     It is now well-recognised that our arts and culture are among our most untapped renewable resource. It has untapped value not only to us here in the region but internationally.  It is time that the country where was invented the only musical instrument in recent times; which has an as yet incomparable record of social cohesion despite its multicultural diversity, takes its place as a leader in the world cultural stage.
    We also need to change our perception of the sector - as not just its products as literature, performance, language design, film, song, music, dance, which are all underutilised – but also how we utilise the spirit of resilience and creative impulses that drives our capacity to rise above our circumstances, as well as how we leverage our diasporic connections which include our ancestral countries of origin, but also elements of the T&T and Caribbean diasporas that we are developing across the globe. That way we will make our experiences of slavery and indentureship truly emancipating.  
    That can only come from meaningful diversification and more equitable treatment of groups, and an enabling environment and infrastructure for investment in the arts and culture, similar to that which has been given to petroleum over the decades, to make it possible that the enormous cadre of talent available locally can face the competitive global marketplace. The 2010 Budget must give substance to the continuing rhetoric that ‘culture is the new oil’ and give to the sector the kind of support petroleum has received through tax incentives, development of infrastructure, and facilitation. It should facilitate communities to appreciate and protect their cultural practices and assets that can form a vibrant base for the new tourism that caters to special interests as the old tourism flounders in the face of the economic crisis. It should project infrastructural development as to provide for such a community focus, and at the same time provide mechanisms to the international communities – international agencies as those of the United Nations and UNESCO, the European Union, and the Commonwealth and utilise our foreign missions to forge partnerships that includes our various diasporas of origin which effectively encompasses most of the world - also an as yet unquantified asset.
    If we are serious about weaning ourselves away from dependency on petroleum, and dependency as a whole we must do away with the ad hoc treatment of arts and culture where groups and individuals, and individual cultural sectors are subject to whatever partisan interests the powers of the day may hold, and establish a cultural policy along with programmes and actions that will standardize State treatment of the arts and culture sector that will hold for all.     
    “We tend to underestimate the potential of the arts and culture, and often speak of it either in terms of economic or human development – but we are in a position to take full advantage of both elements – to use our cultural resilience and get rid of the ‘gimme gimme’ syndrome to forge the kind of social transformation that will secure for our sustainable development for generations to come.

    Sunday, July 25, 2010

    Civil Society Gateway

    Civil Society Gateway

    Gender Informational Network of South Caucasus (GINSC)

    Gender Informational Network of South Caucasus (GINSC)

    Women’s Group Joins in the Call for Voice in Trinidadian Single Sex School Project - Caribbean Business Journal

    Women’s Group Joins in the Call for Voice in Trinidadian Single Sex School Project - Caribbean Business Journal

    T&T did not fare well in adopting previous summit mandates - Summit of the Americas (more) - MiamiHerald.com

    T&T did not fare well in adopting previous summit mandates - Summit of the Americas (more) - MiamiHerald.com

    Sustainable development

    Sustainable development

    The Trinidad Guardian -Online Edition Ver 2.0

    The Trinidad Guardian -Online Edition Ver 2.0

    Politicians-drug link

    Politicians-drug link

    The Trinidad Guardian -Online Edition Ver 2.0

    The Trinidad Guardian -Online Edition Ver 2.0

    kris rampersad - Yahoo! Search Results

    kris rampersad - Yahoo! Search Results

    Jamaica Gleaner News - Groups question success of Trinidad summit - Business - Wednesday | April 22, 2009

    Jamaica Gleaner News - Groups question success of Trinidad summit - Business - Wednesday | April 22, 2009

    World briefs | StAugustine.com

    World briefs | StAugustine.com

    URGENT ACTION: Ethiopia – Prisoners of conscience | Abbay Media

    URGENT ACTION: Ethiopia – Prisoners of conscience | Abbay Media

    The Trinidad Guardian -Online Edition Ver 2.0

    The Trinidad Guardian -Online Edition Ver 2.0

    Trinidad and Tobago's Newsday : newsday.co.tt :

    Trinidad and Tobago's Newsday : newsday.co.tt :

    Wednesday, July 14, 2010

    Samuel Selvon: An Introduction to Moses Ascending (2007) | Hari Kunzru

    Samuel Selvon: An Introduction to Moses Ascending (2007) | Hari Kunzru

    Appeal for Abdul Malik | The New York Review of Books

    Appeal for Abdul Malik | The New York Review of Books

    Sati and Shiva: Attachment to the Unattached

    Sati and Shiva: Attachment to the Unattached

    Legacy of Black Power is more than just dashikis | The Trinidad Guardian

    Legacy of Black Power is more than just dashikis | The Trinidad Guardian

    MultiCulturalism | The Trinidad Guardian

    MultiCulturalism | The Trinidad Guardian

    DIVALI NAGAR GREETINGS FROM THE HON. KAMLA PERSAD-BISSESSAR, PRIME MINISTER OF TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO

    DIVALI NAGAR GREETINGS FROM THE HON. KAMLA PERSAD-BISSESSAR, PRIME MINISTER OF TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO

    KAMLA BOOK LAUNCH SPEECH

    KAMLA BOOK LAUNCH SPEECH

    Jamaica Gleaner News - Kamla Persad-Bissesar on a roll in 2010 - Business - Wednesday | May 26, 2010

    Jamaica Gleaner News - Kamla Persad-Bissesar on a roll in 2010 - Business - Wednesday | May 26, 2010

    Press Releases - Women’s roles revisited…..Dr. Kris Rampersad

    Press Releases - Women’s roles revisited…..Dr. Kris Rampersad

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    UNDP CSR Regional Conference report final complete 2009.pdf (application/pdf Object)

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    opm45.pdf (application/pdf Object)

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    CARIBARTS - The Home of Caribbean Arts & Culture

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    Kris Rampersad — Blogs, Pictures, and more on WordPress

    Kris Rampersad — Blogs, Pictures, and more on WordPress

    Kris Rampersad — Blogs, Pictures, and more on WordPress

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    It's 'business unusual'... Triple whammy to hit energy sector | On the Frontlines of Climate Change

    It's 'business unusual'... Triple whammy to hit energy sector | On the Frontlines of Climate Change

    Triple whammy to hit energy sector

    Byline Author: 
    Article Date: 
    Sunday, April 19, 2009
    • Rising resource costs • Rising energy costs • Rising food prices
    It’s ‘business unusual’...
    For the energy sector, it is not “business as usual,” not only because of supply factors, but also related to focus on more efficient and sustainable uses of energy and climate change-related issues. This is the message from energy researchers, ColinDale Marcelle and Ian Ivey, as heads of governments and policy-makers discuss the global financial crisis at the Fifth Summit of the Americas. “The energy sector does not operate in isolation. The major trends shaping its ‘big picture’ future are coming together for a ‘triple whammy’ effect—rising energy costs, rising food prices and rising resource costs,” said Ivey, of the research group NEXT.
    For the energy sector, it is not “business as usual,” not only because of supply factors, but also related to focus on more efficient and sustainable uses of energy and climate change-related issues. This is the message from energy researchers, ColinDale Marcelle and Ian Ivey, as heads of governments and policy-makers discuss the global financial crisis at the Fifth Summit of the Americas. “The energy sector does not operate in isolation. The major trends shaping its ‘big picture’ future are coming together for a ‘triple whammy’ effect—rising energy costs, rising food prices and rising resource costs,” said Ivey, of the research group NEXT.
    “T&T needs to become far more focused on the opportunities associated with the entire renewable energy sector, because it has invested heavily in the development of considerable expertise in the energy field. “Once the country’s oil and gas fields enter into a decline phase—which may be little more than a decade away—that investment will have little long-term value to the country, unless it is redirected towards future rapid growth opportunity areas in the ‘new energy’ scene. “It is clearly going to be difficult for a small country such as T&T to be an internationally cost-competitive player in renewable energy sectors, such as bio-ethanol and bio-diesel, as the land areas required are vast and the throughput volumes required to justify the capital investments needed are potentially large.
    Along with Marcelle, Ivey is the co-author of the recently released Global Foresight Review on renewable energy and Renewable Energy Best Bets Opportunities for T&T (see Niherst.gov.tt), which focus on opportunities and alternatives for T&T outside the oil and gas sector. They were prepared by NEXT Corporation for the National Institute of Higher Education Research, Science and Education.
    Increase by 2030
    Foresight and innovation research identified several “best bets” for T&T’s energy sector that would lead to greater efficiency in use of existing energy sources and develop businesses built around alternative energy generated from environment-friendly renewable sources. Nine initial potential “best bets” were identified, including developing alternative energy sources by harnessing the power of wave, wind, solar and volcanic energy and growing business by tapping into existing research and technologies. “The potential ‘best bet’ opportunity areas identified could provide the basis of a significant new energy sector focus in T&T,” the authors say. The top three involved use of bio-gas, solar and energy-efficient technologies.
    The Global Review cites trends and issues that have an impact on energy markets that point to higher prices for crude oil and natural gas, post the current slump and a 50 per cent projected increase in global energy demand by 2030. Sources referred to include the Annual Energy Outlook, the Medium-Term Oil Market Report of the International Energy Agency, Facing the Hard Truths About Energy Report of the National Petroleum Council and the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change, among others.
    The review was prepared to stimulate thinking about how the global sector is likely to evolve over the next ten years, and thus identify associated threats and opportunities for T&T in the long-term, drawn from a big picture view of what the world may look like in the near future, so as to inform decisions that need to be made today with regard to sector opportunities and threats. Among its findings were that the energy sector’s development is being restricted primarily by traditional attitudes and short-term thinking. A lack of understanding of how quickly the “big picture” may change in future years is hindering change to more sustainable alternatives and limiting the amount of investments being made into innovative opportunities.
    'Peak oil’
    The energy sector is being forced to revise its directions as the result of a growing awareness that current sources of energy are likely to fail to keep up with future demand, as the capacity to supply world demand is almost already at its peak. This was fed by growing pressure for cleaner and more environmentally sustainable energy sources. “People are now starting to realise that ‘peak oil’ is just a few years away, if not already here. This increases the need to speed up moves towards renewable energy alternatives where favourable conditions apply,” say the authors.
    Among these favourable conditions are advances in technology, innovators with creative solutions, growing investment into green and sustainable applications (long-term) and decentralisation of the energy sector, down to a point where we may see total sustainable energy solutions in place for communities, or even individual households and businesses. These already exist in European communities, such as Jühnde in Germany and Güssing in Austria. “The global energy scene is now reaching a ‘tipping point.’ It is changing the balance between ‘old energy’ and ‘new energy.’
    “It is easy to become blindsided by short-term blips such as the current low prices in fossil fuel prices and reduced investment into renewable energy. But this is unlikely to last long. “Once the world recovers from the current economic downturn, the major underlying trends will be back in play and ‘old energy’ is likely to face a challenging future as the ‘triple whammy’ effect comes back into play and global policy changes adversely affect the competitive position of fossil fuels, particularly in response to climate change and reducing global emissions by up to 80 per cent (eg, the new goal in the USA).”
    Dr Kris Rampersad is
    a  multistakeholder multimedia multicultural 
    sustainable development educator consultant and facilitator.
    - also published at: http://www.guardian.co.tt/archives/features/life/2009/04/18/triple-whammy-hit-energy-sector#sthash.q7TwWsYw.dpuf