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