On the 12th of February 2015, a day when the stakeholders of the University of the West Indies (UWI) Mona planned to celebrate their Pelican Pride in the annual staging of the Homecoming Parade and Flag Raising ceremony, was interrupted by a silent protest in front of the Mary Sealcole Hall which captivated the UWI Mona community. The protest, which eventually lead to a march, was organized by the young men and women of the Taylor Hall, the Mary Sealcole Hall and the Chancellor Hall and was intended to bring awareness to the issue of Gender based violence on the campus; which since recently gained much attention due to the altercation that erupted on Tuesday, February 10, 2015 between a young woman from Taylor hall and a young man from Chancellor hall.
It’s alleged, that the two had a verbal misunderstanding which then led to a physical brawl that resulted in the young woman suffering a serious injury to her forehead. There are many accounts of the incident from the eye witnesses to support either party, but the most prevalent idea is that this was a regular act of violence against women gone wrong. Given the current 7:1 ratio of women to men on the Mona Campus, this interpretation of what happened caught fire within the UWI community, which then prompted them to stage a silent protest.
Being a student of the UWI Mona for well over 2 years now, I’ve always complained that the students are too passive and quiet. For a group of people who are supposedly critical thinkers and future leaders of Jamaica, we’ve allowed a lot of things to slide without retribution; and this worries me. It worries me because Jamaica isn’t a perfect society, and chances are it’s going to get worse if certain people aren’t at the helm of the ship that will stop certain things from sliding. I know a lot of people might see yesterday’s demonstration as unnecessary, ridiculous and a complete waste of time and resources, but I beg to disagree. I think yesterday’s happenings was one of the most beautiful situations the UWI community has ever gotten themselves into. For the first in years the students stood in solidarity, for a young woman’s tragedy and an even bigger issue that transcends into the wider society.
It’s only a shame that we had to wait until something happened, before waking up to the reality of things and it makes me wonder if that is a formula for our students to speak up. I hope not. I hope yesterday’s demonstration sparks a campus-wide conversation on not just Gender Based Violence, but Rape, Sexual Harassment, Discrimination and all the other issues that plague our community but are conveniently brushed under the rug. I hope finally the victims of these issues will come forward and give their stories, so we can start a process towards finding solutions.
I hope the Administration maintains their promise to not only increase security on campus as a result of this incident, but also make our issues their priority and create a space comfortable for the students to want to confide in them. I hope the Guild Council also understands their role in this movement going forward and will try harder to become the bridge between the students and the administration that will help in the pursuit of finding the solutions to these problems.
Finally, I hope these emotions and all this enthusiasm about Gender Based violence lasts further than a week and will spark a new wave of student activism and constructive leadership within the UWI Community.