Social Commentary

The Upcoming Revolution most people didn’t expect: The Tambourine Army

 

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There is a revolution brewing in the most unsuspecting of places, the hearts and minds of our women. I have been observing these past few weeks, especially on social media, a renewed sense of urgency to stop violence against women and children. The co-founders of this movement, notable advocates Ms. Nadeen Spence and Ms. Latoya Nugent, have managed to galvanize support from women young and old across the Jamaican society.

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To provide some context about this movement, it all started when one of the co-founders, Ms. Latoya Nugent, who goes by the alias Stella Gibson was featured in the media in January 2017 for using a Tambourine to assault, then president of the Moravian Church, Paul Gardner, who was also subsequently charged with carnal abuse. It was this incident that spawned the idea to start an activist group to tackle gender-based violence which came to be known as the Tambourine Army.

Since these women launched their challenge against the system, I’ve observed strong support as well as strong opposition from both men AND women on the issue. Most people, especially the women, seem to be fully behind the cause and have taken to social media to break their silence and speak up! The opposing minority however seems to be indifferent towards the methodologies used and have even gone as far as to question the motives of some behind this movement. They seem to be of the view that the force and aggression will do little for the movement and are suggesting a more balanced, inclusive approach to get a larger buy in from other stakeholders of society.

While in theory that approach should work, in actuality that hasn’t been the case and I commend the women of the Tambourine Army for finally accepting this and choosing to be BOLD FOR CHANGE. There are many issues like gender-based violence affecting us as a nation that we spend most of our time writing letters to the editor about, talking on the radio/TV about or posting on social media and then get frustrated when these methods produce little to no results. Maybe this approach was wrong, but that is something we will have to wait and see as time passes. However, we must acknowledge the courage of these women for trying and fighting; a lesson we all could take away and apply to our personal fights.

I would never pretend to understand or even relate to the pain these women must be feeling; especially the survivors. The overwhelming anxiety for change and the strength to bear that pain and keep it subdued, while the system considers their plight. At some point enough will be enough, and it is not our place to judge them for taking this position now if they feel, the time is NOW.

To my brothers reading this I want you to imagine for a second, you were born into a world where society counted you as inferior before you were old enough to understand what it meant. And imagine a superior group of counterparts whom are knowledgeable of the perceived limitations placed upon you and take advantage of you in the worst of ways to further their agendas of greed, power and pleasure. I’m not certain if that fully captures it, but I’d imagine that’s how our women have felt all these centuries. Centuries of psychological, physical and emotional abuse that constantly gets overlooked because the people beyond this social glass ceiling are all men; looking amusingly at the woman’s effort to try and break it.

This nuh feel right and I would hate for the situation to get bloody before oonu Jamaican people realize this! This issue affects me personally, because I have witnessed for myself the emotional, physical and psychological abuse of the women I grew up with by men who were suppose to be my father figures. Not knowing what to do as a young boy I silently shared their pain, cried with them and prayed with them for better days until I was old enough to know better and to do better! I have been blessed with two beautiful little sisters that I’m worried about honestly. I’m worried they will be forced to pay a gruesome price for their beauty, and have to stifle their potential to fit into a society that fails to see the value in allowing them to just be. This isn’t just a fight for our women and children, but a fight for Jamaica’s sake. We all have a part to play, because we all are affected by this issue; in one way or another.

If the women behind this Tambourine Army believe they have exhausted all avenues of “proper” ways to advocate that they taught us in their schools, then I say do what you must to maintain the fight. If you must shout, then shout; if you must march, then march; if you are attacked with force, fight back with force; but please don’t give up the fight. Your courage and nationalism is not unnoticed and my children and the children of ALL MEN will thank you dearly for your service to Jamaica. History will absolve you.

 

-G.B

 

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Business, Investment and Economics

Has the Current IMF program furthered your right to an Education at the Tertiary Level?

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Is the current IMF program making it any easier for you to pay for your degree? Do you think it is making the cost of pursuing a tertiary level education any cheaper? In the negotiations happening now, do you know how much effort our government has put into ensuring education is a priority of the program? For all intents and purposes, this analysis will be carried out in reference to the University of the West Indies Mona and the extent to which access to a tertiary level education at this institution has increased since the dawn of this new IMF program.

In a January 2012 Article article entitled ” IMF Talks result in Greater Understanding of Priorities” published on the Jamaica Information Service (JIS) website, it was reported that the major issues in our economy at the time included a reduction in the primary surplus of the central government that was targeted for this fiscal year, and a rise of the overall deficit of the public sector. This, after the PNP administration restarted the conversation with the IMF following their victory in the 2011 general elections to negotiate a new deal with the Fund pursuant of strong policies that would enable Jamaica to address the risks posed by both the global environment and the worsening fiscal realities.

In a May 2013 article on the International Monetary Fund Website (IMF), entitled ” IMF Loan to help Jamaica cope with Growth and Debt challenges”, it was underscored that Jamaica’s very high debt undermines confidence and investment and that the new program will boost growth and jobs, lower debt and improve competitiveness. The IMF’s executive board had extended the arrangement to Jamaica with a loan of JMD $932,000,000 to further the objectives of this new program. The IMF’s mission chief for Jamaica, Jan Kees Martijn, in response to what he considers to be the key priorities in Jamaica for the Fund and the government and the role he envisions for the Fund beyond financial support in promoting these measures, said that adjusting policies to lower debt to a sustainable level and establishing the conditions for durable growth will be the requirement for building a prosperous future for Jamaica. However, it was made clear that the program does have a social welfare component which speaks to the protection of the most vulnerable groups in society (youth in this context). The extent to which these vulnerable groups are protected is the question we are trying answer.

Mr Martijn posited that the new program includes a range of measures to improve competitiveness and the business climate, so that Jamaica can attract investment and create jobs, as well as training opportunities to assist the migration from welfare to work. He went further to say that a second element of the program is requiring a floor on social spending to make sure that it is given priority even when the overall room for government spending is limited. The government, He said, also intends to increase the number and targeting of beneficiaries under the Program for Advancement Through Health and Education (PATHE).

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In a June 2014 article entitled ” Prime Minister Says Growth and Employment Highest Priority” published on the Jamaica Information Service (JIS) website, Prime Minister, the Hon. Portia Simpson Miller says stimulating growth and employment is the highest priority of the Government and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), at this time. Madam Simpson Miller reports that the progress made in the first year of our program (presumably January 2012 – January 2013) include: upfront fiscal consolidation and reform; several structural initiatives aimed at improving the business environment and restoring external price competitiveness; while strengthening the social safety net. But does the social safety net here speak to the educational opportunities afforded to Jamaicans at the tertiary level (with reference to UWI Mona)? Specifically, has this net been strengthened such that more Jamaicans can exercise their right to access a tertiary education from the State?

She went on to emphasize that stimulating growth and employment is, at this time, the highest priority of both the Government of Jamaica and the Fund. From these reports, It can be deduced that while the program is successful thus far in meeting the targets it set out to achieve, the social welfare of Jamaicans has been made less of a priority behind lowering unemployment and stimulating economic growth. With 80% of most SME’s (Small and Medium sized enterprises) failing in the first 5 years of operating and a national unemployment rate at 13.2% (32% of which is youth unemployment), one can understand the need to prioritize these issues in the program. But what we need to now ask ourselves is what of the statistics on enrollment at the University level? Are they significant enough to build an argument for a greater focus on improving access to a tertiary level education?

According to the enrollment statistics produced by the University of the West Indies (UWI) Mona , over a 5 year period (2009-2014) enrollment into full-time and part-time first degree programs has averaged at 11,358 students. According to Education Statistics produced by the Ministry of Education for 2012-2013; 84,847 students were enrolled in secondary school who were between 15-16 age group; and in the 17-19 age group only 32,697 students were enrolled in secondary schools. Cumulatively, 117,544 students were enrolled in the secondary school system between 2012-2013.

With reference to the enrollment statistics produced by the UWI Mona for the year 2012-2013, only 12,105 students were enrolled into the institution. So of the 117,544 students eligible for matriculation to the tertiary level that year, only 10.3% made the cut to attend UWI Mona. Is this acceptable? What of the other 80.7% students eligible to read for a tertiary degree?? Have they been appropriately placed in the other tertiary institutions island-wide? Collectively, do these other tertiary institutions have the absorptive capacity to enroll that 80.7%? Has our government done enough so far to afford more students that right to higher education? Essentially this is saying, approximately 1 in every 10 Jamaican youth in 2012-2013 had a chance at exercising their right to higher education at UWI Mona.

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The fact that the current IMF program fails to produce a positive surplus in our economy affects our government’s ability to contribute more to subsidizing tertiary education than they currently can afford. At present, the Jamaican government allocates a total of JMD $5 billion yearly to UWI Mona, which is intended to subsidize 80 per cent of fees students pay to attend the institution. The issue however, is that this amount has been frozen for some time amidst rising costs to operate the University due to externalities of the same IMF program, such as rising inflation rates. Therefore, we see a unique relationship here which explains the extent to which the Jamaican government can actually further the right to seek a tertiary level education at UWI Mona. Your ability to pursue a degree at UWI Mona hinges primarily on the extent to which this IMF program can yield a surplus to aid in advancing our development agenda.

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In the interim, I would suggest to our government that they look to establishing a stronger social partnership with the private sector to offer more assistance where tertiary financing is concerned. Create internships for students in a particular field that will allow them to work part-time with a select firm in the private sector while increasing their ability to finance themselves through university. More public-private partnerships such as the recent housing development between the National Commercial Bank (NCB) and the UWI Mona should also be encouraged in other areas such as facilities upgrading and student mentorship. Firms need to understand that creating that intimate relationship with your customer before they have the purchasing power, is how you create a loyal customer base for the future. Finally, I want urge Dr. Peter Phillips and his team to aggressively advance the notion that greater access to tertiary education should be a priority of this program, and is equal in status to lowering unemployment and stimulating economic growth.

  • G.B
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Art and Poetry

Proclamations of the 2.0

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My voice….I’ve been asked to share it

But most times it’s just diplomacies

to combat their controversies

conjured by jacket and ties

with agendas for their big agencies…

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

But if I was to speak out, you would hear the revolution in my cry

Because I, am a child of Marcus Garvey

a string in the Tuff Gong’s guitar

a single current in this air of revolution…….waiting

Frustrated, Tired, trapped in a space of false pretence

Emancipated…no, emancipendence…but still recognize a Governor General in residence

When will we break away from this mental debt trap that the Maasas have us living in…

and stop starving our minds with their empty truths

When will we stop taking their monies, only to give them back!

taking their money and giving them back! Take, Give! TAKE, GIVE!

This cycle of “unprogressiveness” labelled as a strategy for growth..

meeting their targets, while creating more targets of our unsuspecting Jamaican citizens…

How much more children need to go to bed hungry to meet their targets??

How much more slashes to the back must our dollar endure to meet their targets?

How much more targets must we make of ourselves to meet their targets?

My brothers, my sisters, we are the ones we’ve been waiting for

We are the fire, we are the guns, we are the war that we’ve been praying for..

WE ARE THE REVOLUTION that will NOT be televised..

but tweeted, posted and SHOUTED….from the throats of change..

– G.B, in collaboration with L.K and K.H

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Social Commentary

What Now UWI?

 

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

Sincerely,

-G.B

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