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On October 15

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Today, as I do on most Wednesday evenings, I sit before my computer penning my column for this week. As I am about to undertake this exercise, the word from colleagues in Antigua, St.Kitts/Nevis, Anguilla and the British Virgin Islands is that their countries are under threat from another approaching hurricane, Hurricane Omar. We are reminded, of course, that we are still in the midst of the hurricane season and that we have always to be prepared.{{more}} We have to continue to be on our guard and hope for the best for our brothers and sisters in the north. Today is also the day when the Caribbean states, including Guyana, are expected to sign the Economic Partnership Agreement with Europe. Since the controversy broke out over the decision to sign and Guyana’s pledge to sign only a trade in goods agreement, there appears to be a consensus to have a mandatory review of the EPA every five years, one of the things Guyana had been pushing for. This has apparently given Guyana a cover to join other CARICOM partners in signing the agreement.

The Presidential Debates

Tonight is also the time for the final debate in the Presidential contest in the United States of America. Really, I don’t know why these things are called debates because the idea is not to win on points but to create an impression on the voters’ minds. This has a long history going back to the Nixon-Kennedy debate. Most careful observers of that debate felt that Nixon had won on points but Kennedy’s personality and style, better made for television, won over. One understands this, for with television, very often it is not what you say but how you say it and how you appear. Let us take this as reality, but these debates have become mere sham. This was evident with the Palin-Biden debate, with Palin winking at the audience and even impressing some people by doing so. She provides answers to the questions asked but answers that have little to do with the questions. At one time she told them plainly she wasn’t necessarily going to answer in the way they wanted and then proceeded to talk about what she did in Alaska. Imagine some people having the effrontery to dare to suggest that she won the debate. There was also another crazy aspect of that so-called debate, that there were no follow-up questions. The Obama-McCain debates really saw the two candidates doing their stomp speeches. Tonight can possibly be different in that McCain is behind in the polls and is desperate. Would he try something new? What might that be?

FANCY Applauded

Today, October 15, I know for the first time is celebrated as International Day of Rural Women, following a declaration to that effect by the United Nations General Assembly in November 2007. What does this have to do with anything? Well, it is an important day for a group of women in Fancy, the Fancy Community Help Group that won an international award for “Creativity in Rural Life”, an award given to them by the Women’s World Summit Foundation in Switzerland. The Fancy group was among 13 Laureates awarded in 2008. These groups were divided between Africa, Asia and Oceania, the Americas and Europe. Fancy was among two awardees in the Americas, the other being from Costa Rica.

All of this is the result of work being done in Fancy by the Women and Development Unit of the UWI Open Campus, within the context of participatory research methodology. The work started in 1997 with the aim of assisting the women to improve the quality of lives of their families and the community. It started with a pig rearing project as the main income generating project. Profits from that project were put into a special fund that was used to assist members of the group. Based on their experience they developed a banking system that provided loans for members. In fact one of the things that impressed the Women’s World Summit was the banking system that they had created for their own use. This was central to their selection for the award of the Prize. The Director of WAND in information provided to the media had stated that “The women were recognised for their ‘community banking project’ “which has enabled the Group to provide emergency assistance to members, facilitate access to medical care, enable members to invest in their children’s education and develop income earning ventures such as farming.” It appears, too, that the success of the project has a lot to do with the support given to the women by their menfolk.

October 15 was set aside as the day to celebrate with the women of Fancy and to award them their prize. The women of Fancy were to come to Kingstown to a special reception to be held for them at the University Centre. But irony of all ironies, there was no one from Fancy. The bus from Fancy had not been working and the women were unable to come to a function that was specially prepared for them. The organisers instead held a Press Conference to mark the occasion. There was always the intention of having a separate function in the village. This will go ahead at a date to be agreed on.

10th Independence Anniversary Lecture

This year is the 10th year of the Independence Anniversary Lectures started in 1999 by the then School of Continuing Studies. This year St.Vincent Insurances Ltd. (VINSAVE) is partnering with the UWI Open Campus, SVG, in facilitating this lecture. This year marks the 60th anniversary of the establishment of the University of the West Indies, and since the University is largely about education, the focus of the lecture this year will be on Education and Caribbean Society. Professor Rex Nettleford who has been central to the work of the University in recent times is the person selected to deliver the lecture that will take place at the usual venue, Methodist Church Hall on Tuesday, October 21, at 7:00 p.m. Professor Nettleford, of course, is known internationally for his oratorical skills.

Dr Adrian Fraser is a social commentator and historian.

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