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Chinks in our armour

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The month of March is truly an historic one for the people of St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Commemorated annually as National Heroes Month, it is a period of reflecting on our past, our struggles in particular, and of celebrating our accomplishments. It is the month in which the nation pays tribute to our only national hero, Paramount Chief, Joseph Chatoyer, who has pride of place as THE Defender of our country’s sovereignty. We also recall the feats of other prominent patriots some of whom, by co-incidence were either born or died in this said month.

Having said this, Prime Minister Gonsalves has reopened the debate as to whether it is time to declare one or more additional National Heroes. There has already been reaction in the media, albeit a negative one. My own view is that until more, much more information and education is provided in the life and works of the likes of George Mc Intosh and Hugh Mulzac, until they become etched in the national consciousness, it may be premature to so exalt these outstanding patriots.{{more}} Their deeds certainly warrant national honour but I believe that we must prepare the ground properly if such honour is to be cherished on the scale that it ought to be. As for Joshua and Cato, our political divisions seem destined to deny them such honour at least for some time to come. Let’s leave well alone and continue with the process of consciousness-building!

But back to the month of March. Amid all the pride and honour, there are two things which sadden me somewhat. Firstly, as a stauch supporter of women’s rights and gender equality, I was more than disappointed to note another low-key passing of International Women’s Day (IWD). This is 2007, not 1974 when some small organizations of young black nationalists could not only make history by staging the first-ever IWD activity here, but fill the Peace Memorial Hall in the process. Women in those days were far worse off than they are today. (Not that the battle against sexual discrimination and gender-based violence and in favour of gender equality has been won as yet). But today we have prominent women in almost all areas of endeavour, if they can make excuses for not stronger participation in things like politics; there is simply no excuse for not celebrating THEIR DAY. What has happened to our many women’s organizations? Where is the leadership? And don’t tell me any nonsense about every day should be women’s day. Just as we mark National Heroes Day or Emancipation Day or Workers day (though that is another issue I must address on another occasion), so too is IWD important, for women and men too.

That, year after year, this occasion is allowed to pass with only lip-service is a sad reflection on the state of the women’s movement in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. After all these years? With all the multiple problems that women face daily? I looked at the SEARCHLIGHT for March 8th and the only two articles I could find relevant to IWD were both written-BY MEN (Oscar Allen and Saboto Caesar). Sisters, let that be the last year that we allow IWD to limp by us.

My other disappointment relates to the fact that, at least at time of writing, there is unlikely to be the national activity on March 25th to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the Act to abolish the inhuman Atlantic slave trade. For one reason or another, it seems that the activity is to be postponed to another date. True, other activities have been held and are proceeding (lectures, workshops, public information), but it would have been most appropriate to hold the activity on March 25th, the date of the passage of the Act in 1807. One can only hope that at least the churches can remember the occasion in their prayers and redoubled efforts are made to find new date for us to celebrate in grand style.

It would have been important too in the current political climate with NDP having just had a march, using a “national” banner and the ULP strongly mobilising the nation to turn out to the opening of the Rabacca Bridge. We need more events which would bind us as a people, which would overcome the political barriers and set national tasks to be accomplished by national effort. That is what Chatoyer fought and died to achieve. If we truly honour his memory, if we appreciate the efforts of our fore-bears and those who opposed human slavery, then it is incumbent that we are not distracted by petty squabbles and seek to build and develop a progressive, enlightened nation.

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