Post 241.

Between sexual violence statistics and the slow pace of legal progress for domestic workers, feminist activism often feels like running in the same place or, worse, pushing a boulder uphill each day only to start again at the bottom the next.

The loudest and most prevalent voices seem to oppose, misrepresent and resent. When you are visibly, vocally and consistently challenging any idea that inequality between the sexes is natural, ordained or evolutionary, you see how the backlash to women’s rights, and the demonization of feminism as a movement to achieve those rights, is real.

You have heart-wrenching understanding of just how much the state is failing women in terms of policy, plans, legislation, services, sexual and economic empowerment, and commitment to changing beliefs and values. You see how homophobia means more to people than letting women and men be valued simply for being human, rather meeting feminine or masculine ideals, and letting them love whichever soul they choose.

But, there are surprisingly encouraging moments. As I sat in AMCHAM’s Annual Women’s Leadership Seminar last Friday, I looked around at the room full of women and thought that feminism was actually less of a marginal voice than it seems. Far from it, this movement to replace subordination and stereotyping with fairness and freedom was on the mic and in front, and women in positions of authority were invested in and advancing its potential transformations.

There were numbers and power here, representing a majority that I had underestimated. I reflected on how much more I had to learn about how that majority, and those women increasingly, even if slowly, occupying leadership positions, were allies I had not sufficiently connected to or appreciated.

I had not noticed that women entering the corporate sector had created such shifts in relation to women’s rights, perhaps because their work fell under my radar, or I had considered it partial, classist and mainstream, or because their relative invisibility, as a majority which is nonetheless negotiating within patriarchal constraints on professional life, made me miscalculate their solidarity.

Amongst speakers, there was Charmaine Gandhi-Andrews, Chief Immigration Officer (Ag.) in the Ministry of National Security. Her leadership on issues of trafficked women was inspiring. This is exactly what an immigration division should be doing, not just raiding, arresting and deporting, but accounting for the political and economic gender inequalities that they meet face to face. Gandhi-Andrews was unapologetically badass, and is doing deeply relevant and necessary work for incredibly vulnerable women. I hope to be like her someday.

Teresa White, Group Human Resource Director at ANSA McAl, talked about the sexual harassment policy the company has in place. She said every right thing I wanted to hear about such policies – that they are not just protocols for victims of sexual harassment, rather they are meant to entirely eliminate it by changing the rules, culture and responsibilities of the whole institution. I have much to learn from those managing such policies in practice, precisely because they are a global feminist strategy to not just empower individual women, but to transform the entire waged economy.

In conversation, Anya Schnoor, Managing Director of Scotiabank Trinidad and Tobago, told me that the bank had signed onto the UN ‘He For She Campaign’, meant to encourage men to speak out for gender equality. She added that they also had a ‘She for She Campaign’, which made my heart sing, as I never imagined a bank would prioritize solidarities among women, even though it’s an area women always emphasise as a challenge, desire and need.

The event also featured AMCHAM T&T’s support for the ‘Leave She Alone’ campaign, premised on men as vocal allies in ending violence against women. And, CEO Nirad Tewarie, gave exactly the speech guys should give: men have to do the work to create gender parity and have to be open to learning from women and feminists about how to do better along the way.

Optimistically, there may just be a feminist majority to collaborate with and learn from; women and men in corporate life pushing barriers in a myriad of ways I had not realised. The next step for all Caribbean feminisms’ yet unachieved goals? Recognise an opportunity and strategize.

Post 126

As I lay safely warm and dry on Tuesday’s rainy night, Ziya was falling asleep, safe in my arms. In my head, all I could think about was all the girls and women who are not safe.

Amanda Mootilal’s beaten face on a front page was too much for me, as it should have been for all of us, especially knowing she is not an isolated case.

She’s a teenager who already intimately knows powerlessness, cruelty and fear. She’s also a mother, having conceived her baby at around 15 or 16 years old with an adult man seven years older, and who should have known better, whatever her own adolescent choices.

What about her education, her ability to earn her own income, to find herself before being told who she should be? Who failed to protect her before now?

The state has stepped in, but that is no guarantee of her safety, even if her attacker husband was denied bail. Counseling provides no guarantee that she will heal the wounds to her self-confidence and spirit, though she will, like many victims of violence, figure out how to survive.

I could talk about International Day Against Violence Against Women, November 25th, and what a slap in the face this was, what a wake up call we continue to get, that girls and women do not have the right to live free from fear and harm.

I could point to the need for services that prevent rather than respond at the point of crisis, say that we need state-funded, national anti-violence campaigns that target everyone, especially primary schools, telling girls not to love anyone who is not nice to them and telling boys they have no right to control women.

I could tell my Guardian bosses, the Ansa McAl group of companies to spend less money on sexist billboards that promote women’s bodies as objects to be consumed, and to put some profits to such a national anti-violence campaign. Don’t leave it up to the women’s NGOs, step up as the elite, as men, and put some of their power toward change.

Yes, it’s definitely up to political leadership which has never tackled the perils of a culture of male domination in any serious way. We don’t have quotas for equal representation of women anywhere, and so they are not equally represented in business or in politics. We have less than a handful of women in Cabinet, like us watching men run the deck and sometimes run amok.

Religious leaders continue insist that men should be the head of women, as if that doesn’t create the exact conditions needed for violence. Preachers, imams and pundits do not insist that men’s violence against women is not God’s way, not as much as they need to given the amount that men assault and abuse. Yes, it’s also up to these men of God to insist on what will not be tolerated amongst their own. Where is the IRO’s national campaign?

Violence against women is a men’s issue. Men dominating the Cabinet, men dominating corporate wealth, men dominating the door to God, which one of you is going to step up today to prevent another Darren Mohammed from dominating another Amanda Mootilal?

In a society where women and girls are disappearing, being beaten and being raped, no woman is safe. Warm and dry, listening to the rain, I feel unsettled and I don’t feel safe.

We need a downpour of effort so that there are no more bruised teenagers, that we, the whole society, failed to protect, looking back at us from the front page.