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By Osborne Barnwell
In the normal course, my island’s politics would attract only my good wishes with the hope that dynasties will end as it is my view that over time, they become institutions which feed the appetite of those who become self-serving.
However, of late, the continuous chatter about someone whom I love, admire and respect compels me to air my views regarding what I believe is a timely debate about women’s rights and their need to be at the decision table.
I must declare at the outset that I am the Uncle of Zita Barnwell and of course, I am quite sensitive to the argument that my opinion may lose its force as a result of the blood relationship.
However, I sincerely believe that there is truth to power as we say, regardless of the source from which it comes.
Another confession, is that I do not believe that Zita needs my help to put forth her ideas. I recall when she was asked to get involved in politics, the area of discussion which ensued was what exactly she wished to bring to the proverbial table and I recall clearly, my own reactions and fears when she articulated her concerns regarding women’s rights.
At the time, what I envisioned was a rocky road ahead populated by misogyny, anti-gender back lash, those who believe that the place for the woman is in the kitchen; chauvinism, male testosterone etc.
Frankly, I felt that she would be facing an uphill battle but at the same time, was proud of her aspirations, intelligence and her determination.
I hasten to say that on reflection, my views must have been influenced by the same misguided mantra spewed by the great Sir James Mitchell .
Of late, he has taken offence that my niece has highlighted Gender as her focus in her/his party. He makes the point that the good old meritocracy ought to be the test, and not one’s sex.
I pause here to say that what follows is not intended to in anyway indict the highly respected Sir James Mitchell.
Nor do I have any intention to dishonor him in any way. Indeed, he is a dinosaur in our political nomenclature and thus respect is due.
The idea that to establish a platform centered on women’s rights and their participation rings hallow.
Indeed, to say it is a bad idea as it is against the good old meritocracy ( bring only your abilities to get the job done) compels those of us who understand the history compels the history of systemic racism and in particular, anti-Black racism , to reject such a myopic view.
Indeed, here in North America, for years, the efforts to get minorities into certain jobs (affirmative action) was fought against by conservatives on the basis that what such system encourages is to hire base on race and not merit.
Indeed, this argument was an excuse for the bigots, the racist and those who found comfort in negative “isms” .
The result is that such mindset basically entrenched those in power to remain in power into perpetuity. The further result is that minorities have continued to struggle against the proverbial glass ceiling.
Having this insight, the comments of Sir James Mitchell, who was kind enough to acknowledge that he was kind to Zita’s father, as he spewed his criticism of her, and called for her to resign, easily falls into the objectionable.
Zita Barnwell will never suggest that “because I am a woman, I must have this or that”…NEVER.
She is too smart to put forth such a nonsensical platform. Surely, wishing to be Vice President would clearly bring her skills and her perspective to bear on the future of a party that is chapping at the bits to govern.
It seems to me that given that in our societies, women continue to be in the greater majority, this move would be the commonsensical way to go .
The point is that this is not about allowing the unskilled and unqualified woman into the Board room of the party.
It is about raising the consciousness of MEN that their mothers are women; that their daughters are women; that their sisters are women; that their cleaners are women; that their care givers are women; and of course, their wives are women. This realization should move the debate from seeing these cherished human beings as partners and not “ just women”, fitting into roles ascribed by myopic and rather insecure men .
I am convinced that if such new consciousness were to take root, the electoral successes would be assured.
Yes, I accept that this kind of change is always difficult and could be painful as it requires some men in power (not all) to understand the strategic significance of reaching out to women and have them engaged.
One other benefit would be to move St. Vincent and the Grenadines from the shameful international characterization of being the most dangerous place to be, as a woman.
This is of course attributed to the troubling and continuous vice of violence against women perpetrated by men .
The point is, if men in St. Vincent and the Grenadines were to embrace the compelling virtues of a significant portion of our population, their views of them would most definitely change and honor and respect will flow, not the fists or machete/cutlass.
Of course, naivety does not sit well with me and thus, realistically, I foresee a push back by men (witness the torrent of criticism leveled at Zita) who for whatever reason, become intimidated by the fact that the person next to them could be more in Telligent, more savvy and more skilled.
Change is painful but it does not mean that it would be a bad thing for the party to embrace the vision by ushering women into its boardrooms where critical decisions affecting a substantial majority of our populace, are made.
I say kudos to Zita Barnwell and I pray that eyes will be open and that the men who wished to have her abandon her strategy of inclusion, be illuminated by a sense of civic duty to treat others as they would like to be treated.