May 31, 2012- The recently launched CatchAFyah Caribbean Feminist Network has published on open letter in support of Trinidad Senator Verna St. Rose Greaves.
In their first public statement, the Feminist Network lauded St. Rose Greaves, of the Ministry of Gender, Youth and Child Development for her leadership on many controversial issues. “We are pleased at your public show of support for the sexual and reproductive health and rights of women and the rights of the LGBTQ community. We recognise the tremendous courage it takes to speak publicly on issues that are controversial and that people would rather ignore. In speaking openly, you have demonstrated true leadership and a commitment to the rights of marginalised groups that far outweigh any potential opposition,” the letter said.
This new regional network is the result of a young feminist meeting held in Barbados this month. Over a twenty emerging feminists from across the Caribbean attended this historic meeting convened by Tonya Haynes of Code Red for Gender Justice and Sherlina Nageer of Red Thread, Guyana, with financial support from Development Alternatives with Women for a New Era (DAWN). The event brought together young women activists for a weekend of strategizing around how to further gender equality in their individual nations as well as across the Caribbean region. Haynes said, “We have a generation of young Caribbean people who are committed to social and economic justice. Feminism has emerged as a relevant platform for them to address a range of issues. There is a lot of work still to be done in terms of gender equality and we, the younger generation, have decided to get involved and take on this challenge.”
The gathering began with a lively public forum on ‘Feminists in the economic south & key global processes,’ hosted by the Institute for Gender and Development Studies: Nita Barrow Unit at the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill in partnership with student feminist organization, CODE RED for gender justice. Presenters discussed the successes made in safeguarding women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights that came out of the International Conference on Population and Development held in Cairo in 1994, as well as challenges these rights are currently facing in the international arena. It is crucial, said Professor Gita Sen of DAWN and the Harvard School of Public Health, that protection of sexual and reproductive health and rights be safeguarded at the upcoming UN conference on Sustainable Development, as well as activism be continued around ensuring these rights for young people.
CatchAFyah participants represented Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, the Bahamas, Belize, Grenada, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, St. Kitts-Nevis and
Trinidad and Tobago. They are working on a range of issues including domestic violence, HIV/AIDS education and prevention, sexual and reproductive health and rights, LGBT rights, women’s empowerment, and youth development. The network includes a diverse group of women whose professions range from farmers to engineers, teachers and students.
Going forward, the group agreed on a mission of rebranding feminism within the Caribbean, ensuring increased participation of young women at all levels of decision-making, and actively working at the community, organizational, and policy levels to improve the lives of Caribbean people.
The issue of child sexual abuse has also been placed on the agenda. “We condemn the lack of adequate response to all forms of child abuse and in particular the sexual abuse of Caribbean girls and boys. We lend our collective voices to breaking the silence on this issue and we pledge to work in our communities, nationally and regionally to ensure that Caribbean children’s right to life free of abuse is made reality. This is on-going work to which we commit ourselves, in partnership with progressive political leadership in the region,” the group said in their letter.
Since publishing the letter online many other Caribbean women and men have signed on in support.
Contact: Tonya Haynes
CatchAFyah Caribbean Feminist Network