COLUMN-Rashida a helper’s help
Name: Rashida Beckles
Education: University of Southampton; University of the West Indies (Cave Hill), Combermere (Sixth Form only), Christ Church Foundation.
Qualifications: MSc in social policy and social research, BSc in sociology (special).
Occupation: Human resources coordinator.
If you had the opportunity to announce yourself to the world, what would you say?
Truthfully, I would let the world figure out for themselves and just continue to do great things behind the scenes. I wouldn’t have to announce myself; it can be and has been observed that I am here. I am a leader and a change agent by what I do, have done and where I have been.
What are you passionate about?
I am passionate about life and how people, more specifically how youth, view life. I am passionate about birthdays, celebrating them, and treasuring each day you live. Other areas I have a passion for include youth development, sexual and reproductive health, human rights, culture and the arts.
Where did the love and interest for social issues, development and structure start?
This was born through having a very active and involved family, and great exposure to world issues. There was and is something innate within me to always want to help, assist and try to make things better; I apparently use to ask “why” a lot too.
From young I had an awareness that not everyone was fortunate, and I displayed many characteristics of what it meant to be an active citizen, and giving back in some form or fashion. As a result, from a very young age I was involved in groups such as the Brownies, Environmental Club, Debating Club and, of course, Key Club where I would have been both the charter president at the Christ Church Foundation School, and charter governor for the Caribbean Atlantic District of Key Club International.
Most social science students normally complete a thesis. What was yours on?
My thesis was on the impact of incarcerated fathers on the behaviour of their offspring. It really was envisioned to investigate if children with fathers in prison would themselves end up as delinquents within the criminal justice system. Interestingly enough, the correlation was not strong enough to conclude such.
However, it was discovered that many children at that time were not aware their fathers were in prison. Additionally, the fathers who were in contact with their children tried to guide them to understand the importance of doing the right thing so that they too did not end up at the Government Industrial School or later Dodds Prisons.
What was your experience like as a research assistant with CARICOM?
Phenomenal! Much of the work was with other young regional researchers who collaborated on a project that focused on small, micro and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), as well as public procurement frameworks.
This field at the time was generating much interest and buzz, as many young people were attempting to create businesses, and the research sought not only to investigate the characters of these SMEs, but also how within the region they were managing and what business support avenues were required for them to thrive.
You have been involved for quite some time with HIV/AIDS awareness and education. How have you served in this area?
The vast field of HIV and AIDS has both served me, and I served it. From my experience being an HIV volunteer to being educated more on behaviour change communication to advocacy, community outreach, creating innovative youth programmes and planning events, I realized that this was another avenue for me to ignite change amongst my peers and then through partnerships with like-minded colleagues within organizations such as UWIHARP, Youth Advocacy Movement, UGLAAB, UNWOMEN and Catch-A-Fyah.
I then moved into more formal roles within the National HIV And AIDS Youth Committee, then the St John HIV And AIDs Education Committee, and even securing an internship with Monitoring And Evaluation Of HIV programmes in the Eastern Caribbean and later serving as a research assistant on a World Bank project review.
This leverage has aided me in the skills of public speaking and more importantly feeling comfortable with myself and my feelings on the topics involved, and then finding avenues to touch on a dynamic social issue which many back then refused to discuss, and so many still think they are invincible to.
In 2012, I was the proud recipient of the UWI Gender Studies-Nita Barrow Unit Award for contributions to youth advocacy and HIV awareness. I would have been the youngest awardee at the event.
You spent eight months in St Lucia as an intern. Tell us about that opportunity.
Wonderful. I was able to work with professionals from across the region on a phenomenon, which has and continues to affect our populations on a social, economic, developmental and health level. Being able to contribute to such research which can and has changed the life of someone and/or their family is a great reward because at the end of the day many of us are unaware of and ignorant to many of the changes people living with HIV (PLHIV), their families and caretakers face.
This opportunity also exposed me to regional travel, as research had to be conducted in each of the OECS countries to collect data from community centres, hospitals, NGOs, pharmacies, etcetera.
If you were a shoe, which one would you be, and why?
Hmmmm, Dr Schools, more so an orthopaedic shoe. Although it may not be the best looking, as it may not have all the adornments of what is considered fashion, it provides loads of comfort and support for those in pain and seeking to improve a condition. This type of shoe is growing more popular as people become aware, and it is aesthetically pleasing.
To me, it’s more about getting the job done on the inside and behind the scenes than appearance.
If you were going to be marooned on an island, what three things would you take?
As you would not plan to be marooned on an island, I would hope that I have in my possession a mirror (attract attention, create heat, type of security camera too), a pen (to draw a picture of my loved ones somewhere or use as a weapon), and something to snack on . . . . These are always in my bags.
What was the experience like living and studying in Britain?
Tremendous! I enter most situations with an open mind, which helps psych me for either the best or worst. Being in Britain and surrounded by a mixture of cultures, both on campus and in general, was an eye-opener. I had been to England before to visit relatives, but living there was life-changing. I was not based in London, but visited when I could to see family and catch up on tourist attractions and indeed nightlife.
Being one of the few Caribbean black students on the campus served as another part of my learning curve, interacting with and observing the differences in culture from attire to food, to areas of study, personal hygiene, freedom to choose or lack there of, religion and expectations.
Experiencing different types of racism and sexism was too an experience, as we often think of only White on Black racism, but not others such as Black on Black, or Asian on Asian; men from different cultures too thinking that all women are humble and to be spoken down to and objectified . . . . Some quickly learnt otherwise! I formed bonds with ladies from Jamaica, Turkey, Pakistan, England, Thailand and Taiwan; and, of course, I met up with a Bajan!
The unique place of being a student and tourist exposed me to also appreciating Barbados more for not only our lovely climate but how we are as a people. It was a living life of example of situations read about in my undergraduate studies from modes of transportation to health care, social welfare, animal rights, technology, recycling and so on.
The opportunity to travel across Europe to places such as France, and even visit Turkey for a classmate’s wedding, exposed me geographically, religiously, personally, even in terms of what you were allowed to wear and do as women, and educationally. When I returned I was awarded the David Thompson Memorial Award for academic achievements.
Did you complete a project or a dissertation for you Master’s, and what was it about?
For the MSc dissertation I focused my lens on “youth participation in decision making in Barbados”, as discourse with peers from other neighbouring islands expressed feelings of tokenism and consultations as opposed to full integration in the decisions that mattered to and affected them most and their futures.
What was discovered here was that the tides were changing and not for the best, as before the youth voice was one that was treasured. It was now acts of tokenism and just a tick-off on . . . checklists that youth were present and asked, but not many instances of in-depth input from truly representative youth voices.
The proposed plans, practical and creative ideas from youth, were either not utilized or were used without giving credit to the great minds and talent who had developed them, creating some social isolation and disenchantment from youth.
How do you see your MSc in social policy and social research contributing to the development of Barbados?
This field has the potential to bridge several gaps that exist today and hinder our further advancement. I have always advocated for a proper marriage and respect for accurate research and not crumbs of research –– proper evidence based on research with appropriate stakeholder hands-on approaches, published findings and statistics to set the basis for action-driven and results-oriented programmes and policies (with monitoring and evaluation and follow up) which are supposed to help continually assist us.
What is WOW Barbados Beauty And Empowerment?
This initiative was my brainchild in 2012 for International Women’s Day. Through observations and interactions with young females, it was felt that there was diminishing self worth, self-esteem and more emphasis on outer beauty and materialistic features. The World Of Women/Women Of Worth Seminar encompassed sessions on true beauty, women as heroines in everyday life, how to have safe, fun yet sexy sex, simple beauty tips, staying healthy in a hectic life and much more.
The event was well attended and received and special guest speaker was Alison Hinds As I have young sisters, I want that they grow up with the inner pride and awareness of self; and the possibilities that exist are limitless for women.
You were the Young BPW representative for the Caribbean Sub-Region of North America and Caribbean. What is Young BPW?
The Business And Professional Women’s Club (BPW) develops the professional leadership abilities and voice of women, through mentoring, networks and economic programmes across the world. Young BPW is the youth arm of BPW International for members up to age 35. It seeks to be a bridge, and fosters succession planning of this world-renowned organization that connects women who advocate for equal rights and economic empowerment for women in different societies and at varying levels.
My role as regional representative serves to connect the BPWs in the Caribbean and foster support as we work towards helping fellow sisters.
For four years you served on the executive of the Barbados Youth Development Council. Based on your experience there, would you encourage other young people to get involved in youth work?
Without a doubt, the BYDC has helped to garner several of my skills, and I encourage young persons from all areas of society to join. Involvement in the BYDC, a voluntary, youth-for-youth group is a strategic platform as the national umbrella for youth. Public speaking and discussions with people from all walks of life and all levels, travel and serving as an ambassador for country, regional awareness and combination of skills hone potential for youth and what they can get done together.
The BYCD agitates for us youth as the leaders not as future leaders, as we went out there and got things done –– be it through preparing communiqués or writing letters, signing petitions or hosting Press conferences. I have met remarkable young people through this organization and formed unimaginable bonds with youth throughout the region who stand for similar things and who face challenges we may not be exposed to –– from child porn to disabilities.
You currently work in human resources. Has your social science background been beneficial to you in your new role?
Of course! It helps me to understand how individual behaviour is mitigated by wider society.
The role then is to influence change and development by fostering programmes and an atmosphere where team members are encouraged to grow, perform better, make better decisions and create skills while still being productive and addressing the goals of the organization.
The foundations of the social sciences encompass some of my main passions, which are incorporated in this field, including social policy, organizational development, gender relations, conflict resolution, workplace enhancement, discrimination, health care, standards and professional development of this strategic asset which are the staff.
Who has contributed to your success?
My mother, my spouse, adopted family, colleagues within different social organizations and, of course, the Father above, for providing me with the avenues and opportunities, and equipping me with the will and strength.
Finish this statement: Barbados is an amazing country because . . . .
. . . Of it’s kind and friendly people; the fact that we are well schooled; and due to our great climate and natural beauty.
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