Pleas for victims of disaster and abuse

Today's Woman Mixed items are again occupying my mind space this week.

I want to send all my love and blessings to the people of Dominica, both outside and inside the physical space of Wai’tukubuli.

One of my biggest fears about these catastrophes is that they fade away from the news after a week and citizens are just then coming to grips with the real drama and trauma of the events. As the story begins to fade from the headlines, so too do the humanitarian aid and other support that had been offered in the beginning. I think this must be the hardest time for victims of disaster. When the spotlights and reporters are gone, a slow and involved process of rebuilding a life from scratch begins.

As much as bottled water and camp tents are necessary, I think this is the real time that we need to close ranks around victims of disaster. Since I am completely unhappy with the way that the Government of Barbados reached out to our family in Dominica, perhaps they can become integral in the second tier assistance.  Dominicans will need counselling; they will need group support to get over the loss of loved ones and having to flee from entire communities.

Children will need books and uniforms once the critical care items are on the ground. They will also need toys and recreational items. In order to rebuild a full life, there are many components that go into it – luxury and entertainment, care for animals who lost owners, all these things which seem unnecessary are really the support people need to properly and truly rebuild lives.

Dominica’s premier cultural event, their World Creole Music Festival held every year in October, is perhaps now in peril. Perhaps the Government of Barbados can offer some technical support to conduct a feasibility study on how Dominica can still have the foreign exchange earner, since they like report writing so much.

On another note, another child has lost a life in circumstances that merit a police investigation. I have been underlining for years, as well as through this medium, how important it is for us to collectively examine our family units and child rearing practices in Barbados. We are not a passionate people, and the ease with which people can remain detached is undermining our democracy. We are now looking at a complete breakdown in the social system of Barbados, which is resulting in child deaths.

There is a lobby in Barbados which makes every utterance of caution petty treason. With the full understanding that I will perhaps be labelled a rabble-rouser at best and a disgruntled woman at worst, I want to again unequivocally state that the Barbadian family is not 21st century compliant. I would guess that about 95 per cent of the marriages in Barbados are dysfunctional. Male partners have whole other families in some instances and at least one mistress in most instances.  People opt to remain in marital arrangements for the sake of status and because many fear losing their homes or facing the public about the true status of their relationships.

Many more Barbadian couples are in cohabiting relationships, and various methods – including trapping men with unwanted pregnancies – are used as means to shore up the often tenuous relationships. After the realization that the man will not offer marriage or more investment in the relationship because of the addition, some children are then doomed to a lifetime of abuse and reminders of how ‘wutless’ both them and their fathers really are.

Barbadians are not very good at ending relationships either. Many women are comfortable to tack on to men who have deep seated issues with commitment and other relationship basics in the hope that he will leave the current situation and commit to her in a way he is clearly incapable of doing. Several men know that elements of a relationship are missing or not working for them, but instead of dealing with that they simply find a woman to complete a triangle of complex and complicated emotions.

When children are added to these turbulent relations the outcomes are catastrophic. At one point it was simply in the perpetuation of a system which recycled and created further dysfunction in future generations. The situation has become more urgent with the actual loss of life out of the many complicated results of weak family relations.

Mothers are mothering children they realize they no longer want after the man they were intended to capture leaves. Fathers leave children solely to maternal care, thereby causing women to juggle babysitting and other logistical issues between work and limited financial resources. Children who thought their parent’s marriages were solid, meet siblings in their already turbulent teenage years, destroying their sense of trust and stability.

It makes no sense for the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Children’s Champion Faith Marshall-Harris to say that there is no explosion of child abuse in Barbados but rather more reporting caused by awareness. When children go to the hospital with obvious signs of abuse and are sent back to the same parents who were supposed to be taking care of them when they got the injury, we are at a crisis point. When there is no clear reporting strategy for teachers who come into contact with evidence of child abuse, we are at a crisis point. These trends are even more worrying because Barbadians are not involved in their democratic process. There are no lobby groups to put on the pressure needed to get the missing mechanisms we need to protect our children in place.

If the United Nations wants to understand what is going on in the Barbadian society perhaps it needs to hire independent international consultants who will clearly outline the issues. The downside of that kind of engagement is that they too may miss the cultural and specific nuances which must be understood to accurately describe the situation. However, the fundamental plus is that they hopefully are unbiased observers, whose contract restrictions or circle of friends would not necessitate couching any truth present in our society.

Do you understand that children need strong families to survive?

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