Some year-end reflections

We are three days out from Christmas, eleven days off a new year and into the final months of a constitutionally due election. It is an obvious time for both personal and national reflection.

I want to begin by reminding women to ensure that during this period of long working hours and family gatherings, to always ensure that you know where your children are. It may seem like a good option to allow family who have travelled from overseas to spend time with your children as a way to both let the family reunite and take care of the baby sitting issues.

Bear in mind, though, that cousins, brothers and other family you only interact with by message or technology, or people that you have grown up with over the years but then grew apart from, are not really people you know soundly.  Statistics show that children are generally molested by people known to them and their family so I want us all to stay focused this season and ensure that our children are protected.

Once the children are settled and the house and work complete, ladies that leaves just us and the mirror. Can you say what your personal victories have been this year? Can you say what is still outstanding on your to do list? Women as caregivers are known for sacrificing ourselves. However, I always try to preach that you are better at care-giving when you have first given yourself care.

It is alright as a woman to find time to go to the gym or partake in the keep fit activity that you like. It is alright not to put out anybody’s plate at the company ‘shindig’ this year. It is alright to opt to get help with the cleaning this year or to opt not to be in charge of the meal preparation. We have made enough strides as women that we can be more empowered to say no when we feel it necessary.

Be gentle and kind to yourselves this season, ladies. If money permits, gift yourself. Maybe a nice shirt or a pair of earrings. If money is tight, buy a new nail polish from a bargain rack. Or just soak your feet late one night when the house is still. I give permission!

One the national front, where do we start first with the reflections?  I have heard people opine that those who only find the bad things to continue highlighting about Barbados are unpatriotic. They say that Barbados still has much to offer and we should be busy cherishing that.

I want to buy into this approach to the island’s challenges but I find “but” lurking at every turn. Barbados remains one of the most beautiful places in the Caribbean. It is pristine, either when the rain falls or the sun shines in shades and beams across the landscape. But ……

When you hike any parish on the island, it is not long before you see the old fridges and beds being dumped. The derelict cars, the smelly skips close to beaches and lots with overgrown bush challenge for attention with the other aspects of the physical landscape.

Barbados remains a relatively safe place to raise children in the world.  But…..

There are some worrying outstanding matters, both in the educational system and the social services. It is completely possible, as the law stands, in Barbados for a man to be given conditional access to his child because of concerns about his behaviour or potential to molest the child but retain full and free access to other children in other scenarios. So a man who is involved in charity work or offers training to children could not have unfettered access to his own child due to concerns, but be able to gather other people’s children and be with them.

Obviously that state of affairs does not make sense. It is one of the benefits a sexual offences register would have offered and we certainly have to keep the discussion about such a register alive. If social services reports point to enough of a reason to restrict access with biological children, certainly we should be able to give a list of stipulated activities which are also off limits.

I have griped about aspects of the educational system throughout the year. I think we would be well served to have a comprehensive audit of several aspects of the educational system very early after a general election. Education is going to be one of the fundamental sectors for readjusting Barbados’ fortunes both, economic and social.

Barbados is still one of the better places on earth to own land and operate a business. But ……

We have lost valuable time over the last few years and we will need to work with alacrity to address the slides.  Barbados’ reputation has taken significant hits with negative tourist reviews on TripAdvisor, the constant downgrades from international ratings agencies and tax adjustments that have left the spending power of the average Barbadian severely restricted.

These are just some of the issues based on the corresponding positives I thought about with respect to Barbados. We know that there are as many outstanding challenges. Next year is going to be a defining moment in Barbados for many of us both at the personal and national level. I can only hope for the best for all of us even if there will be hard days ahead.

Source: (Marsha Hinds Layne is public relations officer of the National Organization of Women. Email: mhindslayne@gmail.com)

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