Friday, December 15, 2017

Help men to help families

Many of our recent news stories are nothing short of appalling and depressing. In several of them, we have reported instances of men taking their lives and those of their spouses and children. It is beyond words to see that men, some of whom are fathers and grandfathers, are apparently committing these acts against their own family members.
While strong empirical research is urgently needed across the region (as these issues are not localised to T&T), to determine the root causes of these types of incidents it may be argued that cases of death or injury resulting from domestic disputes are on the rise, and further that many of them feature children suffering horribly.
In general, across the region there is a significant need to collaborate much more meaningfully on issues that would protect the Caribbean family: children need protection; women and men need to be able to speak openly about the issues affecting them and then resolve them constructively.
What then should be the collective response to this? The Children’s Authority and the Victim and Witness Support Unit quite clearly have their hands full. The “big question” in one of the daily newspapers concerned how men should deal with their issues. The answer is most definitely not what we currently do.
Simply condemning men in general on Father’s Day and on public platforms, as was done this year by many individuals and groups, helps no one.
There are men who wish and attempt to be upstanding citizens, and good fathers and husbands, but are literally prevented from doing so by the very same system condemning them for violence and for being absent. The Single Fathers Association of Trinidad and Tobago was born out of this scenario.
There are other organisations that help—inclusive of the Caribbean Male Action Network, which has among its guiding principles the belief that Caribbean men should be advocates for gender equality and social justice, and that the commitment to family and healthy relationships must include a commitment to overcoming the challenges, ideologies and stereotypes that prevent men from being equal partners in child rearing.
The opportunity remains with us to deal with men and families in general in a much more positive light.
We need to take stock of our collective resources: governmental, inter-governmental and civil society. So just to name a few, we have Caricom, UN Women, the United Nations Development Programme, the Inter-American Development Bank, all the local NGOs inclusive of Families in Action and the Young Men’s Christian Association.
The list of organisations, groups and individuals capable of making interventions to prevent or reduce gender-based violence and violence against children is a very long one. Real collaborative efforts elude us, to our detriment.
Failure to work together to find the answers may very well result in the destruction of our Caribbean society at the family and community levels.
Marlon Bascombe
via e-mail