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Where kids can be kids

By Martin Daly

 The Domestic Violence Act was passed in October 1999. The preamble to the act states that: “Incidents of domestic violence continue to occur with alarming frequency and deadly consequences.”

The preamble also states that: “It has become necessary to reflect the community’s repugnance to domestic violence in whatever form it may take and further influence the community’s attitude and support social change in respect of this social ill”. It goes on to say that the legislation is one way to achieve these goals.

The preamble begs the question, what else besides the legislation has been done to influence attitudes and support social change to mitigate domestic violence?  What social development policies have been put in place as instruments of mitigation nearly fifteen years later?

Regardless of the political motives, it is useful that it is now this Government’s policy that alleged abuse of women is a disqualification for holding public office, even when the alleged victim is not a member of the abuser’s household.  One hopes that it remains as a disqualification when general elections are not close-by.

Of course, I feel obliged to repeat that the objectives of attitudinal and social change will not come about without pressure and action from those best placed to apply such pressure and to take action within their power.

It was disappointing that the comments of two business organisations following the departures of Messrs Sharma and Ramadharsingh on account of alleged disrespect to women were mostly confined to worry about continuity in tourism and who should hold Ramadharsingh’s former portfolio.

I do not accept the fear of being branded “political” because it is not partisan or party political to press for standards and for objective justice.  These are basic requirements of a civilised society to which we should all give priority.

When Edwin Pouchet died last month many members of Silver Stars did not merely lose a musical director.  Bravo, the drillmaster about whose accomplishment I have written, described the loss this way: “Pouchet was our mentor, our teacher and our father”.  I stayed in touch with Bravo in the aftermath of his loss. He and others were deeply hurt because Edwin was a source of affection and respect.

In my column last week I made the link between the violence that children witness and the violence that they express. I have also made the case for the promotion and support of panyards and other arts communities as antidotes and positive instruments of affection and of social change. Prize money and hampers are not a substitute for love and affection or for putting those who are willing to help themselves on a basis sustainable beyond the politically laced subsidies.

I will never disclose the extent of my own modest involvement with persons in conditions of disadvantage, but I have been richly rewarded with an understanding of the positive effect of giving a little headstart and follow-up on the many talents that abound in our Republic. I can confidently state that the goodwill contained in a head start has a profoundly beneficial effect on the psyche of those who are mentored.  It is quite wrong to assume that the young and ambitious want only money.

Readers may recall a column in which I asked a young woman named Yetunde to write for me what she had told me about her belief in self-determination. She wrote in part “Even if we don’t have the support of our family, we must be able to surround our self with friends and mentors who can give us youths the encouragement, discipline, focus, love, courage and experience that is needed to support us. We must believe in ourselves because it’s up to us to make that difference in our life. It starts and ends with us, for no one can do it for us excepting us”.

Way beyond the politically laced subsidies, we have to create a land “where kids can be kids”. I learned this phrase from Shakira. She has used the wealth of her stardom to have schools built in her native Colombia with the object of having available to disadvantaged children an environment where they are free to be children, less marked by the violence and squalor around them.

Shakira is acting in the philanthropic tradition that helps to build great institutions and productive nations. Her building effort and presence at the schools was the subject of a recent segment of CBS 60 Minutes.

In passing, readers might also know that Rihanna has used her wealth to donate $1.75 million to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Barbados, in the memory of her late grandmother Clara “Dolly” Braithwaite through her Clara Lionel Foundation, which was used to purchase equipment for the hospital’s radiotherapy department.

Congratulations to Sirlon, Donella and Natasha of Right Start and all those in Trinidad and Tobago who are building or maintaining places or providing opportunities for kids to be kids.

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