Saturday, December 16, 2017

Struggling for equality

Dr Asha Kambon


FLASHBACK Dr Asha Kambon states her position during the Conference on the Economy 2012 Armchair Discussion. —Photo courtesy The UWI Annual Report 2012/2013.

Mark Fraser

Everyone believes in fighting for their rights and getting what they deserve. “Equality” is a word that ought to be in our vocabulary and Dr Asha Kambon looks forward to the day when the people of Trinidad and Tobago and the Caribbean can view themselves as equals. 

Kambon is a daughter of the soil who resided in Diego Martin as a child, then moved to North America at the age of five until she was 21. She attained her secondary school education abroad as well as her tertiary level education at Queens College, New York. She then made her return home in 1971. Her list of accomplishments throughout her years is indeed a remarkably long one. She attained her PhD in Social Policy at the Sir Arthur Lewis Institute of Social and Economic Studies (SALISES), The University of the West Indies as well as her Bachelor of Arts (Hons) with a Joint Major of Economics/Government also at The UWI.  

She has embarked on multiple career opportunities in countries like Haiti, Nigeria, Fiji, Ethiopia, Malawi, The Philippines and St Vincent and the Grenadines. She had been involved in organisations such as United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (UNECLAC), The Network of NGOs for the Advancement of Women and National Joint Action Committee (NJAC). She even had her share of involvement in the Civil Rights and Black Power movements. 

Both the Pan African Movement — which was founded to protect the rights of persons of African descent and The Emancipation support Committee (ESC) are dearest her heart. Trinidad and Tobago was one of the first countries in the world to celebrate Emancipation as a holiday and Kambon had been very active with the Emancipation movement during the 1700s and 1800s in attempts to lobby the government to do so.

Besides all the buzz and excitement for the festivities that will take place this year, Kambon’s goals are more for the people. “The focus is ‘reparation,’ she said, “and this is something that is close to my heart.” Reparation is defined as “making amends for the wrong one has done,” and Kambon is hopeful that self repairment will help ease the pain still felt by many as a result of slavery. She wants the people of Trinidad and Tobago to feel utmost pride in themselves.

She pointed to the fact that our society believes that beating children and fighting each other is right but fail to realise that it all stems back to the days of slavery. She even referred to footage of children being beaten and posted on social media as prime examples. In her opinion this is what we know therefore, we believe it is right. “People need to understand how to treat children and treat each other.”

Her vision for the years to come is one of respect. Kambon made an important point that the contribution of each group and its culture should be recognised and embraced more in the education system, especially that of Africans. She is delighted that more women are embracing their roots and going back to their natural hair. However, children should be taught more about what Africans have brought to this country. “People don’t even realise that a lot of the words we use are African words,” she explained. 

She thinks we as a people should explore our neighbouring Caribbean countries since they are the most beautiful places in the world instead of flying off abroad every chance we get. Why not get to know our own? She wants others to be allowed to visit our sweet T&T without distress and harassment. She describes it as an assault on our dignity if we cannot roam freely without being mistreated at airports because of how we look. Everyone should be allowed to travel regionally to teach the nation’s children their history. 

She believes that without genuine equality and harmony we cannot reap the benefits of this country. “We can all be equal partners to the table.” 

Promoting national and regional development

The Emancipation Support Committee acts in its own right or as an umbrella to advance the interests of Africans nationally and internationally and to promote national and regional development consistent with its objectives

Its mission is to function as an integral part of the network of Africans in the diaspora engaged in the work of transformation and development targeted at the restoration of African self-hood, spiritual connectedness, and the creative, economic and social potential of the group