In honor of 15 years of Global Voices, we continue with our recap of some of this year's most powerful messages about maturity from the Caribbean.
In this installment, we will take a look at some of the stories that come out of the region and that affect women and how they operate in the Caribbean space.
Mom Moko Jumbie at the Trinidad and Tobago Carnival
In 2019, perhaps the most emblematic image of the annual celebrations of the Trinidad and Tobago Carnival was that of a serene with stilts – a traditional Carnival character known as “Moko Jumbie” – who sat in the middle of the festivities to create ties with his little son while breastfeeding him.
Shynel Brizan, with her recently obtained coveted title of Queen of Carnival, was part of a group of Moko Jumbies that included an impressive performance entitled “Peacock Palace”, which impressed many carnival enthusiasts, but the image of Brizan breastfeeding, captured by several photographers in the place, proved to be very powerful, and quickly made its way around the world. The image was disseminated on social media, such as the Breastfeeding Association of Trinidad and Tobago and the United States Milk League.
In an article titled “Moko – Mother – Wonder,” Brizan told blogger Sheetal Daswani: “Stilts and I became one when I am a Moko, and when I am feeding my son, he and I also become one.” . The experiences are equally spiritual. ” It was a refreshing perspective, especially when he was joined by the observation of lactation consultant Marilyn Stollmeyer that “particularly at the carnival, we are a society that says it's okay to wear scarce costumes and bare breasts, but if women are breastfeeding , many times they are asked to cover themselves or go to another place. ”
Or, as Daswani said, “Shynel's images affirm the legitimacy of public breastfeeding, and his audience recognizes his body's exposure and has normalized it, in the same way that they normalize all women who play more despite their level of self-exposure. ” These photos have presented an unintended aesthetic strategy to raise a profound proclamation for all women: “We own our bodies.”
A kick to shame the body
Carnival also proved to be the perfect vehicle to address body dishonor. Although there is a website that has been promoting inclusion and diversity in Caribbean carnivals for some time now, the inclination to body dishonor was brought to the fore after the former Trinidad and Tobago Health Minister posted a video on the one who punished Candice Santana, participant of the large carnival.
Santana had published photos of him with his Carnival costume, in which he praised the band he played for carrying out “a campaign to support all sizes, shapes and tones”:
This excited me on many levels because truth be told we are a body shaming society. Some do it consciously and directly while others may not even understand that they doing it.
This moved me on many levels because, in fact, we are a society that makes the body feel ashamed. Some do it consciously and directly while others may not understand that they are doing it.
Former Minister Fuad Khan replied that it was a matter of health, and then proceeded to verbally humiliate Santana, referred to her as “a tub.” When social media users were predominantly in favor of Santana, Khan apologized for his tone but remained true to his message.
However, for many Caribbean people, Santana's message was stronger:
I recall that I spoke about body shaming regardless of size, shape or shade. I also recall that I said that I am not endorsing an unhealthy lifestyle […] I look myself in the mirror and remind myself that I am beautiful inside and outside.
I remember talking about ‘being ashamed of the body” regardless of size, shape or skin tone. I also remember saying that I do not promote unhealthy lifestyles […]. I look in the mirror and I remember that I am beautiful inside and out.
Jamaica faces poverty for the period
Imagine having to make a hygienic towel last five days. Unfortunately, this is the reality for many Caribbean women and girls who are on the lower side of the socioeconomic scale – so the Jamaican author and columnist Shelly-Ann Weeks decided to make good use of both conventional and conventional media. digital to focus attention on traditionally taboo topics such as “period poverty”.
As executive director of the Her Flow Foundation, which deals with stigma and shame often associated with menstruation, Weeks established the first Awareness Day of the Period in Jamaica, which took place in October 2016, and Awareness Week of the Period, held in October 2017. By November 2018, the first Conference on the Healthy Pelvis had been held in the capital, Kingston.
These initiatives, together with the periodic awareness workshops that have reached more than 5000 high school students – boys and girls – have begun to have an effect on how the reproductive health of women in the country is considered and to dispel the “silent” attitude ”Regarding the reproductive health of women that Weeks calls“ dangerous ”.
Weeks has long recognized that this has to do with social attitudes, religious beliefs and long-standing cultural myths as well as with the economic situation:
Talking to women while I was writing my first book, I realized so many have problems affording the products they need every month. And for the woman who has daughters, she literally has to choose between buying them pads and feeding them […] the need is much greater than I had thought. I wanted to create a space where women could get access to pads free of cost, no questions asked. Because it’s a dignity issue as well.
When talking to women while writing my first book, I realized that many have trouble paying for the products they need each month. And for the woman who has daughters, she literally has to choose between buying them sanitary napkins or feeding them […] the need is much greater than she had thought. I wanted to create a space where women could have access to the tolls at no cost, without asking questions. Because it is also a matter of dignity.
Here you can read the first part of the series.