Saturday, February 23, 2013

Guest commentary: On pointed guard over the gender equity issue

by Dr Hermia Ophelia Tynsdale

Being a woman who has always championed the cause and who also has a keen interest in politics, it's natural for me to pay closer attention whenever some tidbit concerning national policies touching on gender equity appears, as happened in a prominent local newspaper's official editorial Saturday. 

Under the rubric, "Gender equity an unfulfilled promise", the Saturday Guardian takes the government to task over its apparent failure to "champion the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women by promoting gender equity enforced by strong equal opportunities legislation and informed by a national gender policy,” as promised in its election manifesto. 

The newspaper needs to be commended for raising the issue, however my endorsement is not overly enthusiastic, since the newspaper, to prove its point, went on to launch an unjustified attack on a woman whose life personifies how best to deal with the unending struggle women face to obtain respect in the workplace.
File: Marlene Coudray is comforted by PM Kamla Persad-Bissessar when Coudray
learned of the brutal murder of her daughter in Jamaica
Marlene Coudray, the Gender Affairs Minister, is indeed the one portfolioed with the task of producing a national gender policy, doubtless a product on which work would have begun before she was appointed. 

To suggest that because her predecessor was the the outspoken Dr Verna St Rose-Greaves, the production was at an advanced stage, therefore by now ought to have been completed, is a dig which raises red flags, since it's common knowledge why Dr Verna no longer is Minister and whose causes she has been championing or impugning since being stripped.

It's also common knowledge that a change in ministerial personage inevitably results in a change in style or approach, unless the situation is that public servants call the shots, not members of Cabinet? 

By implication, the editorial also disavows the successful court challenge Marlene Coudray mounted against then Prime Minister Patrick Manning after he tried to pressure her out of the San Fernando City Corporation...a case, if my memory serves me correctly, which was argued by a champion of the downtrodden, Anand Ramlogan and which went all the way to the Privy Council?

Minister Coudray informed the media not long ago that whatever was done before her time was being revisited from scratch. I can vouch the revision was aimed at allowing a number of relevant stakeholders the opportunity to make an input, they having been previously ignored, since a social relief NGO in which I'm involved is one.

I also recall the Guardian exulting over Marlene Coudray's compassion and commitment towards all workers, when it described her as "A stickler and a strong woman", in an article sometime aback.

The editorial is therefore out of sync with the Guardian's own footprints.

The objectives of any National Policy are not to be tritely crafted because any botching will have far-reaching harmful impact. Where such policies treat with intangibles, it's always better to take the extra precaution time added-on allows. 

We have waited generations for a National Gender Equity Policy, a month or two more cannot hurt, except the editor's intention is for Trinidad and Tobago to adopt a cut and paste or foreign-used game plan?

For all those reasons I am prepared to give Minister Coudray the extra time she needs to get the National Gender Equity Policy right. 

I do believe the Guardian's concern would have been better appreciated if it had led by example instead, having noted that it recently brought in a male, university student to be its daily editor instead of giving the green light to the likes of a doctoral colleague, Dr Sheila Rampersad.

Dr Hermia Ophelia Tynsdale,
SMR, Otaheite | South Trinidad, West Indies

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Jai & Sero

Jai & Sero

Our family at home in Toronto 2008

Our family at home in Toronto 2008
Amit, Heather, Fuzz, Aj, Jiv, Shiva, Rampa, Sero, Jai