Nation e-Edition

A voice for social equality

POSITIVE YOUTH: Patrice Daniel is happy with the strides women have made in Barbados, but says there are still areas in need of improvement. (Picture by Insight Digital.)

By Natasha Beckles | Sun, November 25, 2012 - 12:03 AM

FOR MORE THAN five years, Patrice Daniel has been advocating social equality and the empowerment of other people.

A clinical mental health counsellor, the 28-year-old has done a significant amount of work to educate others about gender issues and sexual and reproductive rights.

Patrice’s job requires her to conduct personal development sessions with secondary school students “who might need extra support”, assisting them with building their self-esteem and self-efficacy and learning to better manage their anger.

However, Patrice is also a youth network coordinator for the International Planned Parenthood Federation which is the parent organi­zation for family planning associations in the Western Hemisphere.

And as she told the SUNDAY SUN in a recent interview, she still finds the time to volunteer with the Barbados Family Planning Association.

“I also do sexual and reproductive health training with the ministries. I’m a resource person, so I go to some of the ministries and Government departments and do sessions on topics relating to sexual and reproductive health . . . ,” she said.

And if this were not enough to show that she has special interest in empowerment and awareness, the former Queen’s College student is also the co-founder and manager of Walking Into Walls, a social media campaign aimed at raising awareness of gender-based violence in the Caribbean.

“We carry stories from the Caribbean media. We track the stories and put them in a centralized location so that we can really see what is the situation with violence against women in the Caribbean,” she said, noting that all Caribbean countries for which there was comparable data had a higher incidence of rape than the global average.

As a member of United Nations Women Civil Society Advisory Group to the Caribbean and the CatchAFyah Caribbean Feminist Network, Patrice believes feminism is often misunderstood.

“It’s nothing to do with man-hating, nothing to do with women being in charge of everything, nothing to do with oppressing men, but just very much to do with the values that women bring to the table being appreciated.

“[It’s about] equal pay for equal work and reducing the instances of rape and domestic violence and we very much work in partnership with men to do that.

“It’s not an ‘all men are bad’ kind of vibe when I talk about feminism. It’s just agitating against gender-based injustices of which there are still lots,” she stressed.

Patrice noted that it was relatively easy to speak out about violence against women “because most people agree that women should not be raped”.

However, she said some people believed that advocating for women equated to “talking against men”.

Patrice’s passion for service has taken her to Ghana, Ecuador, Costa Rica and Mexico and she shared with the SUNDAY SUN how she came to be interested in assisting and educating others.

Her interest in social equality was piqued while studying psychology at St Michael’s College in Vermont, United States.

“It was moreso racial equality because it was a predominantly white university.

“I was the president of the Martin Luther King Society and I worked with the Diversity Coalition. We talked a lot about social inequality structurally and how certain systems are set up to perpetuate social inequality,” she said, adding that most classes included discussions of power and privilege.

St Michael’s focused sharply on volunteerism and service to others and the University of Vermont, where she studied for her Master’s degree, placed emphasis on social marginalization and the disempowerment of people.

These experiences helped to chart Patrice’s path.

“I started to be more aware of privilege and power, my own, other people’s and how it affects other people’s lives, so when I came back to Barbados and the Caribbean, [my focus] was more on gender than race, probably because I’m more racially comfortable here, not that racial inequalities don’t happen in the Caribbean.”

Asked how she felt about the status of women in Barbados, the young woman noted that the island had made tremendous strides “which sometimes makes it difficult for people to understand how women are still discriminated against”.

She pointed to the number of women in the classroom and those in professional positions as examples, noting that most people didn’t see female doctors, for instance, as less competent.

For her, though, there were still areas which must be improved.

“Boards of companies are still overwhelmingly male. You have women in professional positions but they’re not generally at the top or they’re not generally in lots of decision-making positions.

“There’s still a glass ceiling and there are still stereotypes about what makes a person a good leader that is aligned with qualities usually attributed to males,” she said, pointing out that being emotional was seen as a bad quality in a potential leader.

“There’s a lot that has been done, but there’s a still a long way to go in the portrayal of women in our music, our figures in the Caribbean for gender-based violence and rape, and people still blaming rape on how women dress.”

• Positive Youth is a series highlighting the efforts of some of the youth in our nation who are engaging in positive pursuits. If you know of any such people, please contact Natasha Beckles at 430-5459 or natashabeckles@nationnews.com; or Bryan Walker at 430-5492 or bryanwalker@nationnews.com

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