Minister of Social Care Steve Blackett has chastised the island’s newest men’s advocacy group, saying its approach would not help advance cause of men here.
Blackett has taken issue with Access for Men, whose leader, social activist Kammie Holder, last Thursday launched a stinging rebuke of Men’s Educational Support Association (MESA), suggesting it was all bark and no bite.
Holder appeared to be particularly peeved at what he suggested was a less than aggressive approach by MESA to fighting for men who are denied access to their children by the children’s mothers.
However, Blackett told Barbados TODAY on the fringes of a ceremony at Baobab Towers in Warrens, St Michael to launch a week of activities in observance of International Men’s Day, that the aggressive approach by Access for Fathers did not augur well for the common good.
“What I don’t like is the competition of one group pitting their interest against another group’s interest, because I believe that at the end of the day, both groups are really advancing the cause and the case for men in Barbados,” the minister said.
He recalled that MESA and the National Organization of Women had also had a contentious relationship in the past and he was forced to intervene.
“And I am seeing now that this new group, of course, speaking to the needs and requirements of a particular constituency, which are men, and of course MESA is doing the same thing. I believe that they should collaborate, because at the end of the day, they are advancing the case for men; and rather than rivalry and contentious in nature of their representation, I believe they should be joining together and advancing the cause of men in Barbados,” Blackett stressed.
In launching the group last week to lobby against women who deny fathers access to their children, Holder told reporters he was forced to step up and take the lead on the issue because MESA had simply dropped the ball.
In what was clearly a matter of personal interest, Holder said he had to resort to social media to highlight his plight because MESA “has dropped its mandate” when it comes to defending and protecting men’s rights in certain cases, such as custody battles.
“MESA is an organization which has a problem with men calling bad mothers ‘dead beat’ but has no problem with women calling men the same thing. MESA has lost their mandate and it has left me no choice but to start my own [group] to represent men who are going through this issue,” said Holder, who went public on social media last week with details of his own bitter child custody battle and has since stepped up a public campaign on Facebook to raise public awareness of the issues confronting men.
When contacted for a comment on Holder’s charges, MESA Chairman Grantley Osbourne said he would issue a response at a later date.
However, the organization is on record as having voiced strong objection to the harsh treatment it says is usually meted out to men when they go to court to deal with paying child support, compared to the women who refuse to let men see the very children for whom they are paying child support.
Back in 2015, MESA went as far as calling for mandatory DNA testing at childbirth in an effort to protect men from paying child support for children they did not father.
Meanwhile, when Blackett addressed this morning’s event, he expressed serious concern about the challenges facing men and boys, particularly gun violence.
“International Men’s Day should also be seen as a time when our men and our boys can reflect on the challenges that confront them and strive for solutions to these challenges. Male on male violence is an issue of grave concern in our country. The increasing incidence of gunplay in our society that has claimed the lives of a number of young men this year serves as a reminder that all is not well among some of our young men and that as a society we have a tremendous task ahead if we are to save our future generation of young men,” he said.
Blackett also said he was worried about the number of young men who end up in jail, and “the continued decline in the numbers of men accessing education”.
One of the highlights of this week’s celebrations is a technical and vocational showcase and symposium for young men and boys, which will be held at the Queen’s Park Steel Shed on Saturday from 10 a.m.
Under the theme Making a Difference for Men and Boys, the activities will conclude on Sunday morning with a thanksgiving service at Christ is the Answer Family Church in Speightstown, St Peter, starting at 8 a.m.