There are a few bits that I want to inquire about this week. The first one has to do with an outstanding environmental issue. The second asks some questions related to blood donation in Barbados and the third has to do with opening up safe spaces among women for conversations about health and wellness.
Whither the Graeme Hall Sanctuary? It occurred to me recently that there has been no further national update about this important national marshland. The Graeme Hall area contains a body settlement of water and marshlands in an area designated as a wetland for international purposes.
Prior to the sewage spills of 2017 and last year, there was already a fair amount of controversy swirling around the natural ecosystem for thousands of birds, fish and other species. At one point, developers with an interest in the Sanctuary had filed objections with the Ministry of Environment over a number of practices that they deemed detrimental to the ecosystem.
In the urgency of the sewage overspill, Graeme Hall seemed to be the sacrifice instead of the heavily tourist-populated areas along the coast road. This was always a conflicting call to have been made, but I did not believe that the state of affairs would become an indefinite one. I would be happy if the Sanctuary had been fully restored and I just did not know about it. If the Sanctuary has not been restored though, I think that that is a major blotch on Barbados’ environmental record and it should cause us all consternation.
I feel as though I only hear about blood donation and collection in Barbados when there is a crisis or national emergency. I think we could do more to try to collect blood and store it. I also feel that we can do more in the way of sensitizing individuals about blood collection and donation. Who can give blood? If a person smokes recreationally or is anemic, can they give blood? How long after a tattoo or piercing does a person sit out before being able to donate blood
Perhaps there could be small incentives for blood donation such as free HIV testing. I maintain that it is still way too hard to get an HIV test in Barbados that is quick, convenient and confidential. The same set of skills that are required to take blood are those involved in HIV testing. This, and other little value added tokens, could help us to more easily keep the blood bank replenished.
Is it feasible to do blood collection drives in workplaces? While I do not mind donating blood in principle, I am extremely squeamish. The smell of blood, the thought and definitely the sight of it all send me into emotional hives. Going to the blood bank is almost an insurmountable mental feat but I feel that if I could chat with an office mate and have the exercise done in familiar, comfortable settings, it may actually see me donating a few units a year to the cause.
My final muse for this week has to do with how we continue to interact as women. It is no secret that I firmly believe that we, as black women, must spend time growing and nurturing our sisterhood. Many things have been done to separate black women and foster a competitive culture between us. We are willing to fight a sister for her husband, show up a colleague in a work situation. These behaviours are not haphazard – they go into the socialization of young girls.
The trust levels among us as women are not high and this hinders how we are able to create supportive networks. One of the areas where this lack of support is acute is in dealing with issues of health and wellness. Many of us as women struggle through ailments that affect all of us in large measure and we often do not feel empowered enough to share. Sharing can be a powerful coping mechanism because it helps to contextualize the issue a woman is facing as one that is common instead of one that has to be held in secret or seen as punishment.
It may not even be an ailment per se, talking more can help women just to navigate the process of aging. I think all the information we get about our bodies as females stops with the few disjointed bits we get in guidance if we have a teacher who is even personally comfortable enough to venture into that discussion. Once we are out of school, the opportunities to talk about our bodies and how they change are also basically gone.
Women generally do not feel comfortable to talk to doctors although I must admit that the midwifery nurses at the Polyclinics and in the Queen Elizabeth Hospital are generally quite good at creating safe spaces for women to converse. Past baby-making, the conversation about female bodies fades into silence.
I feel like we need to do more as women to support the generations behind us in finding safe spaces to interpret and discover the female body. We need to be more open to talking to younger sisters as well as get brave about asking the questions we still have outstanding because nobody talked to us. To my mind, these are the things that add to our empowerment as women. Empowerment is about changing all power relations and dynamics, not just the ones with men.
Marsha Hinds is the President of the National Organisation of Women.