Glenda Simms, Contributor
On the afternoon of Sunday, September 17 Miss Mattie created quite a stir on the verandah of the one-stop shop in the village. She had carefully read the article entitled 'Portia bats for women at international conference', which was carried in the Sunday Gleaner.
Taking a cross-eyed and cross-legged stance, she ordered a double shot of white rum on the rocks and wondered aloud in a rather high pitched voice how anyone could come to the conclusion that the Prime Minister's campaign for the empowerment of women is an "unofficial campaign".
She wondered if whether the writer had just crawled out from under a toadstool or if whether he or she had joined Rip Van Winkle in a deep sleep for at least 30 years.
At this point, Maas George began to try to understand why Miss Mattie was incensed when anybody tries to take liberties with women and their point of view. Frankly, he would rather talk about the high price that the obeahman in Santa Cruz is charging for a five- minute 'read-up'. The last time he went to get a reading the man looked into his face and told him that he would soon be on an aeroplane and he was going to meet a nice brown-skin lady who would sweep him off his feet. For this prediction he had to "shell-out" $5,000 to the "damn tief".
But Miss Mattie did not care to hear about any "two-foot puss" obeahman. She knows that the only aeroplane that she will enter is the nice new Lexus hearse that the nice lady who runs the funeral parlour reserves for important people in the district.
Miss Mattie wants Maas George and all the other members of the verandah posse and every media personality to remember that every Jamaican Prime Minister, man or woman, has to recognise that advocating the human rights of women has to be the official line of the Nation State.
"How can you make such a statement?" asked Maas George as he carefully took 10 steps backward so as not to aggravate Miss Mattie.
She gave the good folks
This direct question sent Miss Mattie's brain into over-drive and she gave the good folks her inaugural lecture on the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). She reminded everybody who would listen or who had the cognitive skills to make sense of her "nonsense" that the Jamaican Government ratified CEDAW in 1979. Once the Government signed on the dotted line, it assumed the official and legal framework in which women's progress can be measured and analysed.
Miss Mattie emphasised in no uncertain terms that Article 1 of the Convention defined "discrimination against women" as any distinction, exclusion or restriction made on the basis of sex. Article 2 called on Jamaica and all other Nation states that are signatories to the convention to "condemn discrimination against women in all its forms" and to put in place the legal framework that ensures the removal of all forms of such discrimination.
Article 3 calls on the State to guarantee women "the exercise and enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms on a basis of equality with men". Article 4 advocates State Parties to adopt "special measures including legislation to ensure the full development and advancement of women''.
Article 5 calls upon the Government of Jamaica to take appropriate measures "to modify the social and cultural patterns of men and women with a view to achieving the elimination of prejudices and customary and all other practices which are based on the idea of the inferiority or superiority of either of the sexes or on stereotyped roles for men and women".
At this point, Miss Mattie decided to stop and catch her breath. She promised Maas George that on the next full moon night they would come together and cook some manish water and discuss Articles 6 to 16 of the CEDAW.
This plan was quite acceptable to Maas George because he needed to think about such matters. He also has to plan to find a nice ram goat to make, the manish water, because no self-respecting man would eat the flesh of a female goat.
In the final analysis, Miss Mattie would like everyone to know that the Most Honourable Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller did not advocate for the empowerment of women as the most important building block to development at the recent Non-Aligned Movement high level meeting in Havana because she is a woman, but because she is the head of a nation state that has ratified the most important human rights treaty for women.
Her position on this issue is never "informal".
Dr. Glenda P. Simms is a
gender expert and consultant.