Conversations With Montserrat by Shirley Osborne: Part 2

Conversations With Montserrat by Shirley Osborne: Part 2

Shirley Osborne

Release Date

Tuesday, February 12, 2013


Hi. M, it's me again.

You remember that the last time we talked, I was asking you about elections and then the discussion turned to your daughters?

Well, one of them told me that I had got it all wrong, that women are in charge all up and down the Montserrat government structure, and that women run things in Montserrat. So, although I really want to talk to you about the elections, we will have to do it another time, because you know how I feel about women's issues, and about you. Put the two of you together and, for me, that trumps everything else.

Last time, I was telling you how it much bothers me that your daughters are not nearly as good to each other as we should be and that no women have been in the government for a while. Well, your daughter who joined in our conversation, took it upon herself to school me. She sent me a list of the women who are "in charge all up and down the Montserrat government structure." And, would you believe it, Miss Mon, that daughter actually thought to reprimand me with the same "you are out of touch, you no live ya" argument. Funny woman!

She signed her name as "I Love Women" and this is what she sent me: "The Deputy Governor was a woman, The Speaker of the House is a woman, the Cabinet Secretary is a woman, Senior Magistrate, Attorney General, Director of Public Prosecutions, Auditor General, Chief HR Officer, Permanent Secretary Communications and Works, Permanent Secretary Agriculture, Deputy Financial Secretary, Comptroller of Inland Revenue, Chief Medical Officer, Director of Agriculture, Director of Tourism, and numerous other Directors and Heads of Department and their deputies;"

Well, some of these I knew already, others I did not, and Mother M, you know me well, so you understand what I mean when I tell you that I really and truly wish she hadn't brought me so much up to speed. On the one hand, she completely demolished my entire women-would-do-it-better theory. Or she would have, except that you and I both know that mostly what happens in Montserrat is that the women take directives from the men, who are the ones who are really in charge; and when the meaningful decisions are to be made, it is the men who make them.

The really painful thing for me, Miss Mon, is that she made my point about the un-sisterly attitude of your daughters. I really, really and truly wish that she had proved me wrong on this one. Furthermore, my sister seemed to want to make the point that I don't have a point because Montserrat is not the worst in the world when it comes to violence against women. Another person who listened to our conversation also seemed to dismiss the level of violence against Montserrat's women as being somehow less troublesome because it is a "worldwide problem."

My question is, if, indeed, it is true that women run things in Montserrat, does no one question how it is that child abuse, relationship abuse, domestic violence, statutory rape, just to give some examples, continue to be what some people describe as "rampant" on Montserrat? What are the women doing? If they have so much power, why are the women not doing more to stem and try to stop these horrors? How is it that men continue to get away with these things in a society in which "women run things"?

I don't know what to say, M. It seems to me that every time someone dares to call out the things that need to be improved in Montserrat, the stock response is a general huffing and puffing about who dares do so, and how dare they, and the classic "' you no live ya! and all the other responses that make me want to tell them please stop speaking "' but I shan't because they are very sensitive, your children!

I wonder if this sensitivity might have anything at all to do with a general feeling of powerlessness that is being whispered about by Montserratians; the feeling I often hear expressed, that the people have no voice, that the people have no say in what goes on in the island, in the government of the island. I wonder.

What do you, think, M?

I know enough about human nature to recognise that some of the responses are the expected deflecting and diverting, and the entirely natural human desire to avoid facing unpleasantness, so I know better than to take it personally. When the do this, the only effect it has on me is that it deepens my worry.

I know for a fact, that it is altogether impossible for one to arrive at, never mind, act on solutions until and unless one has faced up to and named and called out the problem. And I worry that there is so much deflecting and diverting going on around the very real and serious problems that your children continue to find themselves contending with, that there will only continue to be coverings up and turnings away, rationalising, downplaying and dismissing. Even when serious and tragic things occur, many of your sons and daughters elect to rationalise and deflect. In some instances, it is definitely the case that they are deflecting and diverting that attention away from themselves, for reasons that are either well-known or can safely be assumed, because that is how human beings operate.

Miss Mon, you remember a couple of years ago when one of your daughters was hacked to death in her bed by her estranged fiance? And you remember how some of your sons and daughters responded to that? I know I will never forget some of the things I heard some of them say. I shall never forget which ones of them said those things, either.

And nothing much has changed, M. Just a few months ago, a woman had to be spirited away from you, in fear for her life, and not just because she was in danger from the man who abused her, either. Nn-nn! Her danger was compounded, from what I was told, because those whose duty it is to protect her and others like her, felt themselves bound by a higher responsibility "' the protection of her abuser.

How is that? In Montserrat?

I tell you, Miss Mon, I would very much love it if someone would either prove to me that these issues that we are talking about are entirely not true and therefore not in need of any attention or further words from me, or tell me something that is being done to address and alleviate them, and tell me how I could support the effort.

You know how it is, Miss Mon. We know how your children are. I wouldn't want to offend their sensitive natures by daring to be arrogant enough to offer any suggestions from my personal store of knowledge, especially since, as they keep reminding me, I don't live there - but I would very much love to hear what they're doing about "' well, about a bunch of things "' but I'd be happy to begin with the real status of women, and the very real "' and disturbing issue of violence against the women of Montserrat.

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