Social media is a strange and rather frightening creature at times. Quite regularly, it throws up something that terrifies and shocks Jamaicans, with no context or background of course. Just out of the blue. So again recently, a video of a woman in rural Jamaica beating her thirteen year-old daughter in rural Jamaica suddenly popped up and “went viral,” as the saying goes. It galloped around all the social media platforms that Jamaicans have access to, and more. The usual firestorm of commentary resulted – largely condemnatory and judgmental, accompanied by those little icons expressing horror and anger. A media personality named Jenny Jenny actually interviewed the young girl on her radio show on Hitz 92 FM – apparently an exercise in sensational journalism and quite inappropriate, but sadly revealing in some ways. However, some are digging deeper to look at the root causes of such a sad situation. Here is a response from Women’s Resource and Outreach Centre.
October 4, 2017
STOP HEAPING COALS ON THE WOMAN’S HEAD
Go to the root of the problem!
The Women’s Resource and Outreach Centre (WROC) has seen the now infamous video, widely circulated on social media, of a mother beating her girl child with a machete. There has been widespread, harsh criticism in Jamaica of this incident. This event will be remembered either as the momentary sensationalization of an unhealthy culture of child abuse and the economic and social poverty which lie at its root; or it can become a point of resolution for action to transform the experiences of the majority of women, men and children in our society.
The abuse of children, and of this girl child as seen in the video, is part and parcel of the neglect that we see in the treatment of women, the disabled and the elderly. We see this neglect in the poverty and squalor in which too many Jamaicans live. We need to start a deeper conversation about the issues that led this mother to clearly lose control of herself and to resort to this method of punishment. She can be heard on the video exclaiming “mi tyad a unnuh…mi tyad a unnuh…mi talk to yuh.” She seems to be at her wits’ end; this is the place where most parents may find themselves when they engage in corporal punishment, crossing the line into child abuse.
How can we help our parents?
WROC is committed to helping parents navigate the complicated task of parenting through the provision of parent training sessions.
At the national level, WROC calls for the following immediate measures:
- Expanding opportunities for lifelong learning among adults, including training in appropriate and acceptable parenting skills;
- Targeting interventions to encourage, teach and support men to become more involved in the lives of their children;
- Targeting and expanding employment among women to respond to the higher levels of unemployment they face, and the larger families they are required to support;
- Training and recruitment of women in non-traditional areas; for example construction skills, carpentry, masonry and engineering trades. This should become a national priority to ease the economic burden of parents, especially female headed and rural households; and
- Full investigation of this particular case to ensure that the family and, especially the child and mother, receive the social support necessary to ensure the best possible outcome.
So what is the underlying reality, the ‘back-story’?
The Jamaica Survey of Living Conditions (JSLC) 2015 shows that, while poverty decreased in the urban areas, it increased for the second year in a row in rural areas. The survey also showed that female headed households were on average poorer than male headed households – and this gap widened in 2015. The JSLC also showed that poor households generally had more children. The St. Thomas mother of five in the video could well be counted among the most highly stressed members of the society. Where is her support system? Where is the Father? What did those who witnessed the incident almost a year ago do to support mother and daughter, and help them both out of this cycle of inter-generational abuse?
Our first instinct as a country should not be to judge her harshly or pass scathing remarks, but to ask what is the State doing, in the context of increasing poverty, violence and abuse, to secure the human rights and dignity of all citizens? Counselling, psycho-social support and training on appropriate parenting skills are vital; but must be accompanied by expanding opportunities and choices for sustainable livelihoods and dignified living by women, their children and families.
As a nation, we need to have a national conversation around the inhumane treatment of our children and the support we offer to parents, as they mould the next generation. At the core, there must be access to ongoing parenting support services, social welfare and counselling services available through all classes of the society. As things stand, the country’s leaders are not providing this kind of support.
Ms. Marsha Grant