This weekend gone, the women’s movement in Trinidad and Tobago, led by IGDS, held a conference honouring the activism of Hazel Brown, about whom I have written here. Here is my reflection on Hazel and the significance of her work:
There are some who wake up every day to make change. Those persons, driven by a vision of a different world, keep focus, even when the rest of us pull away, distracted by the dimensions of our daily lives. Hazel Brown is one such person. Utterly compelled to be engaged with her communities, forcing action by her unrelenting attention to injustice. I say communities because over the time I have known her, Hazel has focused my attention variously on cancer support, on consumer rights, on solar cookers, on politics and mostly on gender equality.
What connects all of that is her conviction that we must be better and do better. That Trinidad and Tobago and the Caribbean must live up to its historical obligation of ending discriminations and inequalities- whether gender, colour, race, sexual orientation, disability.
Hazel asks us that we live sustainably and engage politically to ensure democracy, equitable development, rule of law, access to information and social integration.
Over time, some have been discomforted by her singular focus on increasing the numbers of women in parliament and local government, arguing that numbers are not enough and that what we need as much or even more is women’s transformative leadership, a leadership that would both model and demand greater equality and accountability.
And Hazel does not disagree though she holds fast to the view that without critical mass in parliament, patriarchy triumphs every time.
And so we have all come to take for granted that she will be there, holding the placard, making press statements, and seeking meetings with the decision makers to push our common agenda. And when troubles erupt, when misogyny outs, people will say “What Hazel Brown have to say about that?” As if she is carrying the whole side. But simply, her voice matters to the body politic.
Hazel will be the first to say that she does all of this with the sisterhood and indeed the brothers working on social justice and rights. This Conference with its title Fearless Politics asks us to stop taking for granted the voices and actions of those who speak to our conscience. To stop making invisible the courage and leadership of women, like Hazel, like Asha Kambon, like Rhoda Reddock, like Brenda Gopeesingh, like Merle Hodge, like Andaiye to name just a few.
Let us celebrate them all by joining in social movements.