a reputable charitable organisation recently received the promise of a
million dollars from a good corporate citizen my eyes lit up.
you, nobody asked me my opinion on how to spend that money but my mind
took off in dizzying fantasies.
I thought of young men. Who doesn't? All eyes are on young men. Policemen
tail them; teachers watch them, parents are in despair over them. They
commit the pettiest crimes and the most violent crimes, over and over.
They make up the bulk of school dropouts, and create the most havoc in our
society. If we can fix them, we can fix our country.
other images flooded into my head. Of young women. Of yearning, bright,
young women bursting with potential. And I thought, it's time we thought
of the young women. Before they turn into middle-aged ladies, depleted of
their enthusiasm. We've got to catch them now. I've watched so many
slipping through the net. I'm not talking here of CXC dropouts, not about
the thousands of women who leave school without knowing how to read (and
there are thousands every year adding to the mounting illiteracy amongst
talking about young women with good O- and A-Level passes who, because of
family responsibilities or lack of funding, end up with a job at the age
of 17 or 18 selling shoes, tending a grocery, or doing a trainee job
without prospects in a corporation. I'm talking of young women who have
ideas about what they would like to do-computer programming, engineering,
business, law, but who lack the opportunity. Put simply, they are too
bright to do what they are now doing. In a few years' time they will be
wasted potential or as companies and countries now like to put it - human
resources thrown down the drain-due to neglect.
Young Women With Potential - they are in a special category - produce
marvellous graphics, are "natural'' schoolteachers, instinctively
good managers and keepers of books. Imagine, with specialised training,
higher education, the graphic designer could produce fully-animated films,
the nursery school teacher could also be a child psychologist, the manager
of a shop could be an executive of a company, the keeper of books, a
full-fledged accountant. Sure there are exceptions, but there is only so
far you can go with raw talent.
put the pieces together - absent, straying fathers throwing their young
sons into the gaping mouths of drug lords, easy money, pimps, touts.
Hassled single mothers worn out with holding down a job and keeping food
on the table - dependent on the state to educate their children (and we
all know what a lousy job the state does).
these single mothers and the absent fathers and the wild brother and the
older grandparents are lucky enough, they get a Young Woman With Potential
in their family. This girl, (and I merge the conglomeration of young women
I have met into this girl) is often the salvation not just of her family
but her little community. This unnoticed person, who can be found behind
just about any counter in this country, has the capacity to grow hands
long enough to reach into the heart of communities. The Young Woman With
Potential is the one the family turns to, not just for money, but for
practical matters - paying taxes, filling forms for passports, helping the
younger siblings with their SEA, getting granny, or great grandmother to
hospital, educating her mother about diabetes. She becomes her mother's
confidante and support and binds her father to the family.
have seen these young girls over the course of four, five years burn out -
without the steam of a parent or teacher with foresight to propel them to
be all they can be, their potential depleted.
young woman has a sense of entitlement which her mother never had - she is
born into a belief system where of course she is equal, and of course she
can wear tiny black dresses with the tallest, sexiest shoes and rub
shoulders by day with men as a doctor, lawyer, accountant, financial
consultant, anything she chooses. She is no anorexic waif waiting to be
rescued like a heap of petals from the floor by a boy or man. Rather, her
beauty lies in the gusto with which she lives - eating for pleasure, but
with one eye on health, running strong, revelling in movement, bursting
I had a million dollars, or ten or 20 or even 30, I would invest it in
young women. Take several hundred or thousand women from schools and
interview them, suss out their abilities, look at their results and prod
and cajole them into higher studies.
young women will yield educated children, cared for elderly, vibrant
communities, well-run businesses, dedicated professionals. They will
contribute towards a prosperous and ordered country. We know young men
need special attention - perhaps because often the ones that drop out
haven't had fathers to guide them. They need fixing.
women in the Caribbean have always had strong matriarchal role models -
women who bear up, take pressure. They have shown their mettle - they
deserve a chance to excel, to try out the driver's seat to propel us out
of illiteracy, poverty, crime. Which man with a mother, sister, wife,
daughter won't agree?