November 2016

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The revival of the observance of International Men’s Day in Trinidad and Tobago signaled a crucial phase of the global men’s movement. From 1999, International Men’s Day was revamped to build a movement and ideology that would promote peace, resolve disputes and transcend the growing gender gap. The annual observance of International Men’s Day on 19 November indicates a genuine concern for the numerous problems plaguing families and the rest of society. The global support reflects the widespread willingness to build a society hich aspires towards peace and produce a more tolerant and understanding future generation.

The focus of International Men’s Day is not restricted to men, but includes boys, women, teenagers and children. The underlying message is that ongoing conflict among men, women and children must cease and the healing must begin. The observances of International Men’s Day are part of a global non-violent revolution. It is annually observed by persons who support the ongoing effort to improve lives, heal scarred lives, seek solutions to social problems, heal the seemingly irreparable troubled minds, help the dysfunctional, promote positive role models in society and develop wholesome individuals. Such developments are badly needed in today’s wounded communities which reflect distorted and outdated beliefs and constant clashes among men, women and children which unravels the fabric of the family and the society.

Annual themes and topics focused on health, gender relations and fatherhood. Also discussed are themes relating to gender inequality, religion, class, violence, ethnicity, poverty, environmental protection and nationalism.

Men’s organisations, anti-war groups, peace organisations, women’s groups, gender departments at universities, politicians and individuals from all walks of life have annually celebrated International Men’s Day. One illustration is the decision in 2010 to have observances among prisoners throughout the world and the selection of Carry Greaves, in 2012 as an Empowerment Coordinator. Greaves, a father, is incarcerated at a correctional facility in New York in the United States. Undoubtedly, International Men’s Day has transcended language barriers, geographical boundaries, political ideology and religious differences. Furthermore, International Men’s Day observances are not restricted to any particular class, gender, age and occupation.

In 2013, the Institute for Gender and Development Studies, (IGDS) Mona Unit, (in Jamaica) issued a press release as it joined the rest of the world in observing International Men’s Day, “We salute all male role models on The UWI Mona campus as students and staff, and urge The UWI family to collaborate in changing unequal gender relations that undermine the health and safety of both males and females. We encourage the UWI Mona family to: build partnerships based on mutual respect, human rights, gender equality; change attitudes and behaviours in order to eliminate all forms of discrimination and violence; increase male participation in education, and support implementation of international human rights commitments, Jamaica’s National Policy for Gender Equality as well as The UWI’s Gender Policy and Gender Action Plan.” Such bold statements are relevant for the present and future.

The six objectives of International Men’s Day represent the core of a dynamic movement and way of life which seeks peace, encourages more understanding and urges greater tolerance. The first objective is to promote positive male role models particularly working class men who are living decent and honest lives. Secondly, to celebrate men’s positive contributions to society, community, family, marriage, child care, and preservation of the environment. Thirdly, to focus on men’s health including their social, emotional, physical and spiritual well-being. Fourthly, to highlight discrimination against men such as in court cases which do not consider the role of a father in the upbringing of his daughter or son. The fifth objective struck a chord among feminists - the improvement of gender relations and promotion of gender equality. Finally, International Men’s Day intends to create a safer and better world; where people can be safe and grow to reach their full potential.

A considerable number of feminists have welcomed the six objectives of International Men’s Day. Interestingly, some of the goals of feminists are similar to the six pillars of International Men’s Day which include promoting gender equality.

International Men’s Day is unique in that some of its greatest promoters and supporters are women. These women include Diane Sears of the United States who serves as the International Men’s Day Coordinator, Chair of the United States 2012-2022 International Men’s Day Ten Year Plan and is a member of the International Men’s Day Coordination Committee. Other dynamic women include Marie Clarence of Hungary, Genevieve Twala of Botwsana who is the International Men’s Day coordinator of Africa, Nelcia Robinson-Marshall of St. Vincent, Gabrielle Grant of Trinidad and Tobago who have all realised the positive benefits International Men’s Day will have on our families, neighborhoods, nations and the world.

Uma Challa of India, is part of the International Men’s Day Coordination Committee in her country. Under her leadership, last year India was extremely proactive in its observance for International Men’s Day. An International Men’s Day Flash Mob was organised with men and boys dancing in the streets, a video of a famous female Indian actress who talked about the importance of men and International Men’s Day was produced and uploaded to the Internet. Other women around the world, who support International Men’s Day, have proven to be visionaries and have been a tremendous asset to the global men’s movement. International Men’s Day promotes constructive dialogue between both sexes for greater understanding and tolerance. Additionally, the promoters of this day hope it will help reduce the polarisation between the men’s movement and the women’s movement.

Indeed, International Men’s Day highlights the common bonds of humanity. Those persons supporting International Men’s Day seek to restore the dignity and respect among members of the human family. The supporters, coordinators and participants have been trying to offer different perspectives and new ideas for the leader and supporters. The movement has embraced all persons and is not interested in creating or propagating problems and promoting divisions.

International Men’s Day is gradually generating support that will be a wake-up call for the media and contribute to men and women being portrayed as honest, decent and morally upright, only then would there be a chance for real and permanent change. This men’s movement must initiate an era of enlightenment where dynamic, rational role models will emerge with a mandate to positively transform our world.

Undoubtedly, the philosophy underlying International Men’s Day is much more than optimistic thinking and rhetoric; it is a way of life, a world view, an alternative peace model designed so that the next generation will nurture and continue to sow the seeds of tolerance, acceptance and harmony.

Imagine a world where International Men’s Day is observed and internalised by the majority of persons. There probably would be fewer incidents of such atrocities as rapes, domestic violence, child abuse and murders. International Men’s Day has the potential to improve our lives, positively influencing those who govern us and preserving our environment. International Men’s Day intends to continue promoting a safer, better world and be the voice for the victims of war, troubled souls, the oppressed and the physically and mentally challenged.

Today, International Men’s Day is observed in approximately eighty countries. The most recent country, Uganda, officially joined the movement in September 2016. Volunteers and well-wishers of International Men’s Day are constantly devising strategies and creating a global community that is more collaborative and less aggressive. International Men’s Day is not a top-down movement limited to a few persons. It has spread among the grassroots and maintained its growth among communities. International Men’s Day has sought to dismantle the many stereotypes associated with males and females. And, more importantly, IMD has challenged those who are unable to see the ‘invisible’ boys and men who are positively contributing to our society.

Dr Jerome Teelucksingh is a lecturer in the History Department on the St. Augustine campus. His research interests include trade unionism, Caribbean migration, Black Power, Indo-Trinidadian culture, Pan-Africanism and institutional influences on Caribbean identity.