Working for transformation
Flashback to April 1999 — the gas riots, scenes of destruction and angry protests dominated the screens. After watching the major newscast on the night of April 19, Betty-Ann Blaine retired to bed, deeply troubled. The scenes of women baring their private parts with children standing around, and the images of schoolgirls in Montego Bay vandalising business places, rested heavily on her mind.
“I felt very low about what was happening generally, and was saddened by the level of spiritual poverty that emanated, and I said to myself, we (the women in society) are going to have to do something it,” she recalled. “I got up the following morning and six women, myself included, came to mind — Antoinette Haughton, Donna Duncan, Elaine Wint-Leslie, Florette Blackwood and Marva Duncanson. I called them up, and they were sold the idea of Women Working for Transformation.
“We started meeting privately around my kitchen table at home, knocking heads as to what we could do to change the society, and then we went public,” Blaine told All Woman.
“We recognised that the process of transformation must begin with self, and this is the message we are sending right now.”
Between juggling phone calls from radio stations, Blaine worked on the logistics of today’s historic Millennium March from Half-Way-Tree to Liguanea.
Under the banner, “Jamaica is our land, let’s take it back”, Blaine and her colleagues plan to march in honour, love and unity.
“We want each and every person at Monday’s event to personally commit to help unite and create a better and loving society,” she disclosed. “Why National Heroes’ Day- We say it’s a day to honour our ancestors and unsung heroes, and therefore, we must honour their contributions and live by their example. If they were able to overcome the most brutal system of slavery with nothing, we can transform Jamaica, given the resources we now have,” she added with an air of conviction.
A diverse group comprising over 100 men and women, “Women Working For Transformation” is dedicated to positive action which, it is hoped, will bring lasting change to Jamaica.
“Transformation for us means taking responsibility for the Jamaica we have created and taking action to change it; having zero tolerance for violence in our homes, communities and nation and acting to improve the nature and quality of our human relationships; and taking action individually and collectively to create a kinder and safer Jamaica”, Blaine told All Woman.
The group believes that such action can lay the foundation for the growth and development of Jamaica, and as such, a strong emphasis is placed on the individual, and his or her potential to make meaningful changes.
According to Blaine, there are two types of Jamaicans — those who have deliberately destroyed the country, and those who have sat down and done nothing. “Women Working For Transformation” by way of community outreach programmes, aims to bring concerned citizens together to work for a common cause.
With this goal in mind, the group has been working to galvanise support for the movement, and to encourage membership. Far from being a women-only organisation, the group is all-inclusive. “While the group is catalysed by women, we are not excluding men, we need them as we cannot do this alone,” Blained pointed out.
However, she strongly believes that women have a pivotal role to play in the bid for transformation.
“We bear children, we nurture them, and in a big way are responsible for who they become,” she reasoned. “I know there are women out there who protect criminals and gunmen — you wash for them and cook for them, you need to take a stand against crime, violence and lawlessness.”
Women Working for Transformation anticipates success as it hits the streets on Monday with positive vibes. Presenters will include Marcus Garvey Jr, Donna Duncan, Rev Madge Saunders, Haughton and members of Women Working for Transformation USA. There is also a line-up of conscious artistes such Tony Rebel, Marcia Griffiths, Ken Boothe, Richie Spice, Terry Linen and Jahmel.
“I visualise the Martin Luther King-led march and the march by Ghandi in India, and I feel good about what we are doing. We are marching because we want to feel the collective energy of the people”, Betty-Ann said.
Sisters get involved
As Women Working for Transformation grows, more and more women from the grassroots are getting involved. Vivienne Nembhard and Pauline Parvell are two members who have had life-changing experiences since joining the group.
Nembhard is a practical nurse. She was moved to become a member after hearing about its activities on a radio programme. “I was so depressed, and decided to attend the first rally in Half-Way-Tree. Betty-Ann saw me, and I don’t know what happened, but she called me on stage,” she related. “I felt happy, somebody noticed me. Since then my life has changed; I feel empowered.”
Parvell, a dressmaker and construction worker expressed similar sentiments. She joined the group on the advice of a friend. “I have gained so much, I am no longer angry, and I am now in control of my temper tantrums,” she said happily. “I am now relaxed, and not so shy anymore since I co-hosted two programmes on Sister Vibes, which is our programme aired on Roots Radio.”