“Man Deh Yah” was the consensus among the men who attended the International Men’s Day forum. The forum was held at the University of the West Indies Regional Headquarters on Mona Road in Kingston. Chaired by super Master of Ceremonies Mr. Sean Williams, patrons were not only led down a programme but also educated, empowered, and supported. It was Mr. Williams that started the “Man deh yah!” answer to his question, “Weh di man dem deh?”. This always kept the vibe of the day high. The theme for the forum was “Reinforcing Positive Male Role Models”.
International Men’s Day (IMD) is an annual global event celebrated on November 19. It is celebrated as a day to focus on men’s and boy’s health, improving gender relations, promoting gender equality, and highlighting positive male role models. It is an occasion for men to celebrate their achievements and contribution, in particular to community, family, marriage, relationships, and childcare while highlighting the challenges they face.
Men from varied strata were in attendance and extremely attentive. Although there were some ladies in our midst, the day was all about men. Real men!! Men who not only took care of providing money for a household but also providing the much needed nurturing that only a caring father, uncle, brother, or cousin could bring.
The day was hosted by the Ministry of Culture, Gender, Entertainment, and Sport and The Bureau of Gender Affairs. Partners for the day were the United Nations Development Programme and the Citizen Security & Justice Programme. There were three objectives of the forum which were met with ‘brawta’. The objectives were as follows;
- To recognize and celebrate the contribution of men in social, cultural and economic development of the Jamaican Society
- To forge linkages with multiple stakeholders and male interest groups
- To promote POSITIVE male role models
- To bring awareness towards men’s health and well-being
Mr. Williams pointed out that men can go through an entire day without hearing on positive thing said about him. International Men’s Day is helping to break that norm with the hope that it will be a norm of the past. Mr. Williams also showed us that “What you support, you also endorse”. Although IMD is celebrated on one day, Jamaica has taken it a step further where we will celebrate for a week. Through that time, events will be held to discuss various topics such as Paternity leave, Fatherhood, Men and Mental Health, Conflict Management & Dispute Resolution, the launch of the Positive Fathering Project, Fathering Behind Bars, a young male forum, and a Male Rap Session.
Permanent Secretary Mr. Denzil Thorpe shared with the attendees his personal experience where he needed to make sure he was with his wife when his first child was born. Complications with the pregnancy and delivery of the child demanded an in person support system that could only be done by Mr. Thorpe. This sentiment was supported by all in attendance who agreed that paternity leave be supported by both public and private sector.
Gisselle Burbano, Programme Specialist in the UNESCO Cluster Office for the Caribbean based in Kingston (Jamaica), explained the work that UNESCO is doing to empower gender relations while working on social, political, economic, angles to enable gender equality in the region.
Patrice Nephew, Communication/Social Marketing Coordinator for the Citizen Security and Justice Programme needed to let the room know that she personally knows that men don’t get the ‘Big up’ that they need. She made sure to give the official ‘Big up!’ to resounding applause. Acknowledging a major problem with reporting, Mrs. Nephew pointed out that men are the perpetrators and victims of crime, making them the most vulnerable group in society.
Professor Opal Palmer Adisa, Director Institute for Gender & Development Studies (IGDS) shared personal stories about the power that men have planted in her life. Positive stories that resonated with the attendees and allowed us to look into her mirror and see us. She talked about the negative impact of slavery which we are now trying to heal from. As a gender specialist, Professor Palmer Adisa is about “Gender Justice”. She emphasised that “in order for us to go forward, we have to go forward together.” She agreed “that it is love that is going to transform this society”.
All through the forum men were empowered with panel discussions, group sessions, presented with videos and treated to testimonials. Towards that end of the day, awards were handed out to special groups and individuals who have made strides with interacting positively with men and boys.