Some of us are born, we grow and live in this country and have never heard of the Child Care and Protection Agency. That is because our parents gave us stability and safety in our homes and teachers provided support through the school system. I am one such individual and remain eternally grateful to my parents and grandparents for exemplifying what stability in family life looks and feels like. However, I had cause to recently interact with this Agency on behalf of a single parent family (father in care of his children) in need of support and I am in shock to see the level of incapacity at the Agency.
Functional literacy is a problem in Guyana, so basic reading, report writing, comprehension, listening and organising skills are in short supply at this Agency. Forget any expectation of common sense and please don’t even think about such maturity as impartiality, objectivity, truth, fairness and wisdom. Visit any Police Station and we find the same problem. If a citizen wants to access intelligence in this society, they are forced to go to the Court System where they will find professionals with a higher-level education and greater capacity for problem solving.
The insight that I gained from my recent interaction with the Guyana Police Force and the Child Care and Protection Agency that I wish to share with the general public is the shocking absence and complete disregard and lack of support for the mental health of males in our society. Our Agencies are experts at persecuting males. Morning, noon and night they know how to do this. They breathe and sleep persecution. Is there one Agency that exists where men are even heard? They first need to be heard and understood before they can be supported. This deafness to supporting, rather than persecuting, poor male members of our society is a policy gap that screams across the nation where men are pushed into a corner to find solace in drowning sorrows. How many men and children in our society deal with verbal and psychological abuse from mothers and female spouses on a daily basis? Yet, such women find ready comfort and a sympathetic ear with the gullible authorities. Why is female persecution of, slander, lies and threats against men not an issue of concern to any of our Agencies? Why are females not given the help that they also need to learn to communicate more effectively?
For the creation of a just society, we must engage in systems thinking, do deeper analysis and provide the mental health support needed by all members of our society. Are our Agencies aware that people in this country are hungry? With a day-to-day struggle to find food for their children? From their regular salaried positions and air-conditioned offices (with visitors often left to wait in the sun and rain), are Government officials capable of understanding the support needed by poor families? How do we ease the desperation in society? From my experience with the Child Care and Protection Agency, there exists a lack of understanding of the living conditions of the poor and the support being provided to poor families struggling to raise children is way short of inadequate. With a paucity of analytical skills, the right problems will not be solved because they are not being diagnosed.
There are many single-parent families in this nation, where men, fathers, are the single-parent struggling to raise their children. Male single-parent families need support as much as families with mothers as the single-parent. The psychological mindset at our Agencies, however, is that fathers must work, mothers must be supported. Mothers can be abusive, drunkards, liars, prostitutes and guilty of child neglect, frequenting bars with their girl children who are often prostituted, raped and become mere teenage pregnancy statistics; but they are mothers and an Agency incapable of proper investigation and biased against fatherhood cannot act in the interest of fathers and their children.
We don’t only celebrate Mother’s Day in this country and around the world. We also observe Father’s Day. As a nation, and part of the Western World, now waking up to mental health issues, I urge our Agencies and policy makers to remember that men are people too and that the hard-working stressed-out fathers are as much in need of support as are the destitute mothers.
On a recent visit to the Permanent Secretary’s Office of the Ministry of Social Protection, my attention was drawn to a humble looking notice inviting members of staff to ‘Emotional Intelligence’ training. My heart skipped a beat as I saw the silver lining. If there is a single policy initiative that can have resounding impact on our mental evolution and our nation’s human development and capacity building efforts, it is the development of our collective emotional awareness. As they say in Trinidad, we can all ‘make nice’ – first with ourselves, and then with others. Men and women in Guyana cannot improve their coping strategies for dealing with life’s frustrations without a deeper understanding of their emotions. The woes of the emotionally hijacked – the torrent of emotional abuses and the impoverished communication skills and the murders and suicides – will only improve with knowledge of how to manage the many frustrations of life. As a Rastafarian recently said to me, we all must learn to bring the I over the E. I wish to encourage our policy makers to roll out a massive Emotional Intelligence Awareness Campaign across the length and breadth of this nation, geared to supporting the needs of all in our society.
(Name and address supplied)