Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : July 28th 2017 Contents 12 CARE • MAGAZINE
WE ARE RAISING women not girls. What
do I mean by this? Our girls are not our
end products. Don't get me wrong, I
am not advocating that we treat our
girls like adults, instead I am saying
that we should plant the seeds that
we want to blossom in our daughters when they become
adults. If you are raising your daughter to be seen and not
heard, that is precisely the kind of woman she is likely to
become. There is a strong possibility that she will grow
up to be a woman who is disconnected from her intuition,
and privileges the voices of others over her own.
Throughout the Caribbean, women are disproportionately
affected by gender-based violence (GBV). The UNDP Car-
ibbean Human Development report reflected that 30.4%
of women in the Caribbean report high rates of fear of
sexual assault in comparison to 11.1% of men. Research
in our region has also continuously found that men who
violate women are usually known to their victims and the
people around them. Our culture of silence when it comes
to violence against women speaks volumes, not only about
how we raise our girls but how we reinforce this silence
in our families and communities.
Are we grooming our girls to be victims? Many of us are
doing so. One way in which we groom our girls for vic-
timhood can be found in what we teach girls about their
bodies in relation to others. What we teach girls about
their bodies informs what they believe are truths, triggers
their feelings and shapes their behaviours? When I reflect
on the stories of girls and women I hear as a therapist,
the assumed right of men to access women's bodies is a
theme that constantly comes up. When a man (known or
unknown to her) can carry out a running commentary about
a woman's body in public and private spaces, he is exercising
a right that he has learned belongs to him. Furthermore,
when a 14-year-old says to me, "It's just the way it is, you
just have to get used to it!" she is communicating that
she has also internalized the rights of males to her body.
It matters what we teach girls about their bodies. The
messages we send to girls about a male's right to female
bodies and a female's responsibility for the sexually aroused
male body matters. It matters because it is the founda-
tion on which an understanding of personal agency must
be built. Personal agency refers to your ability to exert a
measure of control over your person. As such, it refers
to your ability to make choices about yourself, especially
about your body. When we teach girls to do what they
are told without questioning because they are girls, we are
sabotaging early development of personal agency.
It's time to plant the seeds we want to blossom in our
daughters. Let's get deliberate about raising women:
• Encourage girls to understand, value, and feel autonomy
over their bodies - allow girls from as young as possible
to have a say in what they wear. Encourage them to
take pride in their bodies and claim ownership as soon
as they can talk.
• Reinforce that girls have both the ability and right to give
consent to participating in or declining any sexual activity.
• Reinforce that a female body is not a “thing” and merits
the same rights around self-governance as do all human
• And finally, in everything we do, let’s encourage girls to
be seen and heard.
UNDP Caribbean Human Development Report (2012) p
39 Accessed at http://www.undp.org/content/undp/en/
Dr. Tracie Rogers is an Assistant Professor in the Social Work Department at University of the Southern Caribbean as well as the
Founder and Managing Director of Wholeness and Wellness Counselling Services Limited, an agency which offers counselling and
psychological testing for teenagers and adult men and women. One of Dr. Rogers' areas of specialization is individual and group
counselling for adolescent girls. www.wholenesnessandwellnesscounselling.com.
Are we grooming our
girls to be victims?
Many of us are doing
so. One way in which we
groom our girls for victimhood
can be found in what we
teach girls about their bodies
in relation to others.
Raise your daughters to be
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