By ALICIA WALLACE
Last week Friday was International Women’s Day, and several events were held in Nassau and other cities all over the world. It was interesting to see what agencies, organisations and individuals did in their acknowledgement of the internationally recognised day. I know it can be difficult for some organisations to host events due to limited resources, and this limits the range of activities they can participate in year-round. It is important for us to think about why non-profit organisations exist, who they serve and what they need to keep doing their work and increase their impact.
Equality Bahamas’ Women’s Wednesdays event held two days before International Women’s Day focused on women’s rights advocacy. We heard from women experienced in regional solidarity building, policymaking, social work, campaigning, and LGBT+ advocacy over the past few decades. As they shared their experiences and insights, it was easy to see the difference between then and now. It seems as though we have been moving away from informal organising and the development of intimate communities. There are some organisations and groups that retain some of these qualities, but they are not in the majority in The Bahamas. Even informal groups are largely working toward formalisation for various reasons, not the least of which is access to funding. This led me to think about the support Bahamian non-profit do and do not receive, and the need to boost the signal on the work being done every day, often by volunteer teams, incurring personal costs.
We do not often talk about it, but advocacy and community service have a cost. It is time intensive, associated with varying levels of risk, and usually requires money. This frequently pushes people to register non-profit organizations which comes at its own cost. All of these organizations do not have ongoing programmes or large amounts of money to manage, but need to be able to receive funds to provide refreshments at meetings, place newspaper ads, produce public service announcements, and support community members. Unfortunately, the need for funding can lead to compromising values and outcomes as funders have their own agendas. I have seen this in my own work, and have had to make significant adjustments in order to continue without the support of a funder or partner.
International Women’s Day and similar annual events (such as 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-based Violence) are often recognized with sit-down meals for invited guests, award ceremonies, symbolic displays, and one-time visits (usually to schools). There are far less events and initiatives that are accessible to and centre the needs of our most vulnerable community members. Community-centred events do not often feature prominent figures and are not planned with photo opportunities in mind. Instead, they are responses to the needs that exist every day of the year. Many organisations do this work year-round without us noticing. It is important, however, for the Bahamian public to be as aware of these organisations and groups. These organisations need volunteers to deliver programmes, food donations for their pantries, cash donations to cover bills and make necessary purchases and administrative support. Many of them have wish lists that include items we are getting rid of every day, from furniture and clothing to printers and books. To support them, we have to know they exist, so I am highlighting four organizations every Bahamian should know about and support as best we can.
The Tribune recently covered the graduation ceremony of the literacy programme offered by Families of All Murder Victims (FOAM). FOAM, founded by Khandi Gibson, provides supported to the family members — especially children — of murder victims. The organisation fundraises and collected items to ensure children have necessary supplies for school at the start of the academic year, helps young men to find jobs, provides assistance with cover letters and resumes, and supports people as they grieve the loss of loved ones.
Lend a Hand Bahamas recently merged with Lignum Vitae, working to provide economic opportunities focusing its efforts in the Bain and Grants Town community. Among their projects are a sewing programme, 4H, mentoring, and maintenance of a community library. This organisation, led by Shelagh Pritchard, actively engages young people in a range of activities, and is open to collaboration with other organisations and groups with similar goals.
The Dignified Girl Project started when Phillipa Dean recognised, through her volunteer work, the issue of period poverty. In response, this organisation provides menstrual care products to girls in need. Volunteers join the organisation in putting together packages with basic items including underwear and pads. The Dignified Girl Project is always collecting care items for their kits which are distributed through several centres.
The Bahamas Crisis Centre is well-known for its support of all victims of abuse. The centre offers free counselling for survivors of abuse and those experiencing family, relationship, or behavioural problems. It connects clients to range of other resources. Outside of its office space, Bahamas Crisis Centre goes on community walkabouts to engage with people in their neighbourhoods and delivers programmes to various groups including the healthy relationships programme for high school students.
These are not the only organisations doing important, necessary work in The Bahamas. Many others are operating with limited resources and could use your help, whether you can offer a donation or a few hours of your time. If International Women’s Day made you think about the challenges women and girls face today, think about what you can do to improve our current state, and find people to do it with you. We can get more done when we do it together.