WE are a few days into 2023. The holidays came and went as quickly as they always do. There was shopping, cleaning, cooking, and gathering. In the midst of all of the activities, many of us made time to reflect on 2022, imagine what could be in 2023, and make resolutions, set goals, or set intentions for the year ahead.
The end of the calendar year is a rather odd time for this activity because it is highly social and full of buzz. It is also a season of indulgence. December is not exactly the ideal time to take a serious look at where we have been and where we might go, plus make firm commitments to ourselves for the next twelve months. The calendar year provides what feels like a clean slate, if only in the form of a new calendar or planner. The change in year is also something we experience at the same time, so even with very separate, different goals, it can feel like we are all in it together. A sense of community is always encouraging.
A few weeks into the year, many people realise that their resolutions, goals, or intentions were set a bit too high, or they struggle to catch up, still thinking their commitments were reasonable and they just need to work harder. Eventually, it can become very discouraging, seeing little progress toward commitments that were exciting in December, but daunting as January turns to February.
Now that the high of the holidays is wearing off, it is a good time to take a realistic look at the resolutions, goals, and intentions set for 2023. Look at each one and make sure you are clear on the reason it is there, the way you will realise it, and the outcome you expect. Is it personal to you, or is it a part of a trend or something you think it expected of you? For example, there are always reading challenges, and people set goals like reading 50 books in a year. Would it be valuable for you, and would you enjoy the process? Maybe you just like the sound of it, or want to be in a particular group. These are not the best reasons to commit or the most effective sources of motivation.
Thinking about how you will reach a goal is critical. Reading 50 books in a year may sound impressive, but what would enable you to get it done? You may first think that one book per week will get you there, and you will have two weeks as buffer. You still, however, need to think about what your weeks look like from month to month. Will you have the same amount of time each week to dedicate to reading? Maybe your busy season at work is April to June, and it would be difficult to read for more than 20 minutes per day. What does this mean for your goal? Do you need to change it to 38 books, or will you find at least 12 short books for your 2023 reading pile? Do you usually have a lot of free time from August to September and feel confident that you can read more than 16 books during that period? One strategy is to break your goal down into increments, but it is useful to first consider the time and other resources you have available so that you can make the necessary adjustments. Set yourself up for success.
Road to 50
Is the Road to 50 paved with… Well, is it paved at all?
We are quickly moving toward the celebration of 50 years of independence. When you look around, what evokes national pride for you? What changes and achievements would increase your national pride? What would make it clear to you that The Bahamas is truly an independent nation?
Aside from wearing aquamarine, gold, and black, what does independence mean? Beyond the annual event at Clifford Park, what comes to mind when we think of independence? What does 50 years mean, and what should it mean? How should this year’s independence celebration be different? What, exactly, is on this road to 50?
I hope the Road to 50 includes initiatives to support and promote health and wellness. We need ways to move our bodies that feel good, are free, and are safe. Surrounded by water, swimming should be the easy, hassle-free choice, but it is not. Far too many people cannot swim. In addition to that, there are safety concerns, especially for people who are exercising alone and/or are only able to do it outside of high-traffic times during daylight. Running and walking have been popular for a long time, but largely confined to specific areas and times of day for safety reasons. Many people drive to areas they perceive to be safe in order to walk or run. We need better street lighting, properly maintained community parks with equipment for all ages, and crime prevention.
I hope the Road to 50 includes updates to the school curriculum so that children learn Bahamian history, beyond the Arawaks and Caribs and the sponging industry, Caribbean history inclusive of the Haitian Revolution, digital security and online safety. They need comprehensive sexuality education, and this must emphasise that consent is mandatory, they must respect people’s bodily autonomy, and contraceptive options. It must also make a clear distinction between sex and rape, define and give examples of sexual violence, and provide information and support for children who have experienced sexual violence. The curriculum must also include conflict resolution, giving the children skills to handle disagreements in nonviolent ways.
I hope the Road to 50 includes legal reform, starting with the criminalisation of marital rape. The government is responsible for protecting and fulfilling human rights. It is aware of its human rights obligations. The Bahamas ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) in 1993, and the Expert Committee recommended that the government criminalise marital rape. Women have bodily autonomy that must be protected, whether or not they are married. Rape is rape, regardless of the relationship between the perpetrator and the victim or survivor. The Sexual Offenses Act must be amended to criminalise marital rape. We cannot truly celebrate independence in a country where married women are treated as less than human, as the property of their husbands.
I hope the Road to 50 includes a response to the climate crisis. This has to go beyond speeches in international spaces. The demand for climate financing is not enough. Action needs to be taken now. The government needs to ensure that every resident of The Bahamas has the opportunity to learn to swim. All school children should learn to swim as a part of their education in this archipelago. Adults who did not learn to swim should be able to enroll in lessons at public and community pools. Established swimming programmes should be subsidized to increase options for beginners. Inability to pay should not prevent anyone in The Bahamas from learning this necessary skill. Affordable, accessible, convenient public transportation is critical. Exposure to Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) and scholarships for studies related to the environment and sustainability are critical. Protection of natural resources is critical. Climate mitigation and adaptation beyond hurricane preparedness and response are critical.
I hope the Road to 50 includes specific attention to the experiences and needs of people in situations of vulnerability. We need to update and implement the Strategic Plan to Address Gender-Based Violence, to define discrimination against women in the law, and remove all gender inequality from the law. We need full implementation of the Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities) Act. We need a law to protect lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex (LGBTQI+) people from hate speech and hate crimes. We need full implementation of Marco’s Law and proper use of the alert system. The government needs to consistently think about people experiencing poverty and how they are impacted by laws, policies, programmes, and services. People in the Family Islands need to be centred in decision-making processes and must be able to access healthcare services and diagnostic testing such as mammograms on their islands of residence.
Independence, at 50 years, cannot just be a word. It cannot be three colours. It cannot be a flag. It cannot be a national anthem. It cannot be a continuation of the way things were when this country was run by people who did not even live here. Today, many Members of Parliament live in The Bahamas, but not among us. Many do not — and have never — even lived in the constituencies they represent. We need not give new names to old ways. The Road to 50 ought to be clear for us all. We should see elected and appointed officials doing the heavy lifting. Passing and implementing laws, creating policies, and developing programmes for the benefit of residents of The Bahamas, centering those in situations of vulnerability, needs to be the norm for decision-makers. Assessment of the material conditions of constituencies and residents needs to be a frequent occurrence quickly followed by effective intervention, from filling potholes to ensuring the elder person who was turned away from Social Services or the National Insurance Board is able to get the support they need. Pomp and pageantry is useless when people are starving, roofs are leaking, garbage is spilling over, medication is unavailable, domestic violence survivors are failed by law enforcement and courts, rape is referred to as “unlawful sex", and more money is spent on decorations and celebrations than the reforms, enhancements, programmes, and services we desperately need.