Amid a controversy over a decision by the authorities here to halt spanking in schools by May next year, Education Minister, Doctor Gale Rigobert, has asserted that people are asking the wrong question.
Rigobert, who is also responsible for Gender Relations, made the comments during a thanksgiving mass Friday to mark International Women’s Day.
The event was held at Minor Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in Castries.
The minister observed that in the last few weeks, the Ministry’s intention to mandate the use of positive behavior support has become a topical issue on social media and in the news.
“One of the reasons this decision is causing so many people to feel uncomfortable is because they are asking the wrong question. They are asking, “how are we going to punish the children?” They are trying to take the broken pieces of a punitive system and put them back together to make a similar thing – they are insisting on seeing discipline as punishment and punishment in one particular way,” Rigobert declared.
“To them if we take away a certain form of punishment then it must be replaced with another form of punishment. How about taking the broken pieces and making something different out of it – mandating the use of positive behavior support in our learning institutions is forcing everyone to view discipline as developmental – something that is taught with support, as it should be,” she said.
Rigobert questioned whether gender equality is being approached with that same kind of mindset.
“Are we asking ourselves the wrong questions? Do we see our task as advocates, looking for space for women next to men? Are we trying as Government to create a space for women where men “rightfully” are? If we continue to look at gender equality in this manner we will be making the same error as those looking for another way of punishing children.,” she explained.
“We will be thinking of maintaining the same framework, but changing the actors. How about innovating for gender equality? How about a change that is not a replacement of an object or person? How about creating an enabling environment for systemic change? Have shame and fear kept us from creating this enabling environment?” She asked.
The minister noted that sometimes taking the leap of faith into the unknown, the unseen, the never done, can be frightening.
“ What will become of what we have always known? How will it be? We don’t know. What we do know is that we are not going to get where we say we want to get, by continuing in the same direction we have been moving, or in the same fashion.”
Rigobert asserted that this year’s International Women’s Day theme, in the context of Saint Lucia’s 40th Anniversary of Independence, is beckoning citizens to come together, reflect on their journey, aspire to a bright future and be bold to step out of the barriers and boxes and contexts they have created for themselves and bar them from realising the very goals they set for themselves.
She stressed the need to innovate for change.
“ Let us employ the values of inclusiveness and pride in a shared journey, to create a future where women, men, girls and boys – equally – can contribute to our development,” Rigobert urged.