chapter  10
46 Pages

Ring Ding in a Tight Corner: Sistren, Collective Democracy, and the Organization of Cultural Production

Feminist organizations, certainly in the Caribbean, often seem disturbingly weak. Since the 1970s we have formed groups, raised consciousness, conducted research, given guidelines for national policy, and developed imaginative methodologies for education and organization. Yet, so far, we have not been able to fundamentally affect women's power in the society on as many levels as we would need to if the power relations between the genders were to be significantly challenged. In spite of the existence of a new organized Jamaican women's movement, recent studies show that women's material conditions are getting worse, not better. Not only has the daily scuffle for survival become tougher, but the prevalence of violence in daily life has strengthened women's reliance on male "backative." In the context of the reorganization of international capital and the division of labor and production worldwide, countries like Jamaica have been crippled by a staggering economic decline. The main institutional actor in this process has been the international Monetary Fund. ln exchange for loans to governments in foreign currency, the Fund insists on the complete opening of the economy, the whittling away of the nation-state as we know it, and the divestment of state responsibilities into the hands of private enterprise. ln Jamaica, the effect has been horrific. The standard of living of the majority of people in the country is way below what it was in the mid-1970s (Levitt 1990). Apart from astronomical inflation, the country has sustained huge cuts in the provisions for social services and education. The brunt of the burden of these policies is borne by women, who have to take up the slack created by these cuts. It is

214 I Honor Ford-Smith

women who, through their labor, replace the services that were once the responsibilities of hospitals, schools, and community centers.