This Woman Can Be Great

By Dr Selwyn R. Cudjoe
January 15, 2018

Dr. Selwyn R. CudjoeAs quiet as it is kept, women have always shaped our social and cultural identity. They have been the doers, recipients of the most brutal treatment at the hands of their oppressors and their mates, and a spur towards our liberation and development over the last two hundred years. Unfortunately, they do not always get the credit they deserve in our man-centered world.

Many theorists have spoken about the double bind in which women found themselves during slavery and indentureship. Claudius Fergus has argued, “Women were subjected to rape not only to satisfy the wanton lust of sailors but also as a ritual for ‘braking them in'” (Revolutionary Emancipation).

Judith Ann Weller noted that the shortage of East Indian women was often the cause of rape and excessive violence at the hands of their men. “In situations reminiscent of slavery, a managers’ son would desire sexual intercourse with the wife of an Indian immigrant, and if the request was denied, her husband would be sent away from the estate” (East Indian Indenture in Trinidad).

I make these observations, not only to emphasize the cruel treatment that our women have undergone, but to underscore the hope that the selection of Paula Mae Weekes as the president-designate can act as a soothing balm on a nation that is haunted by the specter of the killing of women and the self-annihilation of so many black men.

In Trinidad and Tobago there are no congressional hearings at which a person selected for high office can be subjected to questioning nor, for that matter, do we have a writing trail which tells us how this president-designate feels about matters of abortion, same sex marriages, the wanton annihilation of black men by one another, or the callous destruction and violence perpetuated on women.

As in so many other things, particularly in political appointments, one never knows how someone will perform a priori. Unlike her predecessor, we hope she can use the powers she has, symbolic and otherwise, to lighten the darkness over our land. The Lord in his heavens knows that we need divine light to shows us the way.

Women have always been in the forefront in the struggle for justice in our country, pleading with their mates to confront their oppressors and to assume their responsibilities. History has placed Ms. Weekes in a position in which she can help to shape our nation’s social conscience. While we do not know how she will face the challenges that she will encounter, we can suggest some approaches to their solution.

No leader can take us anywhere unless she confronts the wanton destruction of our women and young men. Ms. Weekes must combine the ceremonial aspect of her job with public advocacy to attack this burning policy matter. She should aspire to be the savant of the nation. Her irenic composure should help her to achieve this goal.

In any nation, there is human capital (the size and skill of a workforce) and natural capital (oil and coal, farm lands and ecosystems). Partha Dasgupta, emeritus professor of economics at Cambridge University, explains: “With any entity—a family, a company or a nation—wealth is ‘what enables you to plan, by converting one form of capital into another'” (Financial Times, January 6).

Weekes must find a way to influence the nation’s leaders to preserve our human capital, the lifeblood of our future development; and influence how men respect women and how women respect themselves. While the misogyny of men has its place in the violence perpetuated against women, women also have to play their part and this is where Ms. Weekes unique influence comes in.

Our societal problems have little to do with money. They stem primarily from an absence of values: an inability to value life, the devaluing of the aesthetic sensibility, the incapacity to understand and appreciate what freedom means, a lack of reverence of our being-in-the-world, and the elevation of material things over our spiritual essence.

The solution to our problems also has to do with the development of a heightened consciousness, something Frederick Engels had in mind when he defined freedom “as the recognition of necessity” (Anti-Duhring). He meant that once you become conscious of why you act in a particular way, you realize that you are doing so out of your own free will, hence the importance of self-responsibility.

Caring for one another should become one of the nation’s watchwords. Ms. Weekes must be the embodiment of this value.

When Liberian Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Africa’s first woman president, came to office, she had to restore hope to a country that was devastated by twenty years of civil war. In her memoir, This Child Will Be Great, she described her country as being “a wonderful, beautiful, mixed-up country struggling to find itself.”

T&T may be in the same topsy-turvy state in which Sirleaf found her country when she began her presidency. However, the courage she showed in conducting her nation’s business redounded to the ultimate benefit of her people. Her achievements should serve to inspire Weekes, the first president of our republic.

It might be useful for Ms. Weekes to read Sirleaf’s autobiography before she assumes her office.

6 Responses to “This Woman Can Be Great”


  • This writer has obviously gone to the dogs. He fail to realize the Presidency is a ceremonial position following the Westminster system of governance. The Queen’s role has been replaced by the Presidency, an office that is high paying with staff and legal team, cooks and security apparatus costing tax payers an undisclosed sum of money.

    The office carries some weight. Panday had a 55 days standoff with Robbie when he bought people in via the senate. Panday vision was a 50/50 cabinet. To achieve that he had to find people who were qualified to fit those position. Then there was the moral and spiritual values decision that resulted in a record breaking 550 murders. A record that could be broken this year.

    So we salute the lady who will create history as the first woman to occupy this honorable position and wish her well.

  • While the post of the presidency of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago may not offer the president elect to execute change, she might be able to foster and encourage good attitudes that are lacking in our country. When the out-going President Carmona gave his first speech upon accepting the presidency, he raised a lot of hope in the population, especially when he mentioned in his maiden speech the words “the power I have ………”. For years after that many people looked to him for moral leadership but that was not forth coming. People need inspiration. People are looking for moral leadership in order to make productive and sensible contributions, but when those that we look up to fail, there is a tendency to feel betrayed. This is where Carmona went wrong. His appointments were mediocre, his behavior, especially regarding his household allowance created some misgivings on his part to be truthful and honest. His re-appointment of the head of the Integrity Commission was disappointing and so, his leadership was empty. It is hoped that with the elevation of our first woman president, she would encourage morality and an internal search of conscience in our now demoralized citizens.

  • It is time the citizens of Trinidad and Tobago ask the question- What benefit are we getting from appointing a figurehead at a very astronomical cost. Frequent travel, 24/7 security, wine cellars, an array of support staff, additional housing allowance (despite the provision of a home for him and his staff etc.), transport costs etc. This position is a colonial relic which should be terminated for the benefit of the citizens of TT. We are a Republic therefore we should have an elected president to govern the nation. This duplication of costs, administrative functions etc. with the position of Prime Minister and President should be discussed with the citizens of TT. I agree with former minister Stephen Cadiz when he question the appointed of a President. Why are we hanging on to a Colonial relic which does not serve the people of TT.

  • I love my Women to death, but this is the beyond emotional. We continue to be saddled with women of international standing walking on the wrong side of our progress. I personally, would not like Ms Weekes to be a house slave in the mold of Ms Sirleaf of Liberia. Put into office by her former colonial master the USA, Ms Sirleaf, having administated over the poorest Nation in Africa, we all know who she answered to. Other women of post colonial status, e.g.Fatou Bensula of the ICC, Commonwealth Sec, Dominica born Scotland, Euginia Charles also of Dominica, Guyana born, Black face of England and UN politics Valerie Amos,Condoliza Rice, Susan Rice, Donna Brazille, S Dixon of Baltimore, KAMLA and many others, too great to mention. Historically, Black Women who have climb the ladder of National and International status, continue to serve and act like the Men they love to Hate, their end is always one of Dementia. I am all for elevating the women, but the pedigree of a Yaa Ashanewaa, Asinga, Indira and Mathai must be the bench mark, anything else? we jamming still.my humble opinion, is that a multi-ethnic/religion state should have a non-secular individual placed into that position, one with an impartial view point, not seeking to impose dogmatic values. The women of Trinidad, needs an authoritarian figure to call them out on their diminished values, both domestic and National, you see, a Nation is judged by the values her Women exhibits, being the true builders from the Womb to adulthood, the woman have dropped the baton in the relay of life and nurture, Men also have to take some stick in this discourse, now, Ms Weekes must be willing to speak with authority, not in a COURT ROOM sense, but MORALLY. A black Woman, is the only one that can look you straight up in your face, and say it as it is, forcing you to listen, does Ms WEEKES have it in her? we hope to see and hear.

    • Very well put. I do agree with your sentiments. But, Lets not rush to judgement. Lets wait and see/hear, if this Lady have the {cohonos} we all expect. Everyone know’s T&T Need a difference. But, lets NOT forget, the Public is complicit, in Success, or Failure.

  • When individuals, men or women get into these high positions they are consumed with the trappings of the office and the high income. The status gets to their sense of compassion and judgement. Lets hope this individual do fall to this temptation and treat our people with contempt. We the people need to know from Ms Weeks what are her views and convictions on these social aspect of this country. Sitting in the big house, signing laws, attending pomp parties etc will should not be the function of the President. We see this with several top positions of the country. (I will travel and no dog bark). At this time we have chaos in the administration of justice in the country. Young Afro Trinidadians are being setup by police and let to rot in remand before their cases are called for justice. Who is in charge of this system? The past president was a member of the International Court which have have prosecuted about five world leaders four of which are African leaders. It is being said that the court was set up to deal with African leaders only. Who was an active party to this one sided justice?. Look at the outgoing president. Why must the President be a person with legal training rather than someone who is concerned with the life of their human being. Do we need more legal advice and opinion? Look at all the legal minds of the country. Legal minds are not always compassionate or see thinks in a human way. The law is the law in their minds.

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