The Bahamas, though it is a Small Island Developing State that is heavily reliant on tourism, continues to be classified as a “high-income country” and this comes with consequences. It is becoming more widely understood that Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is not only an inadequate measurement, but misleading and harmful. It is common knowledge that at least 80% of the money generated by the tourism industry leaves the country, and quickly. This money, however, is included in the GDP of this tourism-dependent country that does not truly own the tourism industry. According to the Inter-American Development Country Strategy for The Bahamas 2024-2028, From 2015–2019, tourism accounted for an average of about 41 percent of GDP (when counting the sectors direct and indirect contributions), about 48 percent of total employment, and about 78 percent of total exports.” 

This is a country where the income per capita, in the area of $31,000 in 2022, is a dream to many and barely manageable for the people at that income level who have to take care of anyone other than themselves. These considerations should be at the beginning and at the foundation of any conversations about planning, development, and assessments at the national level. The Bahamas is not a “developed” country based on the standards set by development organizations, including development banks, and this clear when ownership and control of resources is taken into consideration along with the destination of money generated here, particularly by the tourism industry. 

The tourism industry is a precarious one, and we have been directly warned by unpredictable events and shocks that economic diversification is critical. The sudden halt in travel immediately following 9/11 and the prolonged effects should have prompted a response that went beyond speeches. The COVID-19 pandemic brought the industry to a standstill close to twenty years later. Most people were affected by this in a direct and noticeable way. Many who are not directly employed in the tourism industry depend on those who are to support their businesses and, in many cases, their households. Given the nature of tourism and the amount of frontline service work it demands, in combination with the concentration of women in service jobs, women were severely impacted. 

Gender inequality affects every sphere of life. The evidence of it is everywhere. It affects our access to education, job opportunities, ability to advance in the workplace, access to public space, safety, social engagement, and home life. Gender-based violence is both interpersonal and structural, and this maintains the connection between issues that one may assume are completely separate, such as unemployment and domestic violence. The ability to work and receive appropriate compensation affects the ability of a woman to, for example, seek medical care, secure a safe place to live, keep her children in school, and leave an abusive relationship and household. The specific impact of a global shock like the COVID-19 pandemic on women and girls includes household affairs—ability to physically leave the residence, ability to buy sufficient food and other necessities, access to mental health services, management of addiction, primary topics of conversation, and responses to frustration. Gender is a factor, among others, that determines both opportunities and outcomes. 

One of the cross-cutting themes noted in the Strategic Areas of the Country Strategy is gender and social inclusion. On the Global Gender Gap Index 2021, The Bahamas was ranked low in comparison to similar countries. It found that while women were 75% more likely to have completed education at the university level, they were twice as likely to be unemployed. When employed, women with university-level education received 68% of the income men received. An IDB survey revealed that, in 2020, more women lost their jobs than men. Contrary to popular belief, women were also less likely to hold managerial positions. The representation of women in frontline politics remains low at 18% (in Parliament). Gender inequality is a longstanding, systemic issue that requires a response that includes action to end gender-based violence.

In section 3.27 of the IDB Country Strategy, a Bahamas Women’s Health and Wellbeing Survey, administered under the Citizen Security and Justice Program, is referenced. The survey was the first on the national prevalence of gender-based violence, examining “lifetime and recent experiences of intimate and non-intimate partner violence and abuse.” Survey results indicate the one in every four women in The Bahamas has experienced physical or sexual violence in her lifetime. One in every five women experience physical violence in an intimate relationship and just less than one in every ten women in The Bahamas experienced sexual violence in an intimate relationship. One in three women in The Bahamas experiences psychological or emotional violence by an intimate partner, and almost one in ten women experienced economic violence. The Country Strategy states that IDB will work with the Government of The Bahamas to use this data in the development of policy. 

One of the issues that is raised by development agencies, (potential) funders, consultants, and civil society organizations is the lack of data. This is true for The Bahamas, and it is true for other countries in the Caribbean. The situation appears to be different for Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, and Barbados where there are University of the West Indies campuses. We have recently seen research being shared by departments and faculty at the University of The Bahamas, and it has been helpful for students, advocates, researchers, and policymakers to have access to the data and analysis. It is known that the government pays for research to be done, reports to be written, and policies to be drafted, and that this does not always mean we will ever see, much less benefit from, the product. This needs to change. Data collection is great; we can only use it if we have access to it. Analysis is great; we can only apply it if we have access to it. There is a waste of resources when people undertake work that has been done already with the failure of making it accessible. We need to have access to the Bahamas Women’s Health and Wellbeing Survey. The data shared in the Country Strategy is useful, and there is certainly more that we can delve into and put to good use. It starts with access.

Recommendations for National Poetry Month

  1. Participate in National Poetry Writing Month NaPoWriMo in April. This annual event is a spinoff from National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) which is every November. For NaNoWriMo, participants try to write 50,000 words in 30 days, or 1,667 words per day. In NaPoWriMo, the goal is to write one poem every day for 30 days. Poets need their month of intentional daily writing too. 
  2. Read Poetry is Not a Luxury by Audre Lorde, Black lesbian feminist, socialist, mother, warrior, and poet. In it, she said, “For women, then, poetry is not a luxury. It is a vital necessity of our existence. It forms the quality of the light within which we predicate our hopes and dreams toward survival and change, first made into language, then into idea, then into more tangible action.”
  3. Seek out the work of Bahamian poets. Buy Bougainvillea Ringplay by Marion Bethel. Pick up a beautiful handmade book by Sonia Farmer. Check out the open mic nights where people share their work. Challenge yourself to become a Bahamian poet if you do not see yourself as one already. 
  4. Attend the NaPoWriMo Kick-Off. Poinciana Paper Press is hosting a session of generative writing prompts and community building, in-person at 12 Parkgate Road on Saturday, March 30 from 10am to 1pm. Participants will come up with prompts for the month of April, get to know each other, and be invited to join the WhatsApp group where prompts will be shared and daily poems are welcome. Sometimes prompts are one word, sometimes they are phrases. We may even see prompts that do not include worlds. One of the prompts in 2023 was the (wo)man at the bottom of Nassau harbor.” Coffee and tea will be available, and participants are welcome to bring snacks and treats to share. Whether you have never written poetry or have several books of poetry, NaPoWriMo is a great time to create new work with the support of other writers.
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