Minutes of the Launching of The Caribbean Association for Feminist Research and Action (CAFRA)

This was held on Monday 1st April, 1985 at the Caribbee Beach Hotel, Barbados

Monday 1 April 1996

Peggy AntrobusWomen & Development Unit (WAND)Barbados
Rawwida Baksh-SoodeenWorking Women for Social ProgressTrinidad & Tobago
Maralyn BallantyneUniversity Centre; The Vincentian NewspaperSt. Vincent
Hazel BrownHousewivesÕ Assoc. of T&T (HATT)Trinidad & Tobago
Patricia BurkeBarbados
Yvonne Byron-CoxNational Council of WomenSt. Vincent
Lorraine ChanWWSP; Starr Productions LtdTrinidad & Tobago
Indra ChandarpalWomenÕs Progressive OrganisationGuyana
Indra ChandarpalWomenÕs Progressive OrganisationGuyana
Sonia CualesUN/ECLACCuracao
Kathleen DraytonWomen & Development Studies Group UWI, CavehillBarbados
Ramabai EspinetWWSP; WomenÕs Studies Group, UWI St. AugustineTrinidad & Tobago
Elaine FidoWomenÕs Studies Group, UWI, Cavehill Stage One Campus TheatreBarbados
Honor Forde-SmithSISTRENJamaica
Bernice FraserGuyana
Joan FrenchSISTRENJamaica
Margaret GillUN/ILOBarbados
Scarlette GillingsUNDPJamaica
Diane HaylockBelize Committee for Women & Development (BOWAND)Belize
Merle HodgeWWSP; WomenÕs Studies Group, UWI St. AugustineTrinidad & Tobago
Wendy IfillWWSP; Starr Productions LtdTrinidad & Tobago
Adiola JamesUniversity of GuyanaGuyana
Daphne KellyCommittee for WomenÕs Progress (CWP)Jamaica
NammŽ RoopnarineStarr Productions LtdTrinidad & Tobago
Mc SweeneyStarr Productions LtdTrinidad & Tobago
Liliane MarchalComitŽ Permanent de Soutient aux Femmes AgressŽesMartinique
Marina MaxwellOMNA Media Caribbean Ltd; Women Winters of the Americas (Conference)Trinidad & Tobago
Patricia MohammedOMNA Media Caribbean Ltd; WomenTrinidad & Tobago
Patricia MohammedWWSP; The Group ISER, UWI
St. Augustine
Trinidad & Tobago
Dawn MorganThe Nation NewspaperBarbados
Marja NaarendorpNational WomenÕs MovementSuriname
Sybil PattersonUniversity of GuyanaGuyana
Nan PeacockeWAND, BarbadosSt. Vincent
Daphne PhillipsPeopleÕs Popular MovementTrinidad & Tobago
Stephanie PileThe GroupTrinidad & Tobago
Rhoda ReddockWWSP; WomenÕs Studies Group, UWI St. Augistine, ISER, UWI, St. AugustineTrinidad & Tobago
Nelcia RobinsonNational Council of WomenSt. Vincent
Patricia RodneyWAND, BarbadosGuyana
Norma Shorey-BryanWANDBarbados
Marjorie ThorpeWWSP; WomenÕs Studies Group, UWI,
St. Augustine
Trinidad & Tobago
Faustina Ward-OsborneWomenÕs Affairs Bureau; WomenÕs Revolutionary Socialist MovementGuyana
Judy WhiteCaribbean Conference of Churches (CCC)Trinidad & Tobago
V. Ioltrie WyreExtra-Mural Department, UWIAntigua

Countries Represented :

Antigua, Barbados, Belize, Curacao, Guyana, Jamaica, Martinique, St. Vincent, Suriname, Trinidad & Tobago


A.M. Session

  • 8:00 – 9:00 Registration
  • 9:00 – 9:10 Opening Remarks
  • 9:10 – 9:20 Chairperson’s Remarks
  • 9:20 – 10:00

(a) Arguing the need for CAFRA;
(b) Presentation of “A Call to Action”;
(c) Justification of Research/Action

Orientation of CAFRA;
(d) Definition of ‘Feminism’;
(e) Presentation of revised aims & objectives of CAFRA.

  • 10:00 – 10:45 Plenary to discuss the above.


  • 11:00 – 12:00 Discussion of research areas based on the needs of individual countries/the region.


P.M. Session

  • 2:00 – 3:00 Presentation and discussion of proposed structure of the Association:-

(a) Choosing a Coordinator and Secretariat/Location of these.
(b) Steering Committee of CAFRA. Who will comprise it?
(c) Choosing National Representatives.
(d) Legalising of the Association.
(e) Channels of Communication
(f) Deciding on Committees; Defining their work areas broadly; Volunteers for each.

  • 3:00 – 3:15 Discussion of membership fees.
  • 3:15 – 3:30 Official establishment of the Association:-

(a) Poems read
(b) Hands held high in circle

  • 3:30 – 4:00 Discussion of immediate follow-up procedures to activate CAFRA
  • 4:00 Closing of meeting.


A.M. Session:

  • Chairperson – Sonia Cuales
  • Minute Taker – Honor Forde-Smith
  • Vidoetapists – Starr Producton Ltd.
  • Audio-tapists – Patricia Mohammed/Stephanie Pile
  1. Opening Remarks (Rawwida Baksh-Soodeen)

(i) Outlined history of CAFRA arising out of a 1980 meeting in Puerto Rico at the IDS/CEREP seminar on Women in Social Production

(ii) Named CAFRA’s original coordinating team:

      • Sonia Cuales
      • Cynthia Ellis-Higinio
      • Honor Forde-Smith
      • Joan French
      • Rhoda Reddock

To which were subsequently added,

      • Peggy Antrobus
      • Rawwida Baksh-Soodeen
      • Kathleen Drayton
      • Patricia Mohammed

(iii) Outlined tasks accomplished by this coordinating team:-

(a) Prepared documents ‘A Call to Action’ and ‘The Report of a Planning Meeting, August 1984’

(b) Organised this meeting: invited interested feminists (individuals and groups) from both the English and non- English speaking Caribbean to participate in this launching and to join the Association.

(c) Worked out the proposed structure of the Associaion.


(a) Clarified agenda items.

(b) Outlined how the BDS$6.00 registration fee is being used (morning tea break and registration folders).

(v) Introduced Chairperson, Sonia Cuales

  1. Chairperson’s Remarks (Sonia Cuales)

(i) Welcomed participants

(ii) Thanked participants for staying on an extra day after WAND’s ‘Caribbean Celebration’ (March 29-31)

(iii) Thanked Peggy Antrobus for facilitating this meeting

(iv) Noted the regrettable absence of women from the non-English speaking islands because of cost. Reported that many asked to join nonetheless and expressed their support.

(v) Asked participants to identify themselves, giving name, country and organizational affiliation (if any).


    • (a) Arguing the need for CAFRA;
    • (b) Presentation of “A Call of Action”;
    • (c) Justification of the Research/Action Orientation of CAFRA;
    • (d) Definition of ‘Feminism’
    • (e) Presentation of revised Aims & Objectives of CAFRA (Rhoda Reddock)

(a) Arguing the need for CAFRA

(i) Found a feminist perspective absent from Caribbean organisations in which we work on women’s issues at different levels.

(ii) In many national political organisations we had to defend our right to be feminists.

(iii) In many of our working or other organisations, women’s organisations included, we were constantly forced to defend our right to have a concern for the oppressed people in our society, i.e. a socialist or anti-imperialist position.

(iv) Tired of having to explain to some why we feminists and to others why we took such a political decision, that we decided it necessary to have such an organization as this which would :

      • coordinate the activities of those of us who had similar feelings/experiences;
      • create a supportive environment for feminists Caribbean-wide; and
      • concretely facilitate the work which needs to be done but which remains undone due to structural limitations of the existing organisations.

(v) Obviously from the response to today’s meeting many other feminists region-wide feel a similar need.

(b)”A Call to Action

This paper, written in 1981 :-

(i) Sought to place the present international women’s movement within the present historical situation, i.e. with the emergence of the second wave of feminism of the 1960’s –1970’s;

(ii) Tried to show how this movement developed in Western Europe and North America, and the problems which existed within the movement;

(iii) Tried to show how feminism influenced the United Nations System, how the Women & Development approach came to be used throughout the world by the U.N., and the achievements and weaknesses of this approach;

(iv) Tried to prove that it is through a combination of feminist approaches, but in their application to the problems of women in Third World countries, that a new approach to feminism, relevant to our struggles for total human emancipation, could emerge;

(v) Also attempted to show that within all of this, it is necessary to place the present women’s/feminist movement within the context of Caribbean history, and especially Caribbean women’s history (Caribbean herstory)

Fortunately as a result of the development of the women’s movement in the Caribbean the beginnings have been made towards understanding the history of women in the Caribbean. We were able to trace the struggles of individual women throughout history for their own interests as women and on behalf of their national or racial groups in the face of oppression or colonial exploitation.

It is within this context that we felt we should continue the struggle of our foremothers for a more humane society within the Caribbean. We feel that we have to make the point that any kind of human emancipation within the region has to be one that takes with it the feminist concerns that have always emerged whenever movements for social liberation have emerged within history. We feel that in order for us to make this point within the total struggles that are taking place, that an organistion operating at a regional level had to be formed which could concretize and put together such information for the entire region.

(c) Justification for the Research/Action Orientation of the Association :

(i) Research and Action were felt to be interrelated.

(ii) We felt the need for a new methodological approach towards feminist research, one that shows that research itself is never for its own sake, but that it should be used as part of the process of human liberation.

(iii) We felt that research itself is a form of action, and that all action is a form of change.

(iv) We felt the need to develop a new methodology for research on women which would guide all our activity.

(d) Definition of ‘feminism’

(i) Feminists are those who recognize the exploitation and oppression of women and its relationship to other forms of exploitation and oppression in the society, AND work actively to change it.

(ii) Hence feminism is not simply a matter of consciousness, but also of translating this into ACTIVE participation with others to change the situation.

(e) Presentation of the revised aims & objectives of CAFRA, taken from the August 1984 “Report of a Planning Meeting”

(i) Since the final revised form of these aims & objectives will be presented in Section 4(b) of the minutes (below), the revised aims & objectives as stated in the 1984 Report of a Planning Meeting will not be presented here.


  1. Discussion of the Presentations Made:

This took two forms, as follows:

(a) A plenary discussion of the general arguments/concepts presented, and
(b) A discussion in work groups of the revised aims & objectives of CAFRA

(a) Summary of the general discussion:

(i) The tremendous struggle of consciousness it is to begin identifying oneself as a feminist. There is a definite need to use the word to label ourselves. The definition of ‘feminism’ as stated by CAFRA will give other women, unsure of their identify as feminists, strength to call themselves by this name.

(ii) The concept of feminism has many problems; many negative connotations have become attached to it over the years. We need to apply ourselves to a thorough study of feminism. Only with the understanding which will emerge from this will we be able to defend our position.

(iii) Men must not see us as isolating ourselves from them. Our definition of feminism must not only imply that our men oppress us. While this is true, our definition must encompass the total oppression of women from a perspective of race, class and sex-gender politics.

(iv) There is a definite need to co-ordinate with other women in the region who recognize the subordination of women and have a commitment to do something about it.

(v) There is a definite need to link research with action.

(vi) There is a need to increase the visibility of women’s hidden contribution and potential, and for women to recognize their identity as Caribbean persons and their strengths.

(vii) It is important to use the media to inform Caribbean women about the concept of feminism; to shatter the myths, negative connotations that have built up around it. Further the media should be used to inform the general population of CAFRA’s activities, its research findings, etc. It is important for feminists already working in the media to join CAFRA.

(b) The final form of Aims & Objectives of CAFRA is as follows:

General Aims:

To: 1(i) develop an approach to women’s problems from the perspectives of race, class and sex, specifically to showhow the exploitative relationship between men and women facilitates the continuation, maintenance and reproduction of exploitative capitalist relations, and how the capitalistsystem benefits from this situation.

(ii) develop an approach to the analysis of relations between men and women in non-capitalist and socialist societies.

2 Develop the feminist movement in the entire Caribbean region.

3 Promote the interrelationship between research and action.

General Objectives:

To: 1. Develop research priorities based on the needs of the women’s movement in the region.

  1. Provide a supportive atmosphere for individual feminists.
  2. Bring a feminist perspective to bear on the work of existing progressive organisations and shatter the myth that “feminism divides the struggle
  3. Provide a focal point for bringing together feminist orgainsations in the entire region.
  4. Foster greater communication and collaboration on events and issues relevant to the feminist movement.
  5. Develop a base of documentation on the women’s movement in the Caribbean and issues relevant to it.
  6. Develop access to available sources of documentation which could be put at the service of women’s organisations and struggles in the region.
  7. Promote the continuous analysis of language in order to identify and correct the sexist assumptions embedded in its structure which are detrimental to women’s expression and development at every level.



P.M. Session

    • Charipersons : Sonia Cuales/Joan French
    • Minute Taker : Rawwida Baksh-Soodeen
    • Videotapists : Starr Productions Ltd.
    • Audiotapists : Patricia Mohammed/Stephanie Pile

5.5. Priority areas for research finalised after discussion:

(ii) The Caribbean Basin in Initiative.

(iii) Population Control Policies in the Caribbean

(iv) Peace in the Caribbean

(v) History of women’s labour and struggle in the region

(vi) Women’s cultural expression as a instrument for the building of power

(vii) Sexual Violence

(viii) Women and trade

(ix) Social and Economic conditions of women

(x) Voting patterns of women

(xi) Caribbean family forms: history, present trends and future directions

(xii) Women in Caribbean Literature

(xiii) A directory of feminists and female professionals in the Caribbean region

(xiv) Examination of existing feminist theory as developed in Europe and the USA, and its application to the Caribbean situation

(xv) Education and gender relations

The concern was expressed that CAFRA should NOT allow language barriers to limit the regional character of our research and action.

  1. The finalised structure of the Association after presentation (Joan French) and plenary discussion


    • (i) The Coordinator appointed is Rawwida Baksh-Soodeen
    • (ii) The Secretariat will comprise the following:- The Coordinator, Sonia Cuales, Merle Hodge, Stephanie Pile, Patricia Mohammed and Rhoda Reddock.
    • (iii) The location of the Coordinator and Secretariat is in Trinidad.

(b) The original Coordinating Team is hereby disbanded. The new Steering Committee will comprise the following:

The Coordinator, Secretariat and National Representatives.

(c) National Representatives appointed at the meeting:-

(c) National Representatives appointed at the meeting:-




Kathleen Drayton


Diane Haylock


Maryke Schweitz


Indra Chandarpal


Scarlette Gillings


Nelcia Robinson


Marja Naarendorp


Merle Hodge

Antigua and Martinique to be decided



(d) Legalising CAFRA:

To be effected by the Secretariat

(e) Channels of communication:-

    • (i) If funding is available
      • an annual meeting is proposed for the Steering Committee, and
      • a bi-annual meeting is proposed for the general membership of the Association.
    • (iii) A Newsletter will be published. The first issue is to be prepared by Joan French (Jamaica) and printed by Hazel Brown (Trinidad). The target date for circulation is September, 1985.

(f) Committees established:

  • 1. Finance and funding:
    • Activities:
      • (i) Identification of sources of funding
      • (ii) Identification of sources of funding
      • (iii) Distribution of proposals.
    • Members:

*Scarlette Gillings, Sonia Cuales, Honor Forde-Smith, Margaret Gill.

  • 2. Documentation:
    • Activities:
      • (i) Compilation of documents
      • (ii) Information retrieval
    • Members: *Margaret Gill, Liliane Marchal, Nelcia Robinson
  • 3. Research:
    • Activities:
      • (i) Sifting possible research alternatives
      • (ii) Identifying priority areas
    • Members: *Patricia Mohammed, Stephanie Pile, National Representatives
  • 4. Action/Internal Education:
    • Activities:
      • (i) Use of research information
      • (ii) To set up internal education programme for membership of CAFRA
    • Members: *Diane Haylock, Cynthia Ellis-Higinio, Rhoda Reddock
  • 5. Public Information:
    • Activities:
      • (i) Preparation of press releases for regional, international media.
    • Members: *Wendy Ifill, Indra Chandarpal, Merle Hodge, Judy White
      • (i) The activities listed above for each committee have to be elaborated upon by each committee. Final work plans should be submitted to the Coordinator as soon as possible.
      • (ii) The members attached to each committee volunteered to do so at the meeting. Feminists who did not attend the meeting, but would like to work on any of these committees should inform the coordinator as soon as possible.
  • 6. Membership Fees:
      • (i) The following membership fees were established for each calendar year:

Induviduals – US$ 10.00

Organisations – US$ 15.00

      • (ii) These are payable as follows:

 to the Coordinator at the meeting, OR

 to be mailed to the Coordinator as soon as possible (either in the form of cash or money order).

  1. Report on the official launching of CAFRA:
    • a. Poems were read by Liliane Marchal and Margaret Gill.
    • b. Hands were held high in a circle formation to the official establishment of CAFRA.
  1. Decisions on immediate follow-up proceedings to activate CAFRA:
      • (i) The Secretariat must begin meeting immediately to implement basic organizational decisions.
      • (ii) Committee heads must set up their own internal communications between members to initially finalise work plans, and subsequently begin working on their defined areas, through conferment with the coordinator. The Finance & Funding Committee should work immediately.
      • (iii) The coordinator must send an immediate letter to the general membership of CAFRA, informing them of the launching and the most important decisions made.
      • (iv) This should be followed up by a comprehensive report of the entire April 1, 1985, meeting.
  1. The meeting ended.