2008 Interview with Dr. Jerome Teelucksingh
by Jason Thompson:
Jason Thompson: As far as I know, Trinidad and Tobago were the first to celebrate a continuous IMD, is that right?
Dr. Teelucksingh: Yes, it was first celebrated on 19 November 1999 in Port-of-Spain, the capital of Trinidad and Tobago. I realized that there was an International Women’s Day but no day for men. Some have said that there is Father’s Day, but what about young boys, teenagers and men who are not fathers.
Jason Thompson: Whose suggestion was it to celebrate IMD on 19th November?
Dr. Teelucksingh: Actually it was mine. I chose that day for a few reasons- it is my dad’s birthday. I felt the need to honour him. He has provided me with important lessons of life and has always been supportive of my efforts. I hoped that other dads would see him as a role model for fatherhood and parenthood. Secondly, it was the day in which the football team in my country created a level of unity which crossed gender, religious and ethnic divisions.
Jason Thompson: Has UNESCO or anyone in the U.N. pledged support or given real assistance toward the celebration of IMD? If yes, what support did they offer?
Dr. Teelucksingh: In 1999 I contacted Ingeborg Breines who was working at UNESCO in Paris, France. She supported the idea. Breines is now retired and living in Norway. I have not received any real or financial assistance from UNESCO. I was hoping that sometime during the past 10 years, UNESCO would have placed this day on their calendar. Due to a lack of funding, it has been an expensive financial burden for me to host observances. I had to use personal expenses to have local observances in Trinidad and Tobago, and also post and fax letters. A few times I actually thought about scrapping the idea and discontinuing the observances but other groups have been giving positive feedback.
Jason Thompson: I understand that there has been a different theme suggested for each IMD celebration, such as Health or Peace. Have any other themes been highlighted over the years?
Dr. Teelucksingh: Yes, past themes dealt with health and peace. The local theme for 2008 was ”Sexually Transmitted Diseases: Is Enough Being Done For Prevention and Treatment?”.
Jason Thompson: Do you know of any other countries (or organizations within counties) who celebrate IMD apart from Trinidad and Tobago, Australia, and India?
Dr. Teelucksingh: Yes, there are groups in Jamaica, Barbados and Haiti in the Caribbean . They usually contact me via my website----www.geocities.com/jtluxing/intmensday.html. On this website there are two songs- A Vision for Peace and Equality, and- Onward Men of the World. Some of the groups have been using this as an anthem during their observances.
The following Trinidad Guardian arcticle, published 18th November 1999, is the first media record of the Caribbean International Men's Day initiative:
Below Top- Jerome Teelucksingh at the Families In Action headquarters for the first IMD (November 1999).
IMD - 2000
Various newspaper articles from Tinidad and Tobago prior to IMD 2000
CBTT co-hosts 2nd International Men’s Day
On November 19, 2000, Citizens For A Better Trinidad and Tobago (CBTT) in collaboration with the Association for the Reorientation and Transformation of Masculinity(ARTOM) co-hosted the 2nd International Men Day observance at Palm’s Club, San Fernando. The International Men’s Day originated in Trinidad and Tobago in 1999 and has already spread to other countries.
Presentations were made by Wayne Riley, co-ordinator of the Male Support Programme at the Ministry of Culture and Gender Affairs; Harrack Balramsingh, president of CBTT; Dr. Rhoda Reddock, head of the Centre for Gender and Development at the University of the West Indies; Dr. Rosabelle Seesaran, a former school principal; Jerome Teelucksingh, president of ARTOM; Chaitram Kapoor Rampersad, co-ordinator and counsellor of HEAL Rehabilitation Centre of Couva and Rev. Nelson Sammy, Head of the Living Word Christian Centre.
Hamish Seedan of the group Men Against Violence Against Women (MAVAW) and CBTT’s vocalist Cindy Balramsingh made their presentation in song.
The IMD is not intended to compete against the women day. Instead, the goal is to foster and promote better relations between men and women.
Double standards in public and private life are destroying Trinidad, said presenters at an International Men's Day observance in South last weekend.
The second observance of Men's Day by the Citizens for A Better Trinidad and Tobago in collaboration with The Association for the Reorientation and Transformation of Masculinity (ARTOM), was held at Palm's Club, San Fernando.
Sunday was International Men's Day. Chaitram Kapoor Rampersad, co-ordinator and counsellor of HEAL Drug Rehab Centre of Couva, knocked double standards. He said: "We are living in a society where there are people in the highest institutions in the country, such as UWI, saying that it's okay to smoke marijuana, and suggesting it be legalised.
"They are sending the messages when they say their families have smoked the marijuana and ate marijuana cookies, so it's okay for everyone else to do so."
"On television," he continued, "children are being told if they want to see football in Italy, they must drink stag, and we are also seeing most sporting advertisements where Carib is advertised to the youths of the nation.
"We have seen these double standards everywhere. We are lacking role models in society, in relation especially to deal with drug issue and alcoholism in society. He urged theCBTT and ARTOM to be encouraged despite the small crowd, noting that Alcoholics Anonymous had started with a small crowd too.
Harrack balramsingh, CBTT's president, advised parents to take "stock of themselves because children emulate them." Balramsingh said everything possible should be done to encourage men to be proper role models in their homes because a lack of exemplary behaviour by many men had contributed to a lot of today's violence, broken homes, and juvenile delinquency.
Although education was important, Balramsingh stressed, "we must not emphasise intellectualism and scholarship alone because an educated person who has little or no values and principles is a liability to a society."