The rum shop and the “pusherman’s block.”
These are often the only places where men in this country can go to vent their frustrations, said president of the Single Fathers’ Association Rhondall Feeles.
Speaking in the aftermath of the shooting death of primary school teacher Margaret Ragoobar-Guevarra, on Monday, Feeles said while he, too, mourned the woman’s gruesome demise, particularly after learning about her alleged abuse, attention also must be paid to the hurts and frustrations men experience in the society.
“The perspective you would always hear offered up when you are talking about scenarios like this most of the time is ‘violent man’ or there is violence or abuse in the relationship, when many of the times there are other perspectives that need to be offered up,” he told Sunday Newsday.
“What about depression, mental health, loss of income, shifts in domestic relationships, infidelity. There are a number of things that can cause strain and pressure over a period of time in a relationship.”
He added: “The only spaces men have are the bar and pusherman. They go and get a five-piece or a cigarette or go to the rum shop to sit down and talk. But really and truly, there is no positive place or alternative for not only a man to go into the community to find assistance.”
Feeles said if such spaces were provided within the community, many couples would be able to pinpoint issues they were experiencing in their relationships.
He argued that avenues for men to vent their feelings were often too expensive.
Using the economic downturn as an example, Feeles said: “People are losing their jobs and then you tell them to face a psychiatrist for $350 an hour to discuss their problems. It is impossible.”
Through a European Union-sponsored project, targeting gender equality and fatherhood, which began two years ago, Feeles said the association had embarked on an outreach exercise, which it hoped, would help address some of the problems men and women encountered in relationships.
He said some 30 men affiliated to the association had already been trained as outreach facilitators with a view to having them deployed in communities to assist families.
The participants, he said, were trained in rapport-building, conflict resolution, data collection, among other areas.
Feeles, who is a member of the project team, said he and others, met with representatives of the Ministry of Community Development’s Mediation Services Division on Monday to discuss how the exercise could be rolled out in communities.
He said he hoped community centres could be used to conduct the exercise.
He said: “We have begun to do something in our own minimal capacity because we realise we could not just sit down and wait for the Government to go ahead and put these outreach or domestic and conflict-resolution spaces in place.
“So, during our project, what we have decided to do with part of the funding we received, was to train some first responding officers as Single Father’s Association facilitators to help deal with these domestic issues, just to see if we could alleviate the scenario that continues to take place in communities.”
Feeles said the training component for the officers had already been completed and they were now waiting to be deployed.
“We have to get down into the community. That is the only way we can impact change. We could make a million policies. We could teach a million lessons about teaching boys to do this and that but a space has to be created for them.”
Ragoobar-Guevarra, 42, a mother of five, was shot dead early on Monday, at her Mandillon Street, Coalmine, home.
The suspect, said to be a close relative, subsequently turned the gun on himself in a botched suicide attempt.
He incurred serious facial disfigurement and remains warded in critical condition at the Sangre Grande District Hospital..
Ragoobar-Guevarra, who taught at Cunapo (St Francis) RC School, was laid to rest on Thursday at the Turure Public Cemetery after a funeral service at a Sangre Grande church.
Feeles told Sunday Newsday that men had been coming to the association requesting advice on how to address issues of personal turmoil.“Many of them would expect myself and the organisation to put forward a statement telling them men need help, which I agree with to a certain extent. But where do we send them? We have lamented these scenarios for years.”
He said the association had been urging prime ministers to invest in the mental state of not just men but families.
“As a businessman, I could understand the emotional and mental stresses that families will be facing now with having to find money to pay bills and other things. They are being put in a position they were not in before.”
Feeles claimed many of the programmes in ministries that target families had yielded little results because, in most cases, the programmes were not packaged in an attractive way and, as a result, men did not participate in them.
“So, there is really no space, from a programme level and more so, from a community level, which is where the practical part takes place.”