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close this book Daughters of Sysiphus
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Social infrastructure

In the low-income household survey. 75 per cent of the respondents indicated that they had no individual or institution to whom they would be able to turn for help if they found themselves in trouble. Those who were able to give a name, usually gave the name of their Member of Parliament or a private individual respected in the local community. One of the saddest findings of the survey was that less than 7 per cent of the respondents interviewed believed that they had ever had any assistance from government with respect to land, water or housing. To a large degree this lack of expectation of help from government was borne out by the in-depth interviews with female heads of household. The vast majority of them believed that they would have to solve their own problems because no-one else was interested in helping them.

The stories that the women told, however, referred again and again to support or "backative" that they had received from their female friends and relatives. In some cases, particularly Pearl's and Deula's, this support had come from male relatives.

Some of the women also placed a considerable value on being known and liked in their community. They were particularly concerned about feeling safe. Violence is a common feature of low-income areas in much of Kingston and, for many women, the avoidance of violence has become a way of life. Security, in this sense is therefore of great importance to them and plays a major part in determining their attitude to the community around them.


"I've never had any assistance from government. Nobody has ever assisted me. If I get a loan I would love to try setting up a shop but I've never tried to get anything from government. I don't even know who the Member of Parliament for the area is."


"I like where I live because you don't have a lot of worries like shooting, chopping up and fighting. No sir, I can't take the violence. This area is very good. Police down August Town (a nearby area) every night. They shoot, they kill. I would like to see the road fix and have a light further down. The road is dark. A lot of people live down this lane. The other night a neighbour came with a paper to sign to take the Member of Parliament to get light and I sign it. I hope it achieves something. "


Her mother is her main backative. She brings food from the country.

Megan feels the area is safer than areas she has lived in before because it has its own security system provided by the ranking.

"The people are loving and although we do not have enough to give each other in things such as food, we always try and help each other in events such as when the community needs cleaning up, and buying things in the stores in Town and running errands."


"I have two good friends. We know each other from school day, from primary school in the country and I'm telling you they never leave me nor forsake me. Most of the time when I'm down to nothing, don't even have two dollars. When I'm at work I can just call and say 'Bookie, I need something, things get low.' And she say, 'OK, how much you need?' And I say 'As much as possible, what you can afford.' And I'm telling you as she coming man, at least she giving me what she can afford, and clothes that she see and she pay a part of it. Good friend better than pocket money. Yes Sir."


She likes the community because she feels safe there.