Audrey Matura-Shepherd has had, to the say the least, an unforgettable year in 2013. After coming out with a strong personal conviction on homosexuality, the then Vice-President for OCEANA in Belize, received a great deal backlash from the LGBT community.
Agitators went as far as writing her CEO in Washington DC, requesting her termination, else, they would boycott the organization. Mrs. Matura-Shepherd eventually decided to step down as VP, noting:
“I had always told my boss that if there ever comes a day where I find that the rules of working at OCEANA, or any principle is compromised or can be uncompromised, or there can be a conflict of interest, I will know when to walk away, and I chose to walk away.”
Mrs. Matura added that the time came for her to move on to new opportunities and to fully pursue her foremost passion – a legal career, and Matura has done just that, building her portfolio, as legal representative on subject matters ranging from criminal, land, employment and the list goes on.
Most recently, she was voted President of the Christian Workers Union, which too has had its fair share of tribulations in 2013. From reports of misrepresentation at the Executive level to financial difficulties attributable to negligence and unprofessional conduct. Speaking with host of PlusTV’s Rise and Shine, yesterday, Matura-Shepherd expressed that not by a long shot, did she envision herself taking leadership of the CWU.
“It wasn’t even on my radar, so much so that when they even suggested it, I went, haw; My outrageous laughed like haw, haw!. Not even in my wildest dreams I would think that I would join a union, much less, lead a union. So, I was approached, maybe in about August of last year? It was like kind of mention to me; They said, Audrey, we dih look fuh names fuh candidtates fuh put in fuh presidency…and dehn times I no know the problem the union dih have, because e no hit the news yet…and I tellah, “but yuou hff to be a member for the union fuh become…” They said, no, we prefer the post fuh be from a person who is not from within the union. I said, “man, big joke!” She said, “no, write me an email”, and I write my email address and that was it. I forget all about that. It is not even in my mind. I am leaving OCEANA and I am going into private practice. But that is my plan; man proposes, but God disposes”.
Albeit her reservations, Matura-Shepherd continued to follow the ordeals of the CWU, but remained unwavering on her position.
Mrs. Audrey Matura-Shepherd: “Then I saw the news with the stevedores making very good points and I must congratulate them because I believe if they had not done what they did, we would not be where we are”.
Mr. Louis Wade: “Everybody was just sleeping at the wheel…ten years”.
Mrs. Audrey Matura-Shepherd: “Yes. So, then I heard on the news that they are having elections. Then I remembered that conversation. So, I seh, well, things fix up, that good! I no feel anyway. I glad because I don’t want to waste my time. When I hear that this, pham! pahn the news that all kind of names and I said well this, what? Then I kindled a little bit and I heard that Mr. Rivers and Mr. Peters were talking about how the improprieties with accountabilities for money and verithing and I go like…wow, and when I hear that no elections for the last ten years, I said, maddaz! I just staat wit mih outrageous and ah seh, mfffhm! and this da my ting eeanh my mind, I seh mfffhm!. Mih seh thank God mih neva gaan get involve with that and I seh, how do you deal with such impropriety, and I lef with that”.
But it was after meeting with members of the CWU, who expressed to Matura-Shepherd that they would support her, for all they ever wanted was good leadership. She battled with the idea of obligating her time to another major commitment, but we all know how this story ends. She contested in the elections held in mid-December and was voted President.
Mrs. Audrey Matura-Shepherd: “I will say that it has not been an easy decision because I clearly have to give up some of the other things because I can’t do everything. However, I believe that teh workers are the backbone of this country and for too long, when all the bad decisions are made by governments, the one that pay the price are the workers because at your work, you can’t stop them from take out your Social Security nor your taxes. So, it’s your money that keeps going into the treasury that keeps on being stolen and unaccounted for and misused and given out for handouts and bribes and all of these- it’s your money. So, I want, in the year of reckoning, that worker recognize, that if I no work, this machine no move. Da no deh dih move we; da we dih move deh. thye need to see that they are the engine, the oil, the moving parts that keeps this economy going, and that is why I believe that 2014 is the year of the workers. you will see workers will rise up because you could only tek so much”.
The newly elected leader of the workers union has declared 2014, a year for the worker, or as she terms it a year of reckoning.
Mrs. Audrey Matura-Shepherd: “I believe is the year of reckoning because we have to reckon with ourselves and say, where do I stand? In that process of reckoning with ourselves, we also have to reckon and decide where we will allow our leaders to get off and where they will get on. I just see it as a year where the common man will no longer be the common man. Those common ‘us’ will elevate ourselves to a higher standard. It will not be a year of a shove out. I remember 2013, I knew it would have been a year of changes and challenges ‘caz I already had in mind of thing that were going to happen, but I didn’t know what they were. But I felt as though 2013 cleansed me, prepared me for 2014 because it’s like in 2014 we will go in serious battle mode. That will be spiritual, intellectual and most of all, it has to be political. Politics is not just party politics. It is about who control powers and who dictates what happens and that is what Belizeans need to understand- everyday your life is political; any time you are dealing with power struggle, it’s political”.
Obtaining leadership of OCEANA in Belize is veteran journalist Janelle Chanona. Matura-Shepherd congratulated Chanona and as for the former head, similar to her spontaneous occupation as CWU President, she cannot predict what the future holds for her, but every step is one of faith.
Mrs. Audrey Matura-Shepherd: “I tell mih congratulate Jannelle in her appointment; I know that she has great challenges ahead and hope that she can always feel confident thatshe will abide by her own conscience and principles and that she will set high standards for herself as well. That’s a personal choice for her because I believe I was very successful is because OCEANA always knew they could neva buy me. I operated ther and I set my standards and my boss always knew it. I believe I am a blessed person in whatever I do, the hand of God is in it. wherever he sends me, he will give me what I should have. So, am here where am at because I believe that by faith that He has placed me there. Wherever I go next , I can’t say. I walk in faith, but when I walk in faith, he will give me every tool”.