Wednesday March 8th, 2017 marks International Women’s Day – and we in Trinidad and Tobago join hands and hearts with women across the globe in celebrating the tremendous positive achievements forged by our womenfolk.
On March 8th, we in Trinidad and Tobago join with women globally as we seek to raise the consciousness of people everywhere; to highlight and showcase the limitless potential of our women. The United Nations theme for this year focuses on “Women in the Changing World of Work: Planet 50-50 by 2030”.
The International Women’s Day organizing committee is also using the rallying theme, “be bold for change”. But that revolutionary change must not begin and end on March 8th. It must be a continuous call to action every day; hence the reason the United Nations observance on 8 March will call upon all actors to Step It Up for Gender Equality towards a Planet 50-50 by 2030, by ensuring that the world of work, works for all women.
As we here in Trinidad and Tobago, ensure that the world of work works for all women, we shine the spotlight, on perhaps one of this country’s most successful and influential women, this country’s first female Prime Minister, the Honourable Kamla Persad-Bissessar. During her tenure as Prime Minister, she brought to her office a governance style that was all-inclusive, but more importantly ushered in an “era of caring”, one which saw women provided with opportunities in almost all spheres of human development, alongside our menfolk.
To the extent, that in 2011, resulting from measures implemented by the Kamla Persad-Bissessar Administration, a report produced by the Royal Commonwealth Society and Plan UK to mark the Commonwealth’s 2011 theme, ‘Women as Agents of Change’, revealed that Trinidad and Tobago comes 3rd of 54 Commonwealth countries, ranking above countries such as Canada, Australia and the UK. In other words, Trinidad and Tobago was the third-best Commonwealth country to be born a girl. The report which was published on March 14th, 2011 in the Bajan Sun Online further noted that, that it is political will – and not economic wealth – which is most important in advancing gender equality.
And therefore the platform was set since 2010, in keeping with the United Nations Theme in 2017 to empower women and to bring about parity in a modern society. These included:
• Employment through the CEPEP and URP employment programmes, which employed over 200 mothers of children with cerebral palsy
• Held the Women and Girls in Sport Festival 2012 and the National Aerobics Programme from February-June
• Repeal of the Masters and Servants Act and a proposed increase in maternity leave from 13-14 weeks
• Establishment of a Steering Committee for Action against Discrimination and Sexual Harassment in the workplace
• In collaboration with the Housing Development Corporation, made available housing for families, especially those headed by single females
• New Nurses Training Academy approved by Cabinet located in El Dorado
• Provision of a Baby Grant to vulnerable mothers, giving both mother and baby a good head start
• Provision of Food Card to persons so assessed and qualified, especially single mothers, senior citizens, the vulnerable, with prescribed dietary needs
• The provision of laptops, for students, including girls, transitioning into secondary school, bringing the world of education into the home and school
• Approval of a 61 million dollar renovation programme of the Mt.Hope Women’s Hospital
• Establishment of the Children’s Life Fund, bringing ease to mothers whose children require lifesaving surgery
• Provision of grants through the Poverty Reduction Unit of the MPSD to rise up and out of poverty, and into productive endeavours
• Establishment of Safe Houses for persons in Domestic Violence Situations in association with the Ministry of Gender, Youth and Children Development and the Ministry of Health
• Strengthening of COSTAAT, MSTTE, ACCT, NIHERST, TTHTI, YTEPP and expansion of the GATE programme, making education a hallmark of our country
• Establishment of the San Fernando Teaching Hospital
• Comprehensive review of the National Gender Policy
• Training for 320 women from the Women in Harmony Programme for single head households with low or no income and low or no skills
• Construction of the Children’s Hospital as well as the commencement of the National Oncology Centre
…….just a few of the humongous programmes undertaken by Kamla Persad-Bissessar, as the country’s first female Prime Minister. As a former Minister of the People and Social Development and currently a sitting Member of Parliament, I am acutely aware of these and many other programmes established under the PP/UNC Administration to propel women forward.
However, the work is not done. We must use today as a stepping stone to bigger, better and brighter things to come in the future for our womenfolk. We must go way beyond International Women’s Day, and see every day as an opportunity to strengthen the institutions responsible for giving support to women.
According to UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka on International Women’s Day, “We want to construct a different world of work for women. As they grow up, girls must be exposed to a broad range of careers, and encouraged to make choices that lead beyond the traditional service and care options to jobs in industry, art, public service, modern agriculture and science…”
Happy International Women’s Day to all of Trinidad and Tobago and May God Bless our Nation!