Today as I join the world and our national community in the observance of International Women’s Day, I ask all of us to work individually and collectively to effect change so that women will occupy their rightful places as equals in our world.
The theme for 2017 is “Be Bold for Change”, which is most appropriate given the threat under which women live today, and the discrimination we face in various societies.
In Trinidad and Tobago, women are under threat as never before, while an impotent administration stumbles along without any policy for guidance. The media reports tell of violence against women young and old. How can we be complacent when we hear horrendous reports of children at the mercy of men, even in what is supposed to be the sanctuary of their homes? Sexual violence against women is also taking place in dark corners and some women, who are seen by predators as objects rather than persons, remain quiet and even harbour feelings of being the ones to blame.
We have a duty to raise our voices and engage in actions to demand a more inclusive world for women in which gender must never be a barrier to progress. All of us have an obligation to stand up and speak out against every act that makes women lesser persons, and, we need to do it until we effect the change that our society and the world must make in the 21st century.
Today we are bombarded with information coming at us from multiple media platforms. This onslaught can make us sceptical and desensitize us. However, if we do the reverse and let those very messages fire up our emotions to be one another’s keeper, we can engage a community and cause the change we need. One person, one powerful message can shake up the status quo, even change a government.
Women represent half of humankind. Statistics from the World Bank show that we are half of the global population and here in Trinidad and Tobago our numbers have passed 49 per cent of the total population. Yet we remain mired in a never-ending struggle for equity with our male counterparts in every facet of national life.
The World Economic Forum has predicted that the gender gap will remain wide open for decades to come and that it will not close entirely until 2186. We cannot wait that long. One day is too long.
Undoubtedly, change is needed in attitudes and behaviours to facilitate increased participation by women in every aspect of our society. It involves awareness-raising, education, training and the promotion of gender equality and equity in all policies. As a woman Parliamentarian, I will continue to advocate for policies, programmes and initiatives targeted at eliminating discrimination in all forms, and I continue to call for tough action to deal with crime in our nation.
What is required now is strong leadership to address the issues facing women, but also, leadership to deal with the pressing problems facing all citizens – soaring crime, a declining economy, increased job losses, an ailing health sector and an education sector that is failing our children.
I call upon Government to move expeditiously to table the long awaited gender policy.
Let us all pledge today to be bold, to be consistent and to stand up and demand equality, not as a favour but as a right as equal citizens. It is time for women in this country to become emboldened, to embrace greater leadership roles in their communities, to face the challenges head-on and stake our claim in society. So I urge you – wherever you are, whatever your circumstance – to be bold for change. Do it for yourself and do it for women everywhere.
7 March 2017