Minister of Social Care and Community Development, Steve Blackett, has said that despite the strides made, the world still has a far way to go in ensuring that women get equal opportunities.
The Minister made this observation last night as his ministry along with the University of the West Indies Institute for Gender Affairs and Development Studies, Dame Nita Barrow Unit, recognised 12 women for their outstanding work in various communities across the island at the university’s Roy Marshall Teaching Complex.
His comments also came just two days before International Women’s Day is celebrated.
In hailing the women as maternal icons who “just got the job done in the community”, Blackett said that with the nation celebrating a major milestone in political independence, the drive for gender equality was incomplete.
“As we celebrate our 50th anniversary of independence, we can proudly say that in our country women’s equality has made significant strides over the decades.
“There is still, however, much more that can be done to increase women’s equal access to leadership positions, particularly at the political level,” Blackett noted.
Among those being recognised was veteran fighter for the community and one-time parliamentary representative, Sybil Leacock.
There were community awards for one outstanding woman in each parish, and one youth award: Marion Corbin, St Andrew; Merlene Ross, Christ Church; Maria Eversley, St George; Judy Sobers, St James; Brenda Bartlett, St John; Ava Yvette Griffith, St Joseph; Urla Cottle, St Lucy; Jennifer Reid, St Michael; Sybil Leacock, St Peter; Verona Seale, St Philip and Joycelyn Hunte from St Thomas, while Shamelle Rice was the youth awardee.
Blackett urged those gathered to also remember women of the past, “who have worked to help us reach the level of equality we have in our society today.”
“I do not only mean or consider women of high standing, or rank, or of letters, but ordinary salt of the earth individuals who are our unheralded and unsung heroines.
“These women who mothered their children and sometimes fathered them, who often populate our villages and our hamlets, and move among us undertaking duties, chores and vocations that maintain the patchwork tapestry of a sometimes frail society,” the Minister explained.
He appealed for a larger group of women to join in neighbourhood work and follow the example of the awardees.
“I would want to encourage even more women to become involved at the community level to use your knowledge and skill to the benefit to as many of the vulnerable groups in society as possible.
“As the world continues on its path of globalisation, the continued existence of strong gender inequality makes the role of women in community development even more crucial,” Blackett noted.
“Through the use of the power of women in community development to improve gender sensitivity overall, women can help to shed light on glaring inequalities, and by so doing, find ways to better the lives of other women in the global community.”