As the curtain came down on Wednesday’s global celebrations of International Women’s Day, this country was hopefully driven to redouble its efforts to safeguard and empower its women.
Our ladies justifiably got the recognition and praise they deserved for their phenomenal contributions behind the scenes and on the frontlines in the development of this country at all levels.
Whether they are in the home, the classroom, the boardroom, in Parliament, the Church, on the bench, in the factory, in the field or the hospital, women continue to make tremendous sacrifices to help maintain a well-functioning society.
Barbados too can be proud that it has done well to help women advance to reach their full potential.
Our women, unlike millions of others elsewhere in the world, have access to equal, quality education, health care and employment.
However, it would be foolhardy to believe we have done enough for our women, when there is evidence to show that unwanted prejudices linger.
Ahead of yesterday’s celebrations, Polish politician Janusz Korwin-Mikke, a member of the European Parliament, sparked a firestorm on social media when he boldly declared that “of course women must earn less than men, because they are weaker, they are smaller, they are less intelligent. They must earn less.”
What clap trap! It is unbelievable to think that in 2017, an adult who should have a reasonable level of common sense would utter such a statement. Clearly, author Paul David Tripp had a point when he wrote “Foolishness is more than being stupid, that deadly combination of arrogance and ignorance.” But I digress.
The issue of equal pay came to the fore at one of Wednesday’s key events – a panel discussion entitled Women’s Economic Empowerment and the revelations made there were no comfort.
Head of Office at UN Women Tonni Brodber reported that in Barbados, men were said to earn 25 per cent more than women, with the highest earnings gap found among low-income workers.
Citing the August 2010 Inter-American Development Bank report reviewing gender earning gaps in the Caribbean, Brodber said while in most Caribbean countries females had more educational qualifications than males, men earned more.
“Based on their comparison, males’ earnings surpass those of females between 14-27 per cent of average females’ wages in Barbados and between eight and 17 per cent of average females’ wages in Jamaica,” she said.
Clearly, this is an injustice.
The point is simply that no woman, be she a janitor, lawyer or a chief executive, should receive less pay or respect because of her gender.
Equal work deserves equal pay for both men and women, full stop.
Government has a duty to ensure that no employer is allowed to perpetuate discrimination on this basis, by enforcing appropriate legislation to ensure equal pay, equal rights.
Another worrisome, unwanted practice against women is violence. It destroys the lives of women at all levels, regardless of age or class. Too many are still beaten, raped, or otherwise abused in their lifetime.
Admittedly, Barbados has made admirable steps towards stamping out the scourge. The amendments made to the Domestic Violence (Protection Orders) Act passed in Parliament in January, changes to the Sexual Offences Act and the passage of the Transnational Organized Crime (Prevention and Control) Act all help to ensure that women are not disadvantaged.
But the fight is not over. Women must find the courage to break the silence and seek help; communities must lend support to troubled families and discourage violence in any form; law enforcers have a duty to treat reports of domestic violence seriously and expeditiously.
Even more critical is the role men must play to protect women. Men must be enlisted in the fight against violence and take a stand with their mothers, sisters, aunts, wives and daughters to reject abuse, whether physical, emotional or sexual.
Together, as a society, we all have a role to play and now is a good time to commit to this year’s theme, #Be Bold For Change.