Today Barbados joined the world to celebrate our women, as we should every day and not just annually on March 8, the date designated by the United Nations in 1975 for all its member nations to honour the contribution of women and build more equitable societies.
Indeed, Barbadian women have for decades stamped their feet with authority in virtually every sphere. Be it the boardroom, Parliament, the classroom, hotels, gardens, hospitals, supermarkets or homes they have contributed significantly to the development of this land.
We have a proud legacy – Sarah Ann Gill, Edna Ermytrude Bourne, Dame Nita Barrow, Dame Elsie Payne, Carmeta Fraser, Dame Maizie Barker-Welch, Dame Billie Miller, Governor General Dame Sandra Mason, Prime Minister Mia Mottley, Rihanna and hundreds of other trailblazers.
For our contribution to International Women’s Day (IWD), Barbados TODAY has produced its annual magazine featuring outstanding Barbadian women in their various callings. We think it’s an inspirational read.
But as with every celebration, there ought to be time for reflection. Hardly can we ignore our duty to assess our current approach to gender parity and make improvements as we press ahead.
This year’s theme is #BalanceForBetter, a nod to the growing global push for professional and social equality seeks to encourage gender balance in boardrooms, in the media and in wealth as a way for economies to thrive.
In far too many countries, women and girls still do not enjoy the same rights or opportunities as men. Females face discrimination, poverty and violence. Women are still paid less than men, though they work longer hours.
Most of us will deny that these issues are prevalent in Barbados but aren’t they?
Assessing our current state of affairs, Public Relations Officer of the National Organization of Women Marsha Hinds Layne signalled that efforts must continue to drive gender balance.
She noted that women were indeed grappling with unemployment, underemployment, domestic violence and a lack of finance.
But even more, worrying for her was the fact that while there is the political will to tackle women’s issues, there is little to no money to fix them.
Hinds-Layne said: “For the first time in the history of Barbados, we are seeing clear political will and understanding, in the political leaders of Barbados, with respect to women’s issues.
“It is coming at the point where Barbados is in the deepest economic recession it has ever been in. The finance and the ability to deliver on the political will now have to be worked out.”
She has been meeting with several Cabinet Ministers to discuss the daily struggles of women in this country.
Certainly, it’s not the news we want to hear, given the importance of women and girls in our country.
But there is no reason to throw our hands in the air. It really is more reason for all of us to do more to contribute to the advancement of women.
It’s a ripe opportunity for our private businesses, churches and other civic groups to pay more attention to gender issues and put their money where their mouth is.
Businesses can, where feasible, assess whether their hiring and promotion practices are fair and free of gender bias. They should make necessary adjustments to remuneration and other incentives where possible. They can also make greater provision for women who are also mothers and caretakers to work in an environment free of intimidation.
And there’s a role for churches, too! which are frequented more by women. Not only must they provide spiritual guidance but social and financial support where necessary.
Our call to action this International Women’s Day must be a celebration, yes, but we must continue to make concerted effort to ensure our women and our girls reach their fullest potential to better the balance.