March 7, 2014

IWD 2014: Inspiring Change

Fri Mar 7, 2014

Hundreds of millions of women, and supportive men too, will tomorrow, March 8, engage in activities to celebrate International Women’s Day (IWD), a day that is universal in character, cutting across all boundaries whether geographical, political or otherwise. The focus is on women, their contribution to and place in society, and in addressing those issues which continue to keep women globally in a position of inequality.{{more}}

For IWD 2014, the United Nations has chosen the theme: “INSPIRING CHANGE”, aimed at providing the inspiration, especially to young women, to work to change positively those structures, laws and practices which perpetuate inequality between sexes. It is a relevant theme for, in spite of the significant advances that women have been making, the reality is that these negatives still exist.

In St. Vincent and the Grenadines, we have been celebrating IWD since 1974, making this the 40th anniversary of such activities being held here. Incidentally, the 1974 activity, organized by the local progressive and black consciousness movement, pre-dated even the UN’s official designation of the year 1975 as International Women’s Year and officially recognized IWD activities since then.

Regrettably, although valiant efforts have been made locally to keep the IWD flag flying, the acceptance of the occasion is far from being at a satisfactory level, even among women, and this is reflected by the relative low keyed observance of the occasion. It is not wrong to say that in our country, and many others in our region and around the globe, Valentine’s day gets far more traction than IWD.

Yet the challenges confronting women are there for all to see; the wrongs against them calling out for redress. There is the abominable violence against women, both domestically and in the society as a whole, the continued lop-sidedness in gender representation at the highest political, decision-making level, and the deterioration in moral standards reflected in the lack of respect for our women folk.

So who inspires whom on the occasion of International Women’s Day, and what are we inspired to change? These are critical questions particularly given the lack of cohesion of the local women’s movement and its inability to rise above personal, political and narrow differences to spearhead such inspirational change.

Just this week, virtually on the eve of IWD, the Mayor of Port of Spain in Trinidad complained of women’s role in perpetuating the lack of respect for them by what he described as the “reprehensible” dress and behavior of many women during the carnival celebrations. It points to the fact that women have to start with themselves if we are to make all the fuss about IWD, inequality and respect become a reality. There is so much which needs change, so few prepared to lead the inspiration.