Next Tuesday, March 8, women all around the world will be celebrating another International Women’s Day, a day specifically to focus on the status of women, their needs and progress especially in such fundamental matters as equality and advancement where power relations are concerned.
This year the theme chosen reflects not only the particular interests of women but those of humanity as a whole – It speaks of: “Gender equality today for a sustainable tomorrow”. In keeping with this theme is the explanation of “recognising the contributions” of those who are leading the charge on climate change adaptation, mitigation and the response to build a sustainable future for all”.
Interestingly, women are being encouraged to wear PURPLE on the day. It will be interesting to note to what extent this call will be heeded for even without any official prompting, women adopted RED as their colour of choice to mark the fictional “Valentine’s Day”.
IWD has particular significance for St Vincent and the Grenadines for our women have been foremost in promoting its observation. Three years before the United Nations itself officially recognised the date of observation, in 1977, in SVG there was a public celebration of the event, at the Peace Memorial Hall in 1974, organised by the non-governmental organisations. Since then, it has largely been that sector which has kept the IWD flag flying with varying levels of commitment and support on the part of successive governments.
Its seeming decline in importance in recent years has much to do with the diminishing importance of that sector and what is left of the organised women’s movement in particular. From year to year there have been some activities to mark the occasion but these have largely been ad hoc and focused on particular sectors than on the women’s movement as a whole.
Yet this cannot dispute the fact that there has been noted progress in relation to the participation of women in national development and the recognition of the same. This is especially so in relation to education where more and more women are in the forefront. Indeed, women today play critical roles in relation to the administrative machinery of state and in social life as a whole.
While their participation at a decision-making level in parliament and the private sector as a whole leaves much room for improvement, the examples of persons like Ms. Shafia London, appointed Country Head for Barbados, Dominica and St Vincent and the Grenadines of the world’s largest brewery, can serve as an inspiration in that regard. Ms. London became, just over one year ago, the first Vincentian, man or woman, to become Country Manager of our own St Vincent Brewery Limited.
Overall though the achievements of women have been largely individual rather than collective. Could it be because those achievements remain at that singular level and are not reflected in the building of a united Women’s Movement to address the long-outstanding issues continuing to plague our women.
From time to time, we witness campaigns on such burning issues as violence against women, but there is not enough connection with the myriad other issues which affect our women. The emphasis on the issues relating to climate change and sustainable development provide a unifying basis for addressing women’s issues in particular and those of society as a whole.
Will our women take up this challenge in a collective effort?