International Women’s  Day – fifty years on
March 8, 2024
International Women’s Day – fifty years on

It will amaze many people that today, March 8, 2024, we will not only be joining with the rest of the world in celebrating International Women’s Day, but in this tiny country of ours we will proudly be marking a full half of a century since the first, humble efforts of organized activities to commemorate the occasion.

In those fifty years not only has the recognition of IWD grown tremendously, but so too there have been many advances in the status of women worldwide. That includes our own country where the quality of life for the majority of our women has improved significantly. That is not to say that all the battles for women’s equality have been won, far from it; it is also true to say that there are still many battles to be won. IWD is as good a time as any to reflect on these matters, to plan to consolidate the women’s movement as a whole and determine how to move forward from here.

Undoubtedly, there is much to celebrate, but let us not be blinded by largely individual progress. Over the half of a century there have been highs and lows, many advances, but some stagnation as well and even regression in some respects. Today, via legislation and policy implementation, the position of women in St Vincent and the Grenadines, is much improved compared with what it was in the seventies.

Women today occupy leading positions in politics, the professions, industry and commerce, public services, as well as in religious institutions. Yet there are areas which cry out for focused attention, but these will only be much more effectively addressed by consolidating the various women’s organizations and rebuilding the national women’s movement into a united force.

It should not escape our attention for instance that 45 years after the achievement of national independence, there is not a full- fledged Ministry of Gender Affairs, headed by one of the hundreds of competent women we now have who are perfectly capable of performing the important functions of heading such a ministry. Should we at least read this as a lack of confidence in our women?

Then there is the palpable weakness of what is left of the National Council of Women (NCW). That organization is today a shadow of what it was, and vastly removed from the position of strength and unity in which it ought to be, given the advances in the status of women; and that ball rests in large part in the hands of our women. To be fair, the NCW is not the only NGO to be in that position today, but for the moment, IWD is as good an occasion as any other, to focus on it specifically.

Finally, if one looks at the international theme for IWD 2024, it speaks of INSPIRING INCLUSION. We can begin in this regard, considering that March is National Heroes Month in our country, to examine the status of the women who are descendants of the Kalinago and Garifuna people. Do we need more special programmes; focused efforts to ensure their conscious inclusion in the opportunities for development?

There are also special groups in need of deliberate attention and assistance, such as women and girls with disabilities and, most appropriately such marginalized and exploited groups such as the lowly-paid domestics, store clerks etc. To the good, the Government is this month implementing new minimum wages for these very categories of women, workers and that should be applauded.

The question still needs to be asked though, how can the women who have benefited from the development process put their skills at the disposal of such groups to uplift them?

As we extend best wishes to all our women on this occasion, let us try and resolve to work towards progress on such matters.