Full Disclosure
March 8, 2007

Strength of a woman on International Women’s Day

International Women’s Day (IWD) is celebrated on March 8 as a national holiday for some nations, with a designated political and human rights theme by the United Nations. It is a major day of global celebration which showcases the political, economic and social achievements of women in both the developing and developed countries. A significant transformation and shifting in attitudes in both women’s and society’s thoughts about women’s equality and emancipation is more evident now than ever before. It may therefore be very safe to say that we are living in an era of female empowerment. The benefits of such are far reaching, but must always be balanced with a sustained effort to mould our young men so that an equilibrium may be reached in the balance of power.{{more}}

It is noteworthy that while IWD commemorates a tragic factory fire in New York in 1911 where 140 women perished amid rapid world industrialization at the turn of the 20th century, and economic expansion that led to protests over working conditions, IWD came to be in 1908, when 15,000 women marched through the streets of New York City demanding shorter hours, better pay and voting rights. This was the beginning of a progressive movement of and for the advancement of women.

Globally we have seen certain trends with more women entering the boardrooms, greater equality in legislative rights and an increase of women’s visibility as impressive role models in every aspect of life are being highlighted. Research has proven that women are yet to be paid equally with their male counterparts. There is also evidence that women still are not present in equal numbers in business or politics, and globally women’s education, health and the violence against her is far worst than that of men in most countries.

Any keen examination of the highs and lows of the journey of women would reveal that, there are many great advancements. Today there are female astronauts, prime ministers, judges and sports women. As we celebrate the positives, we must acknowledge the women who became victims of the negative. International Day for the Elimination of Violence against all Women in November is one such measure that seeks to counteract the same.

It is somewhat captivating to watch the United States in its 2008 Presidential race. The primary question that bubbles at the end of every tongue is ‘will the US ever elect a woman as President?’ Democratic Senator Hilary Rodham Clinton is not the first woman to ever enter the race run-off for the leadership of the military and economically powerful nation, as in 1872 Victoria Claflin Woodhull pronounced herself a candidate for the U.S. presidency. While Mrs. Clinton is a great candidate for the presidency, her support would depend particularly on how well she matches up with her internal competitors and the person nominated for the Republican Party. Most importantly, the view of the American society on the issue as to whether the sex of their President really matters, will weigh the heaviest on this presidential campaign.

The 21st century has seen more women in the workforce than ever before. This simply translates into much economic growth driven by women. As more women are attending universities in the developed countries, they are becoming better equipped for jobs. In the past decade, studies have shown that women have contributed more to the global GDP than technology. Perhaps if one takes into consideration the value of housework and child-rearing, mothers would probably account for most of the world’s output. For this reason our societies should especially honour the many mothers throughout the year and not solely Mother’s Day.

In the American domain, many would like to see the 66th Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice join the presidential race too. In recognition of her list of achievements, it is testament that the definition of strength is determined by the refusal to allow any injustice to limit one’s horizon.

The United Kingdom on the other can be viewed as being more liberal in their expression of confidence in women. Margaret Hilda Thatcher is the former Prime Minister of the UK and occupied the office from 1979 to 1990. Thatcher was the longest-serving British Prime Minister since Lord Salisbury and had the longest continuous period in office since Lord Liverpool in the early nineteenth century. She is also the only woman to have served as Prime Minister, and one of only two to have held any of the four great offices of state.

In our region, Caribbean women have taken part in politics and have succeeded in being elected heads of states. An esteemed example is the late Dame Mary Eugenia Charles who was first recognised on the world stage as the Caribbean region’s first female prime minister. She served Dominica in the capacity of PM for some 15 years. Before her international recognition though, she had already made headway as she became Dominica’s first female lawyer specializing in property law and later chairman of the OECS.

Janet Jagan though she was American, became Guyana’s first female President and Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces in 1997. These examples are a sure signal that our region has embraced and is not afraid of the leadership of women in political roles. More recently, the Most Honourable Portia Simpson-Miller was handed the reigns of Jamaica’s ruling party the People’s National Party. This month will mark one year since her great historic achievement.

Women are the major source of socialization in our societies since they are the most significant actresses during the primary stages of socialization. The home is our first school, and the home life and home instruction are first and the most lasting. So as we salute all women, as a Vincentian society, may we never undermine the paramount importance of the role of a woman in the home and the potential of her strength.