March 6, 2009
A friendship that’s making a difference

What started as two friends growing up together on the Leeward side of the island in the village of Questelles more than 50 years ago has now developed into a young woman’s foundation which annually commemorates Women’s Day, March 8th.{{more}}

But before Nelcia Hazell, who was then Marshall, became coordinator of the Caribbean Association for Feminist Research and Action (CAFRA), and her friend Margaret Sullivan, now a retired civil servant in Canada, were both 10-year-old, pony tail wearing students at the Questelles Primary School, they made mud pies and played baby ring games.

When the two women realized that 50 years had elapsed since they were gal pals, they decided not to throw a party to celebrate their bond. Desiring something more lasting, the pair decided to establish the Nelcia Marshall and Margaret Sullivan Foundation for the Advancement of Young Women.

The Foundation, which was established on 2nd December, 2007, aims to promote and undertake activities for the positive development of young women. One important aspect is the knowledge of women’s history and their contribution to the social, economic and political development of their countries. Since the inception of the foundation, an annual exhibition under the theme “On Our Mother’s Shoulders” is held to highlight women’s contributions in areas such as agriculture, community activism or politics.

Women’s Day held on March 8th gives young women the opportunity to appreciate the day. Hazell mentioned that this year is extra special because Women’s Day is celebrating its 100th year. The exhibition held on 21st February at the old Intermediate High School building in Kingstown is the first in a series of activities to celebrate the century. An activity will be held each month between 8th March, 2009, and 8th March, 2010. These activities will be centered around the 12 critical areas of concern in the Beijing Platform for Action which are: Women and Poverty, Education and Training, Women and Health, Violence Against Women, Women and Armed Conflict, Women and the Economy, Women in Power and Decision Making, Institutional Mechanisms for the Advancement of Women, Human Rights of Women, Women and the Media, Women and the Environment and The Girl Child.

At the exhibition, the contributions of regional and international women were highlighted, but the target was really to focus on local women such as Bertha Mutt, who was at the forefront of the 1935 riots, Adult Education pioneer Carmelita Williams, Ivy Joshua, this country’s first female parliamentarian, and Elma François, a veteran trade unionist who was made a national hero in Trinidad, among many others. Persons who visited were also educated on the tremendous input these and other women made and the organizations in which they were involved.

Hazell said the exhibition is held in the hope that young women would appreciate how others before them have struggled and blazed the trail so that they could have opportunities today.