August 3, 2010
Williams urges women to build on contributions of their ancestors

As the nation celebrates Emancipation, Vincentian women are being encouraged to build on the contributions of their ancestors to improve the lives of future generations of females in St. Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG).{{more}}

The call came from Kimsha Williams as she delivered the feature address at an emancipation lecture organised by the National Council of Women (NCW) in Vermont on Sunday, August 1.

The event was held under the theme “Honouring Female Emancipators – Celebrating and Maintaining our Gains”.

Williams, speaking on the topic, discussed what it means to be a woman according to “creation design” (as recorded in the Bible), early 20th century traditions, and contemporary society.

“It is important too that we remain conscious of her purpose and function, especially in the context of a world characterized by continuous change,” Williams told the gathering of about 50 persons, mainly women.

Drawing on the nation’s Christian traditions, Williams said that since Creation, women possessed as great a value as men.

She, however, said history has shown that “our mothers’ real worth was not always rightfully celebrated or even acknowledged.”

The teacher at the St. Vincent Grammar School told the gathering they should think of Emancipation “as a celebration of your own personal freedom … [from] a gloomy, oppressive, yet fuelling past.”

She said “each of our life story, if they were told … would illustrate that it is the fighting spirit that was fuelled by the struggles of the past that account for our strength as individuals and as a society.”

Williams spoke specifically of the contribution of women throughout the history of SVG to the freedoms that their contemporaries enjoy.

She spoke of Baruda, a wife of national hero, Joseph Chatoyer, who loaned him women’s clothes to disguise himself as a woman to deceive the British in battle.

Williams said Afro-West Indian women, many of whom were sexually abused by their enslavers, did not know how to handle their freedom after Emancipation.

These women formed open relationships with black males and became dependent on them as bread winners even as males were “forced to learn to be self-sufficient” after leaving the plantations.

“This conditioning of both males and females is one of the unfortunate inheritances even now about a century later,” Williams said.

She also highlighted the contribution of women in SVG to the freedoms enjoyed by Vincentians today, noting that it was 15 Vincentian women who abandoned their daily chores to protest against the rising cost of living in 1935.

Those women were later joined by 200 men which developed into the riots of 1935 and spreaded throughout the Caribbean.

Williams also spoke of the women who have made contributions over the past 30 years in politics, education, media, music, the arts, healthcare and family life in SVG.

“Today’s theme, as crafted by the National Council of Women, begs us to stop for a while after remembering our past, and after considering the ways in which we are free, recognise and expose the work our mothers have done in freeing us from some kind of control,” Williams said.

Nelcia Hazel of the NCW brought greetings at the event which also featured drumming by Nzimbu Browne and poetry recital. (KXC)