Our Readers' Opinions
May 17, 2013

SVG Retired Nurses Association focuses on Safety and Security for Women

Fri May 17, 2013

Submitted by the SVG Retired Nurses Association
Clari Gilbert, President

For we who nurse, our nursing is something which, unless we are making progress every year, every month, every week, we are going back. No system shall endure which does not march. -Florence Nightingale

There is little doubt that the nursing profession has marched and grown, as Nightingale, the iconic mother of modern nursing, said it must. From the beginnings of her dedication to a vocation once frowned upon to its status as one of the most treasured and trusted in the world. In 1971, the International Council of Nursing (ICN) designated May 12 – Florence Nightingale’s birthday – as International Nurses Day.{{more}}

Nightingale is best known around the world as the “Lady with the Lamp” who nursed British soldiers during the Crimean War and turned nursing into a profession. But she was also much more than that. She was an activist, social theorist and author whose advocacy to improve health and sanitation for British Army soldiers, and writings on hospital planning and organization laid the foundation for nursing’s emphasis on social determinants of health today.

Nursing Week gives nurses across the world the chance to celebrate the work they do to keep Nightingale’s work alive by advocating for policies that keep people healthy, in both mind and body.

This year’s theme; “Closing the Gap: The Millennium Development Goals,” may find some asking what is this theme about? These are eight international development goals that were established following the summit of 2000 by the United Nations to be achieved by 2015. In 2010, heads of State and Government met in Rio de Janeiro to reaffirm their commitment to these goals. One such goal which is the focus of this article is that they acknowledged that people are the centre of sustainable development and reaffirmed the importance of freedom, peace and security, respect for all human rights, gender equality and women’s empowerment. They also underscored that sustainable development requires concrete and urgent action.

Here in St Vincent and the Grenadines if we were to look at this goal, one would on the surface quickly say that we are a nation that has enjoyed the benefits of a peaceful and secured lifestyle. We do not have the human rights problems of other developing countries. Our women are involved in almost all aspects of society at very high levels. However, when we look at this goal on an individual level, there are some social determinants we must address and which require concrete and urgent action.

The May 3, 2013, Vincentian newspaper, on page 4, headlined; “Another female killed”; March 26 – Man charged with attempted murder of a woman; February 22 – “Man to answer for mother’s death.” Searchlight, April 26 on the front page headlined “Woman’s ear, arm almost severed in cutlass attack.”

The cases of incest, both printed in the news and stories from community residents and health professionals, are too numerous to be referenced. Here is a determinant that needs urgent action. It has lain dormant for too long. It was not too long ago that we had a law enforcement officer who left the country, running away from an alleged case of incest. Violence against women, particularly intimate partner violence and sexual violence, rape and incest, is a major public health problem and violates women’s human rights.

A World Health Organization (WHO) multi-country study found that between 15 to 71 per cent of women aged 15 to 49 years reported physical and/or sexual violence by an intimate partner at some point in their lives. The United Nations defines violence against women as “any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or mental harm or suffering, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life.”

Violence and abuse affect women from all kinds of backgrounds every day. Sometimes, women are attacked by strangers, but most often they are hurt by people who are close to them. Violence and abuse can cause terrible physical and emotional pain.

It was noted, however, by Betty Mayers in the Vincentian that “International Women’s day has come and gone, and nothing meaningful happened that highlighted the case of our women.” Well, the SVG Retired Nurses Association is willing to give voice to these issues concerning women and young girls, but we need your help. We may not be able to eradicate these crimes against women, but we may be able to reduce the number of incidences by 2015.

So, here’s a call out to the nation, men and women, professionals and non-professionals; let’s review and revise the laws if necessary; let’s educate our young children about what’s acceptable in developing relationships; let’s teach conflict resolution to our community residents, in churches, schools and other venues; let us all be angry enough to say “Enough is enough”. During the upcoming months, you will hear our voices over the airways, see us in your communities, and hopefully join us when we take to the streets.

To all nurses during this time of celebration, let it also be a time of reflection, remembering the words of our colleague of the past: “no system shall endure which does not march.” If we are to close the gap on the millennium development goals, urgent action is needed.