Our Readers' Opinions
January 5, 2016
‘Women Who Empower Our Nation’ – Pt 2

Sherrill-Ann Mason

(Feature speech at Vincy Cares Dinner in Brooklyn, New York on December 12, 2015)
(Continued from last week)

I remember growing up as a child and young adult in SVG, there were numerous women of valor who were outstanding role models, women of exceptional character, respect, tenacity, decency and honesty. I was extremely fortunate not to have to go far beyond my home community of New Montrose, the church and my family circle to find fine examples. Women like Norma Keizer, Lorna DeBique, Millicent Iton, Hermina Cambridge, Lorna Small, Sylvia Stoddard, Velma Jackson, and my dear mother Kathleen Mason were powerful role models to me. I am sure you too can identify women in your lives, in your communities that nurtured, inspired and motivated you.

These women were respectful, pioneering, often selfless, and made the best of their circumstances while managing to emerge dignified. I give thanks to these and countless other women. Today, let us ask ourselves: can we see the images of these women in ourselves? Moreso, can we walk in their shoes and go past the places where they have gone?

Too often, we hear the saying, “women are women’s worst enemy”. I ask you this evening: “Are you an enemy or a friend?” Have you been guilty of tearing down a sister or standing in the way of her success because of your own insecurities? Have you ever publicly or in private ridiculed another sister because doing so made you feel better about yourself? In this age of social media, I am always amazed at how some things go viral. Sometimes we are caught promoting a kind of double standard that sends the wrong message about what we value? Please don’t beat me up for this example, but I have paid close attention to some of our obsession with Sondra Rhimes’ acclaimed Thursday night show “Scandal”. But think about it, some of the most ardent supporters are the same women who turn right around and lambaste our leaders for doing the same thing or condemning those who bring to light the salacious details. To me, wrong is wrong, whether it’s on the big screen or in our everyday lives. We must be cautious about what we say we value and what we truly demonstrate that we value.

Men, you are not off the hook either, you too must ask yourselves deep and thought-provoking questions about your respect and support for women. In fact, all of us must ask ourselves, if we are a part of the solution or a part of the problem. We must all strive to be better examples and role models for the young. And at this time, we must strive to do more not less. We must let our actions speak louder than our words. For me, I want to simply leave a legacy for which my daughters, Njeri and Makeda, can be proud. I want them to be able to say, “my mother was a good example and although she may not have always won, she did whatever she could with conviction and pride.” I want all of us to be good examples to the children in our communities in SVG and right here in the USA.

I have long realized, especially through my involvement with numerous organizations such as the National Youth Council, what an empowered woman looks like….in its simplest form we must demand Respect and Equal treatment for women. I encourage you my fellow Vincentians to think of the women in your lives and ask yourself if you can identify their outstanding qualities. Can you see their strengths and not just their weaknesses? Can you think of how their challenges can be turned into opportunities? Can you step out of your own comfort zone and do something that benefits someone else besides yourself? Can you imagine a Vincentian society where women and men are treated with respect and empowered to be their best selves? If you can imagine that reality, I invite you to do something different today, do something tomorrow, think about your actions and words more carefully to ensure that you always build up rather than tear down. We must become the women and men who empower our nation. To borrow the words of JFK, “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.” We must become the change we are waiting for. There is more than enough work for all of our hands, hearts and minds.

Imagine if you will, a Vincentian society where…. we all carry ourselves as “True, true, Vincies, who meaningfully embrace ‘This Island is Mine” and work diligently to preserve our nation’s soul and integrity. Imagine a Vincentian society where…..”we’ve got love and we’ve got peace, from La Soufrière to the Grenadines”. Imagine a Vincentian society where….there is no poverty, zero hunger, good health, well-being, quality education, gender equality, decent work, economic growth, reduced inequalities, sustainable cities and communities. These are some of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals agreed to by the world’s leaders, as the guiding principles for the future of our world. If we, as Vincentians are to achieve these goals, each of us must see our unique role and seize opportunities to empower our nation. These goals are not just tasks for our political leaders; these are tasks for each and every one of us, as agents of change and leaders in our own right who empower our beloved homeland St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

In closing, I leave you with this quote from controversial author and philosopher Ayn Rand: “The question isn’t who’s going to let me; it’s who is going to stop me.” I encourage you to be a woman or a man who empowers our nation. Thank you; enjoy the rest of the evening and congratulations to our honorees.