Our Readers' Opinions
March 17, 2017
What kind of nation are we raising?

EDITOR: Another International Women’s Day has come and gone with the usual fanfare and arbitrary acts supposedly highlighting how inclusive our society has become. While I do agree that it is of great value to the society on a whole to acknowledge the contribution of women to society, I feel that most times we are just paying lip service or going through the motions. Behind the façade of progress and development lie many actions which demonstrate neither progress nor development and definitely not for many of our nation’s women.

In the 30th anniversary message from the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), the High Commissioner states that “True development roots out and corrects the causes of poverty – the multiple human rights violations which have deprived people of power, control over resources and a voice in their government, economy and society, and denied equal participation in global governance”. After reading that statement many individuals will be tempted to only see the phrase ‘human rights violations’ without stopping to think in depth about the truth of our reality.

Poverty, without a doubt, is a cancer in our society that must be excised. However, without addressing the underlying systems which feed it and social constructs which perpetuate it, then many of our actions are akin to putting a band-aid over the area in hope that the sore will heal. Teenage pregnancy, rape, unemployment and an incompetent police force are all things which, together, contribute to the poverty in our society. Women and children are normally the first, last and worst to suffer. How can we seriously celebrate Women’s Day knowing that while walking down the streets of Kingstown, we will pass many young, unemployed, insufficiently educated pregnant girls? And the cycle continues.

Maybe we should rejoice at the number of women seen in the market and along the streets selling to make ends meet for their families. They are heroes. Not the system that does not provide enough opportunities for their businesses to grow through the importation of foreign goods, instead of fostering a local culture of local buying. Definitely not a system that looks down on many of these persons as mere market women, making it difficult for them to access loans, insurance or public health care. Yes, public health care where lines are so long and service is so slow, many have to take an entire day off, which they cannot afford, just to use it.

In the political realm, how many women are active? How many more are kept away by the gutter politics that is present in our society, where gossip about a person is more important than their competence or ideas? We must be thankful for Anesia Baptiste, Zita Barnwell and Debbie Charles. I must say that they do make us look good to international donor organizations; but again, how much of their involvement results in meaningful contributions? How many of our young girls can actually look up to these women with hope and inspiration, despite the reality of their everyday lives?

We should celebrate the contributions of women to Vincentian society every day. However, this should not blind us to their constant struggle, but rather propel us to do more. This is not about feminism, but development. Women raise the nation. What kind of nation are we raising?

K Badenock