Editorial – Saturday Express
Coming off a magnificent Carnival 2019, women here, regionally and internationally are encouraged today to reflect upon their status and contributions to the society through their enduring advocacy for social transformation.
In the season of triumphant cultural self-awareness and confidence, women singers, songwriters, musicians, performers, managers and policy-makers have an opportunity to consider their successes and challenges in expressing all of their collective self-worth for the empowerment of themselves, men, children and the society.
“Think equal, build smart and innovate for change” is the nuanced call being made on International Women’s Day 2019, being observed today. It is a day declared by the United Nations in 1975 but which traces its roots back to February 28, 1909, when the Socialist Party of America organised a women’s day.
Internationally, innovative thinking on social protection systems, access to public services and sustainable infrastructure that will empower women is the goal of today’s commemorations. According to the UN, while innovation and technology provide unprecedented opportunities to achieve those goals, trends indicate a growing gender digital divide, and women continue to be under-represented in science, technology, engineering, mathematics and design.
The low number of women in these fields prevents them from developing and influencing gender-responsive innovations that will have transformative effects on the wider society. “From mobile banking to artificial intelligence to the internet of things, it is vital that women’s ideas and experiences equally influence the design and implementation of innovations that shape our future societies,” states the UN.
Here, the day meets a legislative and policy agenda that has moved some distance but still has a long way to go in balancing the scales that weigh against the full participation of women and girls in the progressive transformation of the society and region.
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Amendments to the Sexual Offences Bill, considerations of a national sexual harassment policy and the outlawing of child marriages signal advancement. Underlying these gains, however, as incisively highlighted by President Paula-Mae Weekes in her International Women’s Day message, is the reality of “unacceptably high levels of domestic violence against women, teenage pregnancy and sexual harassment in the workplace”. To this we add the absence of a national gender policy and amendments to legislation on domestic violence that remain among priority areas of concern and focus.
The greater involvement of women in national policy-making areas is a behemoth still being fought. Women feature in Parliament, governments and political party leadership but not in the critical mass required for fundamental change, a project that is defeated also by political party loyalties that often override gendered concerns. In that regard, the UN call to support those women, girls and men who advocate for change in various ways is timely and useful.
This newspaper, itself built on and sustained by the work of many women in all areas of our production, extends its support to all women who struggle in the interest of human rights, equality and equity.
These are values we protect and celebrate today.