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Address for International Women’s Day

March 8, 2016

Address for International Women’s Day on ‘Planet 50 50 by 2030′ The theme for today is “Step it Up for Gender Equality”

by Lady Anande Joseph

Today we begin a week of celebration of women and girls, just as we have done over the last one hundred years.   Today is a day for women to celebrate their achievements and advancements.  Sisters and Brothers these advancements did not come easy globally or nationally, but were hundreds of years in coming.  Indeed when the noble women of St Andrews, Sisters Winifred Strachan, Waple Need and Nadine Benjamin or the present female representatives in Parliament, would never  have known as little girls, that they could grow up, rise past the limitations of the male establishment, to not only to vote, but sit as be parliamentary representatives.

The Agenda for gender equality is based on a framework of international human rights conventions and treaties, including the Women’s Convention: CEDAW.  We have adopted these laws which guide our lives:  Protecting victims, the disabled, the vulnerable and the disadvantaged, including women and children.  Our constitution and the laws, form the basis of the our demands for gender equality and equal rights for all, so as to protect the vulnerable, prevent and punish discrimination and empower the disadvantaged.

Since we began this century with the Millennium development goals, the MDGs, Grenada has made representations at many conferences and meetings, nationally, regionally and globally, contributing to shaping the sustainable goals globally. Attending: Conferences on Population and Development piloted by UNFPA, A regional Joint Meeting  of CARICOM countries, represented by Hon Minister Delma Thomas, a representative of GNOW and  the UN Women Civil Society Advisory Group; the global Small Island Development States (SIDs) conference in Samoa, the Conference of Parties (COP- about climate change and controlling our gas emissions, and the FAO sponsored on regional agro ecology just concluded in Panama and Mexico in February and March 2016.  We are now progressing towards 2030, fifteen years into our future, with 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). These SDGs require action, moving from unfulfilled promises to real implementation of development plans, strategies and laws, by people of all walks of life.

Of these, SDGs, we woman will be advocating for and living the assertions of Goal 5: “Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls”.  We will demand equal respect, equal opportunities we expect in an era of gender equality. However, we are also aware that we have to give respect to get respect and understand that gender equality is for both men and women.  Indeed, “what is good for the goose must be good for the gander”.

Goal 5 is not a stand- alone goal. It is indivisible.   Women must benefit and contribute to ensuring that this and the other 16 goals become a reality in Grenada. They require joined up thinking and the drawing of the linkages of these goals. Only then the jigsaw puzzle of development will fall into place. This is sustainability. These SDGs require our renewed energy to ending hunger and malnutrition, building resilience to climate change.

We women have an inter- generational responsibility, given our natural nurturing natures, to focus on our youth and children. We must speak of these goals in language that we can all understand through education at home, school and all media. We must reach our children, our plugged in youth, with their headphones, listening to music, while typing on their smart phones. We must get their attention to let them understand that if they don’t engage, the music will stop when they realise that they are riding a wave of poverty, violence and underdevelopment due to their failure to prepare to work, learn and adapt. However, Youth also passes more quickly than you think.  Women live longer than men. We must allow our elderly women to age with love, and dignity.

Food Security and sovereignty: To launch International Women’s day we met on Sunday 5th March, away from the built up urban setting of St George’s, in St Andrews, in boundary with St Patricks and St David’s. Areas where many single mothers survive in a rural existence. Where children are reportedly still hungry, although we have falling fruit, wild yam and dasheen growing everywhere and fish swim close to the shores.

CARDI, ICCA and The FAO are encouraging us to embrace our agricultural lifestyles though agro ecology which has largely involved women in rural communities. In terms of agro ecology, we must ask, who are the keepers of our legacy, the seed keepers? Climate smart agriculture requires that markets be found for agricultural products and organic certification obtained.  Youth must be taught their tradition and adaptation methods.  They must know that they can plant food in seed boxes and old tires, and that modern agriculture uses scientific and technological approaches. Grenada has won a gold medal for Jessamine Eden Apiary’s honey only last year. Such activities can supplement your incomes or be a main occupation. Sustainability must be our attitude.

Freedom from Violence: An unacceptably high level of physical and sexual violence abuse against women and girls has been reported.  Therefore, we must transform  this reality from victim hood to survivor hood. Women you must treat such gender based violence as a vaccine which strengthens you to face all of life’s challenges, and to give you the empathy to understand what others are going through so that you can assist them with navigating around life’s challenges and support the through the challenges.

However, Sisters we can celebrate today as our future is not all doom and gloom. We have to take the lead in shaping the future by believing in ourselves, as mothers, parents and teachers by instilling positive values, to our sons, brothers, husbands and partners. Indeed the definition of sustainable is the resilience of women who have weathered all manner of storms in our personal lives, and still go on.

Constitution Reform: In deference to our politicians, I urge that we the people seize this opportunity to put our X for the essential protections for the future of our children and descendants. This process will provide the hope for entrenching a people centred culture of non- discrimination and equal rights. We have an historical opportunity to complete our circle of independence as citizens and as women. I urge you to seize this opportunity, embrace our future of gender equality, a future where men will respect women, and women will respect men, as with rights come responsibilities.

This is an era of implementation as we embrace the SDGs and the 2030 Agenda. We women want to celebrate:  freedom from violence; access to justice including addressing incidences of corruption which hinder development, as we embrace SDG 16. We want to celebrate health services that recognize the health needs of women also involve mental wellness, recognize that GBV is a public health issue and cater to the sexual and reproductive health needs including the reduction of maternal mortality, morbidity and the management of post- partum depression.   Women and girls need a peace house, a place of healing as we prepare to get past these challenges.

This transformation to sustainable living must infiltrate every stage of our lives.

Sisters let us click our heels three times and believe that like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz and the musical the Wiz… We have to believe that we can transform our present circumstances and limitations. Sisters we’ve got to step it up. We have the critical mass of being half of the population. We have the knowldge of working and surviving, in homes, farms, fields, lands markets and offices.We have no excuse.  We can use these keys of experience to turn on the engine of the vehicle for change and development. Let us today commit to live in the meaning of sustainability as the engine of Grenada’s sustainable development.

We have the support of organisations in the frontline of this nation to claim a future of all: GNOW, GAPSA, GNCRC, the IAGDO, the sisters in the vanguard of our trade unions, churches, political parties, the grass roots community leaders. Let us accelerate towards 2030. Together, let us work, shoulder to shoulder, side by side, to leave a legacy of a sustainable future for this beloved island of Grenada.

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