NIA CHARLESTOWN NEVIS (March 08, 2021) — The following is an address by Hon. Hazel Brandy Williams, Junior Minister of Health and Gender Affairs in the Nevis Island Administration (NIA) on the occasion of International Women’s Day 2021 observed on March 08.
As Minister of Gender Affairs in the Nevis Island Administration, and as a woman myself, I look forward each year with pride and great anticipation to the month of March, as March 8th is celebrated around the globe as International Women’s Day: a day marked especially to laude and herald the achievements of women, internationally, regionally, and locally; across every level of society and in all sectors of community development.
The United Nation’s theme for International Women’s Day 2021 is, “Women in Leadership: Achieving an Equal Future in a COVID-19 World.” Strikingly, this theme not only highlights our responsibility to the wellbeing and security of women and girls throughout the extent of this pandemic, but it underscores the crucial role that women and girls must be allowed to play in wholistic contributing solutions to this international problem.
The Department of Gender Affairs has grown over the years to celebrate International Women’s Day with various engaging and highly anticipated activities throughout the month of March. However, as we live currently in a COVID-19 world, this year’s activities will, necessarily, be scaled back yet we will endeavour to have them equally as effective in spreading the message of equality as we have done in the past.
One of the highlights of this year’s celebrations will be the awarding of women who have been on the front-line of our country’s fight against COVID-19: nurses, police officers, supermarket attendants, hotel employees, bankers, response team volunteers, and others. We are eager to recognize their selflessness as they courageously did their part in keeping us safe.
The truth is, that while great strides have been made over the years as it relates to women empowerment, there is still quite a way to go before we realize true gender equality. The pandemic has highlighted this as it has been said that many international decision-making bodies charged with countering the coronavirus had little to no female representation. I am most pleased to say that in St. Kitts and Nevis we suffered no such plight.
Being ahead of the international scene in this regard, our federal and local COVID-19 task forces benefited from the commendable leadership and insights of women such as Dr. Hazel Laws and Dr. Judy Nisbett, respectively.
When women are afforded an equal opportunity to contribute to every sphere of society no one gets left behind.
To all our men I say, as we mark International Women’s Day do your part in supporting women in leadership, speak out against Gender-based violence, celebrate those women around you and encourage your daughters to dream big and to achieve more. We are in this together so both men and women must play their part.
As we consider women and leadership, we must not think of it as an endeavour for women to ‘take over’, but as a bid for women to lead, alongside our male counterparts, thus making valuable contributions by way of our unique perspectives, insights and skillsets.
I feel it important for me to also point out that women, just as in the case of men, women, should seek to be leaders for the right reason – to serve others. Not for fame, or power or self-aggrandizement but to serve others. This is the only way we will be able to impact lives for the better and help our nation, communities and families.
I wish to say to each woman and girl that there is not only a leader in you but there is a leader in you that the world is waiting on. However, the only way for you to grow into a leader that positively impacts the world and unlock the hidden leaders in others is to begin cultivating leadership qualities such as honesty, selflessness, dependability, and respect.
It would have been these same qualities that propelled to prominence outstanding regional leaders such as Dame Mary Eugenia Charles, female Prime Minister of Dominica, who stood head and shoulder among her male counterparts making solid and lasting decisions at a time when female leadership at that level was even more scarce than today.
Here in St. Kitts and Nevis we have had trailblazers such as Dame Constance Mitcham, first female Member of Parliament (MP); and Jacinth Henry-Martin, MP and diplomat, as well as Nurse Gene Harris; and Nurse Patsy Hanley pioneering the way right here on Nevis.
But leadership need not be thought of as merely political. The contributions of women in every sphere of our nation’s life is crucial for our collective success. Many of us have witnessed other outstanding woman community leaders such as Mrs. Olvis Dyer, female generals of faith such as the Rev. Eunice Griffin, outstanding farmers such as Emontine Liburd and sporting champions such as Mrs. Jeanette Grell-Hull. This International Women’s Day we honour and salute them and the thousands of women who lead us, at home, at school, at the market, in business or on the street corner, into greater heights of success and well-being.
This International Women’s Day let us remember that women, realizing their full potential is key to the overall development and recovery of our society and our beloved country where peace abounds.
We encourage, recognize and celebrate women and girls as they take their place and leave their mark as trailblazers. Happy International Women’s day 2021!