NIA CHARLESTOWN NEVIS (March 08, 2022) — The following is an address by Hon. Hazel Brandy-Williams, Junior Minister of Health and Gender Affairs in the Nevis Island Administration (NIA) to mark International Women’s Day, 2022.
Tuesday March 8, 2022, is recognised around the world as International Women’s Day, and this year’s celebration is centred on the theme: “Gender Equality Today for a Sustainable Tomorrow.”
Sustainability refers to the preservation of resources vital to our collective existence, to the end that we can all attain and maintain decent standards of living especially as it relates to our economic livelihoods, our social well-being, and the environment.
Gender equality necessitates that opportunities are equitably available to each person in our society regardless of their gender.
In our Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis, as we look forward to emerging from the ravages of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is important for us to simultaneously allow into our field of vision concerns such as climate change, natural disasters and food availability. While overshadowed by the pandemic they are no less real and still present a threat to our sustainable development. This highlights the importance of having a focus on sustainability as we celebrate Women’s Month 2022.
Over the years we have rallied and lobbied for gender equality. This year we look at gender equality as a direct driver of, and contributor to our nation’s sustainability.
Of course, as we work towards a sustainable future, it is only logical that if both men and women, girls and boys are fully empowered to realise their fullest potential, we will achieve greater levels of sustainability in a shorter period of time.
No longer can we speak of gender equality in a vacuum, for as we look around us, we will begin to realise that equality impacts every sphere of life, and climate change is a grave and increasing danger that must be corralled.
In fact, climate change has been identified as a threat multiplier. It exacerbates existing environmental threats, and unfortunately, women and girls are affected the worst by the disastrous effects of climate change.
It is incumbent upon all of us to ensure that we put meaningful measures in place to mitigate against the threats facing our women and girls as we seek to build a safe and resilient society.
As we consider the link between equality and sustainability, let’s do a quick exercise to examine how it is necessary for us to handle natural disasters like hurricanes with which we are very familiar.
Gender equality matters in how we plan and prepare for a hurricane. Women must be included on disaster preparedness committees to ensure that those communities can accurately represent the needs of the entire society.
Gender equality matters during a hurricane. Measures must be put in place to guarantee that women and girls are kept safe from gender-based violence, such as rape and sexual harassment while seeking refuge at a shelter; and gender equality matters after a hurricane because financial aid and other forms of relief must be equitably distributed among males and females to ensure both genders are fully equipped to recover from the disadvantageous effects of the disaster.
This is just one example of how we can establish equality and experience greater sustainability but imagine the far-reaching benefits that would be experienced across our nation and indeed our world if we ensure gender equality exists in every aspect of life.
To guarantee a more productive, positive and prosperous St. Kitts and Nevis, we must shoulder the responsibility to implement the equality agenda faster, further and more firmly.
It is the obligation of each of us to denounce talk and actions that belittle or disparage women and girls or make it seem as if they have little or nothing to contribute, knowing that as a society we are only as strong as the weakest among us. So let us not, by our ways and words, make our sisters weak.
The onus is on educators to prepare both males and females to achieve the highest and not limit themselves because of their gender; and it is the duty of parents to instil from a tender age that both boys and girls have an equal part to play in our nation; that they both embody the solutions to the problems of our troubled world, and that they have an equal voice that we need to hear.
In our island we have been blessed with women and girls who have been making great strides in agriculture, in disaster risk reduction, and in environmental conservation, making us more aware of how to preserve the natural beauty of our island.
It is for this very reason that in its annual awards ceremony, the Department of Gender Affairs has set aside International Women’s Day to bring special recognition to Nevisians who have made stellar contributions to our nation’s sustainable development.
This awards ceremony will see the honouring of five girls and five women, and I celebrate them as well as the many other industrious women and girls on the island of Nevis, who continue to forge paths of environmental excellence and economic efficiency.
The Department of Gender Affairs will also host its first ever Gender Expo on Friday, March 18th at the Malcolm Guishard Recreational Park, from 1 to 6 p.m., where a number of women and also men, who benefited from the business boot camps and skills training workshops of the department, will showcase their various talents and businesses to the public.
Certainly, all are welcome to support these small businesses which form part of the local engine that sustains our collective, economic wellbeing.
As we consider our future, let it not be lost on us that the quality of life ahead greatly depends on the actions we take today, and how we decide to value and empower women and girls at present. Inequality is inexcusable!
So, let us emphasise equality with new lenses, knowing that how we esteem every woman, man, boy and girl has direct and lasting impacts on our tomorrow.
As we celebrate women for the entire month of March, let us ensure our mothers feel appreciated, our daughters feel loved, our sisters feel respected, our nieces cherished and our aunts important. Make all our women valued, make all our girls seen and heard.
Happy International Women’s Day!