Fellow Citizens and Residents of St. Kitts & Nevis:
Today, Thursday, March 8, 2018 marks International Women’s Day. Our Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis joins the rest of the world in taking time to acknowledge and to celebrate the immense contribution that women continue to make in global development. Our Team Unity Government, by extension, congratulates each and every woman in our Country for their critical, consistent and indispensable role in the growth and advancement of our Nation.
For International Women’s Day 2018, UN Women has chosen the theme “Press for Progress” – which forms part of the United Nation’s broader mandate of achieving “Planet 50-50 by 2030”. This theme, “Press for Progress” signifies that there is still much ground to be covered in order for women to arrive at their rightful place, when compared to their male counterparts. In St. Kitts and Nevis we have made significant strides in the advancement of women over the years as our islands progressed through the end of slavery, two great World Wars, Statehood, the journey to Independence, and the economic transformation of our Nation from a land where sugar was king, to an economy now defined by service-driven industries.
Women make up at least 80% of church membership and power most – if not all – of our national organisations. Women also constitute over 50% of our local labour force. We have witnessed women’s participation in virtually every career field, be it education; science and technology; agriculture; construction; finance; private sector leadership; healthcare; and Parliament – where we now represent 20% of the membership.
“Press for Progress” is also indicative of the fact that St. Kitts and Nevis – and the rest of the world – must never settle for a modus operandi of affirmative action by having the bare minimum of women’s participation in the life of the Country. This would merely be a form of window-dressing. What is required is the facilitation of meaningful participation and contribution by all of our women out of genuine love for God, Country, brethren, family, and our younger generation of women by the example we set for them.
Ever since the first International Women’s Day was held in March 1911, the world began to take even greater notice of the fact that the role of women must be acknowledged, recognised, enhanced, documented and encouraged. Every International Women’s Day observance has been about gender parity for women on every front – be it social, cultural, economic or political. This means that there should be greater empowerment of women, and improved participation of women in all spheres of human endeavour, be it the world of work; family life; education, training and skill development; politics; and community, regional and international leadership.
On this International Women’s Day, our Team Unity Government wishes to take time to focus on the serious issue of Domestic Violence and Gender-based Violence in our Country. National statistics indicate that women constitute the majority of the victims of such violence. Our Government condemns violence of any kind and, in particular, violence against women. Our women folk are important to all of us. They are our mothers, sisters, daughters, aunts, grandmothers and nurturers. Moreover, more than 50% of our households are also headed by single females – often without support from their children’s fathers or male partners. This reality makes violence against women even more impactful and abhorrent, as children, families and entire communities are all affected by its venom.
In the year 2017, our Federation witnessed the deaths of three young women due to violence. I wish for us to remember them in prayer at this time, as we ask God for healing for their grieving families.
Police records indicate that these victims were:
Morella Webbe of Nevis Lydia Jacobs of Nevis Leanna Napoleon
– who died on April 17th
– who died on June 2nd
– who died between May 8th and June
14th after being missing for some
Sadly, to these numbers we have recently added the names of sisters Jammyliah and Nyomi Finch of Keys Village, who were the victims of
a double homicide on March 1st.
By November 2017, our Federation had recorded 292 cases of gender-based violence. Of this figure, 255 of the victims were females, representing some 87% of all cases of such violence during the 11-month period. What is even more glaring is the fact that some 142 of the total female victims of violence were women under the age of 30.
These victims are predominantly young women, who must be reminded every day of how valuable and precious they are, and that their own sense of self-love and self-worth should make them intolerant of any act of violence visited upon them. As women we must remember that whatever we tolerate we cannot change. Women in such situations are urged to speak out, report acts of violence to the Police, and seek help from the respective Ministry of Gender Affairs and Social Services on both St. Kitts and Nevis.
The Department of Gender Affairs has developed a number of activities to mark International Women’s Day 2018. As is customary, the activities are not confined to one day. Instead, they have been spread out over the entire month of March in order to achieve maximum awareness and sensitization of the public to women’s issues.
The following are some of these activities:
Sunday, March 4th – The staff of the Department of Gender Affairs worshipped at St. Peter’s Anglican Church in order to seek God’s blessing on the entire month of activities;
Thursday, March 8th – International Women’s Day Breakfast Award Ceremony at Royal St. Kitts Hotel where eight (8) women will be recognised for their contribution in various fields. This event is being coordinated in partnership with Ross University’s Edge® programme, with the net proceeds being donated to Adé’s Place at Greenlands. Women in the Federation are all encouraged to wear something purple – as purple is the official colour of International Women’s Day.
Saturday, March 17th – Women’s Health Walk.
Monday, March 19th – Creative Arts Competition in the High
Schools – where students will draw their artistic impression of a
local woman who has made her mark as a leader in this Country
Friday, March 23rd – Town Hall Meeting on the subject of “Child
On our sister island of Nevis several International Women’s Day events are also being staged. A number of community-based organisations are also undertaking their own International Women’s Day observances throughout the month of March. Among these events is a March against Violence being organised by the Business and Professional Women’s Club (BPW). This event is set for 12 noon on March 8th, starting from the top of Church Street, in front of St. George’s Anglican Church. The March will travel down Church Street, left onto Princes’ Street, left onto Fort Street, right onto Cayon Street, and right onto West Independence Square Street. All are invited.
The staging of our International Women’s Day 2018 celebrations could not have been possible without the dedication and hard work of the small staff complement at the Department of Gender Affairs. Under the leadership of Mrs Celia Christopher, Director of Gender Affairs, the Department has developed a number of activities that are meaningful, timely and impactful. These projects and programmes fall within the wider mandate of the Department, which focuses on advocacy for gender-based development within the Federation. The Federal Government uses this opportunity to commend Mrs Christopher and her team for their tremendous efforts.
As I close this national address I again take pleasure in congratulating each and every woman in our Federation. Equally, I congratulate the eight women who are being recognised in St. Kitts for their meritorious service in the following fields:
Media Entertainment Agriculture
Manufacturing & Industry
A number of women in Nevis should also being recognised for excellent service in area of community development.
We salute all of today’s awardees – and the countless other women in our Federation who remain unsung heroes – for their invaluable contribution to the socio-economic, cultural and political development of our Federation. These women – in quiet and unassuming ways – continue to give, support, mentor, nurture and groom our Nation’s children so that they can eventually take their rightful places in society and fulfill their God-given potential.
May God bless all women in the Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis. On behalf of the Federal Government I extend best wishes for a very memorable, pleasant, reflective, peaceful and meaningful celebration of International Women’s Day 2018.