President's International Women's Day address

Tuesday, March 7, 2017 - 09:15

The following is President Anthony Carmona's statement in recognition of International Women's Day.

"United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres made a clarion call and a tacit demand to the world in his 2017 International Women’s Day Message when he stated, “Let us all pledge to do everything we can to overcome entrenched prejudice, support engagement and activism, and promote gender equality and women’s empowerment." We have therefore been given a roadmap to effect the UN theme for International Women’s Day 2017, “Women in the Changing World of Work: Planet 50-50 by 2030.”

It speaks to the creation of a holistic environment that lends itself to the empowerment, upward mobility and progression of women around the world. This thrust must not only be institutionalized through our governance structures but also be an intrinsic tenet in our daily lives. Female empowerment must be a lived philosophy actualized through our actions at home, in the education system, and in the professional realm.

At the heart of this United Nations mandate, Planet 50/50 by 2030, is the full and effective participation of women in the workforce, with EQUAL opportunities and REAL access to leadership at all levels of decision-making, in economic, political and public life.

This goal of equality and parity for women in the workplace- whether that ‘workplace’ is the office, the boardroom, the kitchen, the home or the garden- will only be fully realized when the need for comparison is no longer the ‘male’ standard, but the standard of our own humanity.

Against the backdrop of the significant progress women have made on that long road to justice and equality, there is much yet to be done. The culture shift from gender bias to gender equality must begin at home, from day one. The home must become the catalyst of change and girls must not be considered less or taught to be less than boys and we must inculcate in them as we do in our boys, the value of having big dreams and great vision. Our homes must culture philosophies of genuine inclusivity, fairness and mutual respect for all.

International Women’s Day must therefore be a celebration of the resilience and foresight of the many women who struggled and suffered to attain adult suffrage, social equality and basic fundamental human rights. The struggle continues and women must guard against being their greatest foe. Women must encourage, inspire and uplift each other by their words, deeds and actions, demanding respect and not disrespecting each other. It is becoming the norm for women to engage in denigrating each other on social media and even mainstream media and other females and even the men in our society look on and simply laugh.

This must not become the standard of our social dialogue. Women must be their sister’s keeper and offer encouraging and inspirational words to other women who engage in critical analysis and speak out against social injustices facing women and young girls. Cohesive and collective collaboration between and among women of the world, can create that tour de force needed to effect that revolutionary, transformational change that every society seeks.

In Trinidad and Tobago, the debate to standardise the age of marriage, bearing upon the archaic practice of child marriage, persists in and out of our Parliament. A society can only boast of civilized standards and progress, concomitant with Goals 4 and 5 of the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)- when it treats its women and girls with the same dignity, equality, respect and honour as its men and boys.

This means ending child marriages; protecting our women and girls against all forms of discrimination and abuse including domestic violence, human trafficking and other forms of suppression; and providing our women and girls with equal access to quality education and healthcare. It means, in Trinidad and Tobago, individual and collective leadership in showing, by action and example, that in the atrocity of inequality and scant disregard for women and violence against women, there exist no grounds for tolerance, lame excuses or skewed reasoning.

Men must also take up that mantle of responsibility to fight for women’s empowerment. Women’s empowerment is not about emasculation or challenging or testing the innate strength of our men folk. It is a unifying force based on what is fair, just and real for a society to progress.

This is the purpose of our joint statement on the occasion of International Women’s Day 2017-to celebrate women and to celebrate young girls, to emphasise the support and solidarity of the male voice in our collective, national quest for achieving equality of treatment for our women and girls in Trinidad and Tobago. This goal of gender equality and treatment will not happen by will alone, but as well, by reformed practices, implementable policies, the ratification and implementation of international labour standards, human rights conventions and protocols and by way of enforceable legislation, that place women on par with men, in and out of the workplace.

To every woman and girl of this great Republic, we are proud of you; we salute you and we urge you on in your various fields of endeavour that you will excel on the wings of equality, as together we build upon a strong, harmonious and beautiful Trinidad and Tobago."