Today, I salute the women and girls of the Federation in general but specifically the women and girls of PAM, they who continue to strengthen the foundation of this great party through canvassing, lobbying, advocacy, campaigning, fundraising and supporting the husbands, dads and men of the party that continues to put people first.
Having said that, it is time we take stock of where we are as women and girls and what we want to achieve as members of PAM and citizens of the Federation of St Kitts and Nevis. Are we going to continue to be silent on the many issues that are dogging, plaguing and affecting our women while the Douglas led administration continue to lend a deaf ear and sweep the challenges under the rug?
I speak of gross unemployment, increased poverty, sexual abuse, domestic abuse, physical abuse, emotional abuse, victimization, exploitation, discrimination; lack of universal health care to help with the treatment of Non Communicable Diseases, lack of assistance in preventative medicine, women wouldn't you like financial assistance for pap smears and breast cancer screening? How about to be financially capable of seeking a second opinion on a diagnosis? I say with confidence that A PAM administration will initiate insurance coverage to adequately address those issues. The absence of training and development is like a lasso around the necks of our women. This leads me to ask about the Yes Programme? Am reliably informed it is now the No Programme. Yet, another broken initiative, another disappointment for our women folk.
There is much talk about safety nets but it would appear that those nets are interrupted with extremely large holes as everything woman has fallen to rock bottom since the PAM administration of 1995. Women in the federation make up more than 50 percent of the population according to the St Kitts/Nevis Demographic Profile 2012. Yet women are not represented in equal proportion in our society. Why do we continue to fill the bottom tiers in available opportunities? Though qualified and trained our representation is compared to a needle in a haystack at the highest decision making body. We have done the house work to perfection, stretched ourselves to nurture the children with scarce resources, flooded the industrial plants like ants in a jar of honey to support the family and have advanced academically yet, the gap between the principle of our advancement and the practice or action in placing women in the right seat on the bus needs no binoculars to prove it is almost nonexistent.
Women’s work often goes unpaid and unnoticed and the world’s statistics hold true for our Federation where women perform 66% of the world’s work, produce 50% of the food but earn only 10% of the world’s income and own only 1% of the property. There is no involvement in planning and decision making from women stakeholders. Rather, many talk shops exist but no policies enacted to support women's advancement. Women's time in the house at home was well spent, that age has past and the time has come for women to play show and tell and deliver the transformational leadership skills they have acquired at home to the house of parliament and other areas of decision making.
Though it is clear that women continue to be positive contributors to society there is no tangible recognition in place. In 1984 Constance Mitcham, the first elected woman parliamentarian set the stage for the advancement of the Federation's women. Before Ms Mitcham another champion of women especially those who had fallen was Mary Charles George who in 1971 was the first woman to be on the ballot in St Kitts/Nevis; she represented the PAM. According to the Sir Rt Hon Kennedy Simmonds, first PM, “Mary Charles-George has earned her place in the history of St. Kitts and Nevis as a pioneer in the struggle for the full empowerment of women to be equal partners in the development of our country.” The late Mrs Charles-George work was not in vain and the PAM government acknowledged her significant contribution to nation building and named the Mary Charles hospital in Molineaux in her honour.
Today our nation screams and pleads for more women like the Hon Constance V Mitcham and Mary Charles George. We need more women like those ladies whose policies in support for the development of women continue to be uncommon, unusual, unprecedented, unmatched, and unparalleled.
There is an urgent call for:
1. Women who will not be afraid to stand up to the men and demand positive change for women. Our women, our girls, our future, tomorrow's leaders need positive role models.
2. Women that will say to our men, listen these are the needs of women and they should be met! Just like Constance Mitcham changed the status quo then, it has to be changed again, now! She was not afraid to demand policy changes for women.
a. I could name some such changes:
i. Established a ministry of Women's affairs to look after the implementation of policies in favour of women
ii. The unwed mother retained her job
iii. Maternity benefit increased to 13 weeks with pay
iv. Introduction of Maternity grant
v. Child born out of wedlock can carry his/her father's name. When you look at the birth certificate it now reads name of father; John Doe rather than dash. Before a PAM's government Dash fathered most of our nation's children that were born outside of wedlock
vi. That same child will enjoy the inheritance of his/her father.
We cannot let our role sheroes work go in vain. We must be fired up now for Action. After all we are the Peoples’ Action Movement Party! Now is the time for women to share the top roles and responsibilities with their counterparts socially, politically, and economically. Women are able, capable, and ready to perform! This however, will only be possible under a PAM government led by Mr Lindsay FitzPatrick Grant. The foundation has been laid, women are ready to excel, and the legacies of Mary Charles Goerge and Constance Viola Mitcham are obvious. With support and encouragement the yield will be magnanimous.
It will not be easy and the Hon Constance Viola Mitcham will be the first one to tell you, but you could be comforted in the words of Maya Angelou, “You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated. Please remember that your difficulties do not define you. They simply strengthen your ability to overcome.”
Let us therefore liberate, unshackle and unfetter ourselves, connect and network with other women for positive action as we lobby our men for support to achieve win/win for our tomorrow's leaders ..... Our women and girls.