International Women’s Day 2021 comes on the heels of a year riddled with heartbreaking incidents of Gender-Based Violence (GBV) in the Caribbean. From the still-unsolved case of missing student, Jasmine Dean in Jamaica to the brutal murder of Ashanti Riley and many others in Trinidad and Tobago, women across the region continue to be the targets of monsters living amongst us in society. But these tragedies have given way to louder calls for justice, protection and equality for women everywhere.
In fitting fashion, this year’s IWD theme #ChooseToChallenge urges all to stand up for women by calling out gender bias and inequality. We’re also called to reflect on our progress and celebrate the remarkable achievements of women throughout the years.
As Presidents, Prime Ministers, Ministers of Government, CEO’s and other professional executives, women in the Caribbean have made their mark in notable positions of leadership. They have earned themselves a place at the table as decision-makers, where they continue to ensure that issues affecting women are placed on the front burner. Even as average citizens, women make up most of the population, as not only more educated persons but also as the breadwinners of most households in the region.
While women have long gained the right to vote, receive an education and become employed, they continue their uphill battle for equality. In terms of the wage gap, research from the University of the West Indies indicates that while female students make up more than 65%, Caribbean women only earn 60 to 70 cents for every dollar made by men.
There are laws in place in the region to prosecute perpetrators of GBV and child abusers but their enforcement leaves much to be desired. In Trinidad and Tobago, calls for a much-needed sex offenders registry have been stonewalled by lawmakers. In Jamaica, a recent advertisement for a discussion on abortion by the G2K 2000 Kingston and St Andrew’s Chapter received criticism on social media. The Google Meeting was set to argue the women-centred topic from both the perspectives of the church and science, but many were alarmed that none of the panellists were women. Abortion remains illegal throughout the Caribbean with Barbados, Belize, St. Vincent and the Grenadines allowing the procedure only to save a woman’s life.
The demand for pepper spray, tasers and other self-defence tools increased following the abhorrent murder of Andrea Bharatt in T&T but was met immediately with firm rejection from Top Cop Gary Griffith. With the continued public outcry and the persistence of the activists, steps were soon initiated for permits, bringing the dream of womens’ safety closer to reality.
This year, show your support for women IWD 2021 by joining the cause on the road to gender equality. Join a march against inequality, use the IWD hashtag, donate to a local women’s charity, support women-owned businesses (like Media InSite), get involved in a women’s activist group or even consider reviewing your company’s internal policies for any gender biases. Remain alert and willing to lend a helping hand to the women in your daily lives. It will take the concerted effort of all of us to ensure a future where women are not treated equally, but protected and celebrated for their worth.