Safeguarding our Women’s rights

Like the rest of the world, Grenada saw a turbulent global economic melt down, but for the most part was isolated from the wars and civil strife that brought untold suffering to the peoples of Europe, Asia and Africa.

On every continent women were violated, maimed and killed without reason, the carnage continues; their rights, where any at all exists, trampled with impunity.

States have an obligation to “exercise due diligence to prevent, investigate and, in accordance with national legislation, punish acts of violence against women, whether those acts are perpetrated by the State or by private persons.” (Article 4-c) The Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women.

One in every six women will be the victim of attempted or actual sexual assault in their lifetime. Young girls facing sexual abuse before leaving high school include: 7% between grades 5 and 8, and 12% percent between grades 9 and 12.

Violation of a woman’s rights includes domestic abuse; one in every four women will face domestic abuse in her lifetime; women age 20 to 24 are most at risk being assaulted by someone they know. Though the crime is commonly unreported, it is estimated that one-third of all homicide victims who are women were murdered by their intimate partner.

Draconian policies especially in the developing world have systematically violated the “human” rights of women.  Personal disregard and disrespect for women demonstrated by men at the highest levels of leadership and political power in Grenadian society show positive and consistent links to the gender bias inherent in institutional policies and practice.

Prime Minister, Dr. Keith Mitchell, the writer thinks, is aware of this and on course to properly and realistically empower women – evidenced by the number of women holding important positions in his cabinet.

Furthermore, the equal status of women must be a defining component in the success of the Prime Minister’s, “Project Grenada.”

In recent years, women have made some strides, but still hold most of the lower-skilled public sector jobs, frequently the first to be cut.

When social programs are slashed, (e.g. childcare) women again, first to be impacted, are expected to take on additional domestic responsibilities that further limit their access to education or other jobs.

Slowly, the nation’s educational, cultural and legal institutions have begun to challenge and change the notion of inferiority of women in society. But, a proactive – “bull by the horns” – upsurge creating a new leadership personality – woman power – has been emerging among the youth.

Women have outstripped their male counterparts, even in fields traditionally dominated by men: engineering, law and medicine and the probability that the gap will widen is seen problematic for the male ego that must adjust to the fast approaching power shift – role reversal.

Throughout history, women have had no rights; they could not vote; relegated to work in the home, they were treated with scorn venturing outside, into the workplace – a woman’s place was behind her man – his opinions were hers – not to be questioned.

With the founding, in the United States, of the National Organisation For Women, NOW, in 1966, the cause for women’s rights was put on the national agenda and the landmark Equal Rights Amendment, ERA, adopted in 1967 was finally passed in1970.

The debate in the English-speaking Caribbean shifted into high gear, driven by cultural infiltration from generations of the region’s nationals settling in the U.S. The March for Women, Equality Now, The United Nations Women’s Watch and other women’s rights organisations worked tirelessly keeping the movement alive on international front pages – Grenada took notice.

The late 70’s put into motion a chain of events sparking a revolutionary socialist agenda that set off the conversation to give women their rightful place in the social order.  Gender equality upped from taboo to topical.

The Grenada Revolution, 1979-1983 fermented predominantly by youthful
university educated Grenadian leaders, leapfrogged the movement with programs and legislation giving rights to women hitherto unknown in Grenadian society.  Women were on the move!

But despite efforts by television and public radio service announcements to combat spousal abuse and raise women’s rights awareness, abuse continues and women regularly take home less pay than men for the same labour.

Post revolution had lost some of its steam, however a new thrust in Grenadian leadership is the safeguarding of women’s rights – our mothers, wives and sisters – which the writer, without equivocation, fully endorses and appeals to the Nation – men and women – to stand and be counted.

Kit Stonewalling

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