Address by Hon. Jerome Roberts, Minister of Home Affairs and Gender 1st Annual Women’s Week 2014 and International Women’s Day Address Monday, March 3, 2014
Greetings to you all. I am pleased to open a week of very special events in honour of International Women’s Day on March 8. The Ministry of Home Affairs, Gender Affairs Unit is featuring the first annual Women’s Week 2014 from March 3 through March 8 under the theme “Celebrating the Spirit of Achievement.” In the same breadth, let me hasten to add that similar plans are being made for a Men’s Week in June.
From an historical context, International Women’s Day is a time to recognize the tremendous impact that women have had in world societies that were male dominated. Women have made strides to improve their life conditions in the face of political laws focused on doing just the opposite. Women have transcended traditional notions of being mandated to the home and the rearing of children. On our island, women are entrepreneurs, politically involved and influential, and family breadwinners in some cases.
We have so many women on Anguilla who have been an inspiration to many and who have achieved success in their own right. We can highlight a number of these – our first female Speaker of the House the Hon. Barbara Webster-Bourne, our first female Governor Her Excellency Christina Scott and so many women who have distinguished themselves in the fields of education, health, law, hospitality and tourism, business and development, and arts and culture. This year a number of these women will be featured in radio interviews speaking candidly about their life experiences, successes, challenges and what keeps them going strong in the spirit of achievement. These are powerful testimonies which we will all remember in the weeks and months after the celebrations.
In Anguilla, we are strong because of the dedication of these women and so many others. These women are our mothers, sisters, daughters, wives, friends, employees and employers. They handle multiple responsibilities and are able to keep moving strong. We applaud these women, the efforts of all our ancestors, and of all Anguilla’s female activists who have been continuously striving to promote the empowerment of women in all sectors of life – socially, economically and politically. We have made important strides in Anguilla but there is still work to be done.
As the Minister with responsibility for Gender, it gives me great delight to report that we have made significant progress in the nation’s commitment to strengthening gender affairs on our island. Last year this time I mentioned that the Executive Council had approved a Gender Development Coordinator to assist in establishing the Gender Affairs Unit. As of January 2, we succeeded in this goal with the appointment of Ronya Foy Connor as the Gender Development Coordinator. With the appointment of a Gender Development Coordinator, our nation is now putting the mechanisms in place to be recognized locally, regionally and internationally as a country committed to the well-being of our citizens and promoting opportunities for advancement regardless of gender.
On behalf of the Government, the people of Anguilla and on my own behalf, we must thank the Governor’s Office for sponsoring a one week attachment for Mrs. Foy Connor in mid-March with the BVI’s Office of Gender Affairs in Tortola. The attachment will go a long way in assisting our efforts toward establishing a fully functional and adequately staffed Gender Affairs Unit. While in the BVI, Anguilla’s gender official will meet key stakeholders in Gender Affairs, Social Development, Law Enforcement, Community and Family Support, Human Resources Employee Relations and Disaster Management. This connection will afford us the opportunity to examine the successful operation of one of our regional partners and implement the necessary policies and procedures in Anguilla.
We are also revamping and reenergizing efforts to have the Domestic Violence legislation finalized with comments from multiple stakeholders including the Bar Association and the Royal Anguilla Police Force. They have all been equipped with the knowledge and response to Sexual and Gender Based Violence and have a ready resource to respond to these vulnerabilities in our community. I am also proud to see our nation coming closer to realizing international conventions such as CEDAW; which will provide a practical blueprint for overcoming discrimination against women and promoting basic human rights.
As we celebrate International Women’s Day 2014, we truly do have much to celebrate. This year’s international theme is “Inspiring Change” and we are inspiring change right here at home toward gender equality and the humane treatment of all persons. This week we commend women for their efforts and we also call on the support of men to do the same. Men and women are righteously linked and we are strongest when we are linked in mutual understanding and collaboration.
Today, therefore, we all applaud the efforts of women to make a sustainable life for themselves, their loved ones and their communities. Remember, “Achievement is not always defined by victory. Sometimes achievement lies in the honest endeavour to do your best under all circumstances.” We wish you a happy Women’s Week 2014 and International Women’s Day.
(Published without editing by The Anguillian newspaper.)