Do Trinis Really Acknowledge Women’s Rights and Achievements?
So Carnival Tuesday, March 8, is also International Women’s Day (IWD for the cool folks). Somehow, the Editor-in-Chief, Karel, decided it would be a good idea for ME – who thinks women should be chained to a bed, and let out from 7.30 to 8.00, morning and evening, to wash clothes, cook, and iron – to show my appreciation for the ‘fairer’ sex.
My first thought was, “Allyuh woman doh have enough days already?” There’s Mother’s Day, Valentine’s Day, Christmas, and anniversaries! Honestly, if it was up to fellas, we wouldn’t be buying all the se gifts. And besides, what is this about anyways? I wouldn’t believe women really have achieved anything until they can belch or fart in public.
On a serious note though, after a little searching around on the Internet, i.e. Google and Wikipedia, I was able to find out that IWD is a global day celebrating the economic, political and social achievements of women past, present, and future, and that in some places like China, Russia, Vietnam and Bulgaria, International Women’s Day is a national holiday.
To be honest, without wanting to sound like a chauvinist pig, I find woman does get enough appreciation in T&T. I understand the need to stop and say, “Aye, we achieve a lot in the last 100 years”, but women in T&T haven’t had the same struggles faced by most women in Africa, and the Islamic world. You could imagine someone trying to oppress Trini women like that? That will be the day! I’m not saying it doesn’t exist in Trinidad, but it’s different. I’m sure there are oppressed women in our society, just not on the grand scale like you hear of in these places.
Using the number of events being held in recognition of this special day as a benchmark, and noting that only two, specific events in T&T (according to the IWD official website), one would say that International Women’s Day isn’t really acknowledged in T&T, when compared to seventy-two in London alone (and yes… London is larger). Or maybe it’s only acknowledged by those who care about gender issues?
Surprisingly, there are only two other Caribbean countries that have advertised events on the official website, those being Guyana and the Dominican Republic – and they don’t have to contend with Carnival.
Despite the seeming lack of popularity of this day in our culture, it is good that there are events that say hey ladies you’ve come a long way since the olden days. However, when you try to think of reasons why we do not connect with this day of appreciation as much as other parts of the world, maybe it’s a cultural thing. Or maybe it’s because some of us have never experienced oppression, so it doesn’t hit home for us.
I think the main reason women’s rights are taken for granted in T&T is because this aspect of our culture has been very liberal from the beginning, and as far as I remember, women have always been more or less equals. Women have always been allowed to vote, we have had women such as Occah Seapaul, Hulsie Bhaggan, and now the Honourable Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar in prominent political positions, and all you have to do is look at society to see the high number of successful women putting their stamp on the economic development of T&T.
Granted, back in the day, in the culture of the indentured labourers, women played a very submissive role, and although this status quo has changed for most of the female population in this part of T&T’s society, there are still pockets where the practices of old still prevail.
Another key point why we may not identify strongly with these events, was raised by Dr. Gabrielle Hosein – Lecturer at The University of the West Indies’ Institute of Gender and Development Studies (St. Augustine) and an expert on the state of gender and development in T&T). When asked to comment on the issues affecting women in T&T, Dr. Hosein says:
“The issues affecting women remain much the same as those we have been fighting for decades. What we have to keep in mind is that women’s lives, health, choices and opportunities have vastly improved because of feminist advocacy and activism over the last century and the impact it made on changing the status quo. Yet we have to continue to consider the realities of especially working class women who may not experience the same kinds of opportunities and equalities that more privileged, educated or better employed women can access.
In many ways, the lives of women – and particularly – working class women remain characterised by community and interpersonal violence, low-waged, insecure and non-unionised work, lack of adequate state support around the challenges of reconciling work and family life, poor state services and of course poverty – which affects not only women, but whole families – for whom women are largely responsible in terms of food provision and the provision of care – a responsibility for basic needs, which seems to have become much more costly. More widely seen, the challenges facing women also continue to be related to poor macro-economic management, national debt (and its affect on social services), and soon, the effects of the global economic downturn.”
Dr. Hosein thinks that while women are celebrated, there needs to be a shared consciousness, and what’s more important is “solidarity and support for the changes women need to see in the world”. And although we currently have a female Prime Minister, thus far, that has not translated to policies or practices that put gender justice at the heart of Government policies. According to her, men must also play a significant role in securing the changes that will help redefine the gender roles for girls and boys for future generations – a fact that I think is often overlooked in discussions like these.
So fellas, and ladies, bearing these factors in mind, let’s make sure we continue to show our support and appreciation for the strong women in our lives, and contribute where we can, not forgetting the less fortunate who still fight to improve their individual situations.
I feel kind of bad for the organisers of local International Women’s Day events though. I mean… how do you compete with Carnival Tuesday, and get people to really think about women’s achievements and issues, when the only sort of appreciation people, or I should say men, will be showing women is trying to wine on a bum bum?
Check out the rest of this week’s issue (28/2/11; Issue 47):
- Samba or Soca: Would you choose Rio Carnival over Trinidad Carnival?
- Wotless and Wack this Carnival? Not Cute
- Bosses and Bitches: Winning the War in the Workplace
- Saving Money the Ole Time Way: Is the Sou Sou Outdated?
- Over 30. Still single. No prospects. Is something wrong with you?
Look out for a new issue of Outlish.com every Monday!