Vanya David is president of the DNCW

Dear Dominican sisters and brothers , as we celebrate yet another International Women Day (IWD), I hope that everyone is in good health; that by now we are all able to have a proper night’s rest, even if under the shelter of Tarpaulin, good meals and have been able to return to our normal way of life and happiness.

Following one of the worst disasters that we have ever experienced, you will realize that our theme has never been more appropriate.

It is a timely reminder of the stature women in Dominica who have been the backbone and strength of families and the country for generations. Our resilience in the face of natural disasters, economic hardship and social dislocation has been shown over and over again. Our women must be given much more credit than we are getting at present.

The hard work of our women has ensured that vegetables such as lettuce and tomatoes are available to add to the diet in addition to ground provisions.

These women vegetable farmers are making a significant contribution to the health of the nation since we cannot afford at this time any increase in chronic diseases. The women fisher-folk in both rural and urban areas also make a vital contribution to our nutrition. They struggle to make a living selling for the boat and net owners at a commission. They cannot afford to buy the fish and struggle to sell their load in order to make a few precious dollars each day.

In the absence of electricity, they cannot store fish and must consume whatever they have each day. When they get home they may have little to eat.

The women seamstresses in the villages are often sidelined in favour of firms when it comes to making garments.

Currently, they usually get clothes to repair and clients are not willing to pay a fair rate, although repairs involve more work because the seamstress has to undo (unstitch) before she can carry out the required adjustments.

Domestic workers are now working harder than before Hurricane Maria under more difficult conditions. Household gadgets are not functioning due to lack of electricity and the women are not getting any increase in pay for additional work. Domestics are usually rural women who provide services to household all over the island. Some are providing child care or elderly care in private homes. They are required at times to sleep in and are therefore always on duty. These women are brought into the home as caregivers and overtime then find that they are given more and more duties.

The rural women must, therefore, be given increased recognition. We need to value these women much more and think about areas for the development of women, especially those in agriculture.

In that regard, I’m calling on the administration to review the role and function of women particularly in light of their responsibility. Legislation should be put in place to give some protection in relation to their roles and function. These low waged workers need a bigger cash flow; an injection of cash to put them on a firmer footing to improve on what they are doing in agriculture to better feed themselves and their families. They need to be better able to manage their farming and fishing activities. They need to be able to pay someone to assist them in their production of vegetable crops.

We want to ensure that whatever we do we must include these women, show them appreciation and create opportunities for them not only in farming but in other aspects of their livelihood.

Rural women deserve decent work and a living wage and conditions of service which will permit them to achieve their goals.

Vanya David is President of the DNCW.