Today, I am taking the opportunity to address the women of Dominica since International Women’s Day falls on Carnival Tuesday when most Dominicans will be so engaged in those celebrations that the significance of that day may go unnoticed.
As we think of women and young girls at home and abroad, uppermost in our minds is Shanice Jemmot who disappeared since February 17. We are very concerned that as a people, individually and collectively, to date, all efforts to find her have proved fruitless. This tells us that as a nation, we need to do more to ensure that we are our neighbour’s keeper and become more vigilant in monitoring questionable activities and behavior which may be taking place in our neighbourhood that affect our young women.
Our concerns today are also for all those young women who continue to be abused sexually, emotionally and mentally with little or no recourse to justice. We would therefore like to call on all Dominicans to come forward to more effectively protect our young women from this kind of exploitation so that they can grow up in an environment which gives them the dignity and respect they truly deserve.
While the global theme for this year’s International Women’s Day is “Equal access to education, training and science and technology: Pathway to decent work for women”, this has to be looked at in an international perspective since in Dominica, in principle, women are not deprived from equal access to educational opportunities in any field. In practice, however, this may be more of an ideal than a reality because without the economic means which enable access to education, training and science and technology, the pathway to decent work for women will continue to be a challenge.
Additionally, while we know that women work hard to achieve what may sometimes seem to be insurmountable, we need to ensure that they are not discriminated against because of their gender especially where the filling of key decision making positions is concerned. We know too well that in many cases, women are the main breadwinners in the family. Educating women is therefore paramount to the strengthening of families.
Statistics will also show that women make up the bulk of the workforce in many private and public institutions but are often afraid to come forward to represent the interests of women particularly in the political arena.
In that context, my message to women, especially young women, is that while you maximize the educational opportunities available to you, you must not underestimate your ability and confidence in seeking to carve out a pathway to decent work for yourselves. Believe in yourself. Develop the courage and self-esteem needed to ensure that you are empowered in all areas, cultural , political, social and economic. Stand up for principles which are unquestionable. Demand the respect that you deserve. Remember that Dominica is one of the 161 nations which have ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.
We hope that Dominica will continue to join efforts in fighting against continuing discrimination against women by supporting the newly formed UN Women which was recently launched by the United Nations. International Women’s Day is therefore an opportunity to support women at home and all over the world who continue to be oppressed and repressed. The Dominica Freedom Party fully supports any effort to increase women’s access to educational opportunities and the building of their capacity to do so.