They were at it again last week. Woman issues was all over all of the media as women came together to examine their causes, and in particular the role of women in politics. They marched, they sang, they reminded us all of the Strategic Development Goals and how far they have come and how much further they need to go to achieve these goals as set out by the United Nations.
As far back as 1985, the Federation signed and ratified the CEDAW Convention. Our progress has been monitored by institutions such as the Commonwealth Secretariat. The progress has been erratic as we have gone forwards and backwards on issues.
In the Federation, women receive equal pay for equal work, and there are more women at work than men. But women receive lesser paying jobs than men. In schools and universities, women outnumber men. In entrepreneurship, women also outnumber men (at least in registered businesses). So why aren’t they receiving the better jobs? That is the question.
In every election from 1971, women have been candidates in elections in the Federation. In the 1979 local village elections in Nevis, a high of 33% of the candidates were women. In 2006, 20% were women; and in 2006, all 4 women candidates were defeated. Today, there is only 1 elected female out of 11 at the Federal level and none at the local level. We will have to await the outcome of pending plebiscites to see whether there has been forward motion.
Whether it is an effort at appeasement or an acknowledgement of a deficiency, our governments have nominated two women into parliament/assembly. They join the lone female elected candidate in the chamber; but it is debatable whether they have made or are making the Parliament or Island Assembly a kinder, gentler place.
Yet it is not for lack of role models why women are not in greater show at the political level. There was Dominica, Trinidad & Tobago, the UK, India, for examples. The US came close but for an alleged external interference, but surely someday soon they will break through that glass ceiling. Along with gender equality laws and conventions, more needs to be done in society for such policies to be fully embraced.
It is not to say that men have a clear pathway to the mountain top. Just look at US Supreme Court Judge Clarence Thomas and hopeful nominee Neil Gorsuch. Study the story Delilah. Ignore women at your peril!
Let us be clear, we support our women in every field of endeavour. We do not support a free pass to glory as CEDAW seems to be suggesting; and we do not think that that is what women want anyway. In this 21st century, we should have more open mindedness to gender equity!
(editor’s note: this editorial was written by a male).