Nevis’ Change Centre Celebrates International Women’s Day By Patrice Pemberton

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Monday, 8th March was the 100-year celebration of International Women’s Day (IWD). The Change Centre on Nevis hosted a discussion at the Occasions, Pinney’s Estate, on the same day. Mrs. Elencia Boasman-Baptiste, a social worker from St. Maarten, was there to speak on the theme, “Equal Rights, Equal Opportunities: Progress for All.” Pastor Salome James, former Manager, now Executive Director of the Change Centre, praised Mrs. Boasman-Baptiste’s presentation and the discussion which ensued. “The discussions were healthy and I think they were also noteworthy that women understand that we have to be together in the whole struggle of violence against women and equality for women,” she said. Pastor James mentioned that the event attendees were immediately made planners for next year’s event, as preparations are already underway. During the event, presentations of IWD mugs were made By the Hon. Hensley Daniel. “One of the underlying factors presented … is that women need to be together,” she said. “We need to support each other, we need to be able to say ‘I am your sister, I’m gonna walk with you, I’m gonna take your hand, we are gonna do whatever it is together.’ ” She also noted that this thought process was important because people have always said that women were their own worst enemies, and that was not supposed to be the case. The lecture and the audience’s responses made the IWD celebration a grand success. Organizers definitely plan to continue such events. A new organization for women is being created called VOW – Voices of Women. This emerged from some training sessions held By the Department of Gender Affairs. Pastor James also noted that they will use that initial group (VOW) for the Change Centre, the churches, the community and others. “The Change Centre is a non-government organization which got its start on 1st November, 1993,” she explained. “It seeks to offer services for abused persons across the board; men, women and children. … The basic component of the Change Centre is counseling. We have added some other aspects of it; we have scholarships that we give to children from needy families, we offer financial support to some of our women and we are continuing in quest to have a temporary shelter for abused, particularly women and children.” The Centre, founded By Mary Spooner, began as a shelter for abused women and children, mainly because of what was occurring at that time. However, the organization has evolved. “Every IWD we did a walk but everybody’s walking now, and so the walks are really not significant and that’s why we thought that we would have a concert instead,” she said. “The bringing together of women – that was effective – but every year, the Change Centre has been having activities for IWD,” she noted. Pastor James said that women are a force to be reckoned with and she doesn’t believe that women understood the collective strength that they possess. “What affects you, affects me as a woman,” she said. The event was geared toward meeting with women of differing nationalities and affiliations, such as the Trinidad Association and the Nurses Group. Pastor James also indicated that in order to help individuals, the men must be included. IWD was also celebrated on 7th March at the Marriot in St. Kitts, in an event hosted By the Hon. Marcella Liburd. The featured speaker was the former Minister of Children and Youth services in Ontario, Canada – the Hon. Mary Anne Chambers. She made a statement that should echo in the ears of all women. “People may define you as a woman who must stay home and take care of the family and that is it! Do not let anyone define who you are or what you may become. The definition of who you are must come from who you see yourself as and [who] you would like to be,” she declared.

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