Message from the Minister of Labour and Small Enterprise Development in observance of International Women’s Day 2017

(Photo courtesy unwomen.org)

March 8, 2017: Every year on March 8 we observe International Women’s Day. On this day we recognize the women and young girls who, in the simplest of ways, are making a change in our world. As we celebrate the achievements of women and girls globally, I take the opportunity to recognize the women and young girls of our nation, the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago and the contributions you are making every day towards our national development.

Many are unaware that it was the struggle for better pay, voting rights and decent working conditions that gave birth to this global, annual celebration. In 1908, during the Industrial Revolution, women were lifting their collective voices and demanding to be heard. Their cries and demands gave rise to a march of 15,000 women through the streets of New York City demanding fairer and better working conditions. I dare say, that the genesis of this global day of recognition was borne out of the labour struggle. During the World Wars, when the men went out to battle it was the women who came out to fill the posts- posts in factories, posts in offices whilst attending to their roles of mother and nurturer in the home.

As we cast our eyes closer to home and we examine our local context, figures from the Central Statistical Office will show that women, on average over the last six years, have made up fifty per cent of the local labour force. Women have taken up the mantle and are holding the helm in all spheres of industry. At the Ministry of Labour and Small Enterprise Development, our Vision speaks to decent work, industrial peace and opportunity for all because we believe that everyone is entitled to fair pay for a fair day’s work, to work in an environment free from discrimination and that there is equity for all, because these are basic human rights.

Gloria Steinem, world-renowned social and political activists says, “The story of women’s struggles for equality belongs to no single feminist, nor to any one organization but to the collective efforts of all who care about human rights.” The recognition of International Women’s Day is a celebration of our basic human rights.

In recent times we have seen an increase in domestic violence against women and young girls and we must denounce violence in all forms against women. We have seen an increase in missing cases of women and young girls and these are issues that are of great concern to my Government. As a mother, grandmother but as a woman, I too feel the impact that this is having on the moral fibre of our society. We have to protect our women and girls at whatever cost.

We are still very fortunate as a country when we compare ourselves to many others. Our women and girls are entitled to the same rights as our men and boys and we must fiercely protect these rights.

As we celebrate International Women’s Day 2017, let us join the global community, which has issued the theme Be Bold For Change to unite us and let this be our clarion call for the protection of our women and girls and the recognition of the need for a an environment of mutual respect and understanding.

Happy International Women’s Day. 

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