Notwithstanding the grisly murders this society continues to perpetuate upon the female body, women will continue their ascent in all fields of endeavour in this society. The fact that attention is being drawn to violence against women by figures as diverse as the highest elected official of the land to grassroots NGO officials is already a victory — a sign that we see the need to push our society closer to gender parity.
We today express our condolences to the family of two women who were recently murdered: Dr Claire Broadbridge, 80, and Ramdevi Singh, 76. Law enforcement authorities must move swiftly and efficiently to bring the perpetrators to justice. Anything less will be a condemnation of our system of law and order and an affront to our collective dignity and the rule of law.
It matters not who the victims are, but it is notable that both were women who clearly balanced the demands of professional life with their family. Singh was not a public figure, but she was a retiree of an insurance company who took care of her ill husband.
From 1983 to 1997, Broadbridge played a pivotal role in putting the National Museum on its own feet. As director of the museum, she oversaw restoration of its derelict buildings, instituted collection programmes, a system governing collections, education programmes, and established the Friends of the Museum. But more than this, she was a key conservationist.
Broadbridge played key roles in the conservation of the Holy Name Convent Chapel, Fort George, and Fort San Andres, Trinidad. In Tobago, she directed the marine archaeological exploration of Scarborough Harbour which discovered seven vessels and four possible sites. She was an indefatigable lobbyist and did not hold back whenever the State failed to live up to expectations. She planned a special historic district in Scarborough and a cocoa museum in Roxborough but these projects were aborted by changes in governance.
Broadbridge’s death is a reminder that too often we fail to recognise the contribution of figures in our society while they are living. No doubt this is a matter which will loom large when national awards are bestowed later this month.
These killings come at a time when women seem to be under siege, and when all citizens have no guarantee that any acts of violence meted upon them will be efficiently handled by the criminal justice system. Yet, while the level of fear threatens to paralyse the nation, we take comfort in the outspokenness of those who have condemned these attacks and who continue to lobby for gender equality.
While dark clouds loom over our nation, there continues to be a steady progression towards the achievement of a more profound transformation. Females continue to excel in education, business, politics, culture. Acts of violence and abuse will not stop this. If anything, they spur us into even more profound and energised action.
That action must not be limited to measures such as the Equal Opportunity Act. As our international treaty obligations make clear, the status of women is a matter that needs to be addressed holistically.
This month marks exactly 36 years since the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women — of which we are a signatory — came into effect. The convention calls for the equal rights of men and women. Several dimensions of discrimination of women are addressed. These include the civil and legal status of women, reproductive rights, equality in relation to men on issues such as public and political life, education, cultural life, and economic rights.
As a nation it is imperative that we continue to take steps in these facets of society. Only when equality is achieved will tragic incidents like those this week become relics of a horrific past.