TODAY’s commemoration of International Women’s Day comes at a time when the world is no longer willing to turn a blind eye to the horrors endured by women. Increasingly, the veil is being lifted on the stark situation half of the world’s population faces. While there is strong commitment from both civil society and political actors to do what must be done to protect women, that is not enough. We need more than just soundbites. To adopt the theme and hashtag of this year’s commemorations, we must press for progress.
The recent murder of Sangre Grande schoolteacher Margaret Ragoobar Guevarra was just one in a long list of tragedies that have underlined how far Trinidad and Tobago has to go. While we are this month poised to swear in a female Head of State in the person of Paula-Mae Weekes, no one is under any illusions that her ascent will be the panacea to the plight of women.
Sadly, though we are in the year 2018, women still brave a world in which their lives are regarded as subsidiary. Worse, they face a belief system in which they are treated as collateral property, to be snuffed out at the whim and fancy of overzealous men who are raised to prioritise their own desires above all else.
As awful as domestic violence is, however, it is just the tip of the iceberg.
The Harvey Weinstein scandal has triggered an avalanche of revelations still rocking Hollywood (Sunday’s Oscars ceremony was marked by references to the #MeToo campaign). These revelations have shown how varied and insidious the problem is.
But if the problem is so prevalent in Hollywood, imagine how endemic it is in other industries.
Sometimes women face subtle challenges. For instance, there may be discrepancies in pay, hidden behind the cloak of secret contract terms. At other times there is nothing subtle at all about the overt actions of men, such as policemen who virtually treat women reporting domestic abuse as criminals.
“There are still too many women here who struggle, who don’t know about equal pay for equal work, who have to deal with sexual harassment, rape, and domestic violence,” noted Sharon Rowley, wife of Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley, on Monday.
In this regard, today is a day for all of us to reflect on how we can make things better. It starts with policy and the devotion of resources. It starts with leaders setting the right tone. It starts in the home.
And it starts in the most important place of all: our minds.