IN AN address to women of the Ministry of Social Development and Family Services, former Miss Universe and host of Caribbean’s Next Top Model Wendy Fitzwilliam yesterday called for both men and women to change a “third world mentality” which is prevalent in the country.
Fitzwilliam made the call at the launch of the Ministry’s HIV/AIDS advocate campaign during a symposium held at the City Hall Auditorium in Port of Spain.
“In terms of infrastructure, TT acts very much like a first-world country,” said Fitzwilliam. “Our health services are far superior to what I have seen elsewhere, in the region and in the Americas. Our parks are well lit; our public services are well organised although there are some serious issues with crime.
“But what is third world about TT is our mentality. If we don’t like something we find a rationalisation as to why it shouldn’t be so, instead of accepting responsibility for ourselves and our actions. We need to change the way we think of ourselves first. So what is really keeping us back, is us,” Fitzwilliam said.
Women from the ministry gathered at the hall in commemoration of International Women’s Day (IWD) 2018. The symposium, held annually, is intended to educate female staff members on the personal and professional development in gender disparity nationwide.
This year, along with the launch of the advocacy programme, the women were briefed on the ways this disparity encourages the vulnerability of women and increases their risk of contracting HIV and other sexually-transmitted diseases.
Statistics show that in 2016, there were approximately 3,800 women aged 15 and over living with HIV, who made up 35.5 per cent of HIV cases for that year. The campaign will operate for nine months and end on World AIDS Day, which will be commemorated on December 1. The campaign will try to address the progress and resilience of women, and include the contribution of men in accelerating the decline of factors that continue to put women at risk of contracting the virus.
Fitzwilliam told the women that the message of awareness should not be limited to social media sites and ads on television. “We have to make advocacy a part of our lives,” she said. “For all the strides that we have made (as women), the one thing I can say is as women we criticise ourselves and each other too much. I am asking for us today to step back and think about the way we speak about ourselves. We still live in a patriarchal society, and the world still is, largely”
Fitzwilliam noted that between 2000 and 2010 TT made significant strides in HIV awareness, but since then the fervour had dwindled. In a subsequent interview, she encouraged men to support women in any way they can in the fight against HIV, and be mindful of how they view women.
“Remember when you see a nice woman and you want to ‘hit it hard,’ imagine how you would feel if someone was talking about your mother, or sister or daughter like that,”