It’s been four years since TT held its first International Women’s Day (IWD) Women’s Rights Rally. Although IWD is observed on March 8 each year, the annual IWD march is being held on March 7 at the Queen’s Park Savannah, Port of Spain.
Over its four-year run, Dr Angelique Nixon, University of the West Indies (UWI) Institute for Gender and Development Studies lecturer and co-director of Caiso: Sex and Gender Justice has seen the event grow and develop. The event “brings awareness, creates dialogue and creates opportunities for organisations for everyday people to sit and think about these issues,” she said.
Caiso, the NGO with which Nixon is involved, is one of the nine working groups responsible for organising the event, and there are over 20 partner organisations. Some of the other organisers include the UWI Institute for Gender and Development Studies, Women's Institute for Alternative Development (WINAD) and Fire Circle.
Although events like these have aided in raising awareness about the issues faced by women, there were still many issues being faced particularly gender-based violence, Nixon said.
In a phone interview with Newsday, she said people are affected by gender-based violence every day.
Caiso is also part of the Alliance for State Action to End Gender-Based Violence, which recently delivered a petition of 1,730 signatures to the Government.
She said there has been a renewal of calls for the Government to do more.
“Many of us recognise the ways in which the State has failed women and has failed to do its due diligence to protect citizens and to protect people in this country who have been affected by violence,” she said.
Gender-based violence disproportionately affects women and children, in particular intimate partner violence and violence in the home, Nixon said. She added that the concern around this issue is growing with so many homicides
for the year.
The alliance wants the government to be not only concerned but “outraged and doing their part.”
While Nixon said it was not only for the Government to do and that everyone needed to act, she felt the Government, in particular, had to do its part to immediately amend the Domestic Violence Act and offer budgetary allocations to support the newly established gender-based unit.
Nixon said Government should also ensure that shelters have the funds they need and should help support NGOs working on gender-based violence and providing services to survivors.
She said a multilateral, holistic approach was needed to address the problem.
“I think for the IWD march, we are marching for women’s rights, and of course we want – as part of a gender justice framework and fighting for gender justice – we want to be free from violence, and that is a big message.”
She said there is a long list of amendments the alliance would like to see made to the Domestic Violence Act including mandatory investigations, wanting clear protocols for the police to follow for protection orders and a system of access to safety, justice and resources to prevent killings. Nixon said the alliance wants ten amendments that the Equal Opportunities Commission put forward in 2017, plus others.
While this is a major concern, Nixon said other issues such as equal pay for equal work, issues of political representation and issues around care work and how it is valued were also of concern.
The theme of this year’s event is Power in Action: honour, encourage, include, and act. The International IWD 2020 theme is I am Generation Equality: Realising Women’s Rights. The local theme pulls from the international theme and aligns with the campaign to mark the 25th anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform, which put forward “the most visionary agenda for women’s rights and empowerment everywhere,” the UN Women’s website said.
Nixon said the event’s organisers are also honouring women this year by supporting women’s grassroots organisations.
“We know that many of the well-known organisations are in the city areas, in Port of Spain and throughout the East-West Corridor.
“We really wanted to highlight the work that is being done in rural communities, in south, in central, in eastern parts of TT, that may not get the same level of attention as some of the other organisations,” she said.
The organisers have been running a campaign called Wonder Women Wednesdays when people nominate women in their communities who are doing good work and it is featured on social media. They have also been accepting nominations for a women’s grassroots organisation to be featured at the IWD Women’s Rights Rally. Nominations are being accepted up until today.
Nixon said the organisers are very inclusive of all rights in their politics and movements for women’s rights, which include people with disabilities, indigenous people, LGBTI+ people and all minority groups.
“Our big message is: act for each other through individual and collective action.
"We really just want people to come together. We encourage people to mobilise community. Bring your messages of power and action what does that mean to you. Organisations, individuals, bring your concerns.”
She added if anyone was concerned about health they should bring their masks and hand sanitiser.
The rally starts at 2 pm on Saturday with an info and resource fair at the Savannah opposite Whitehall.
At 3 pm the groups gather and march around the Savannah.
At 4.15 pm there will be a rally with speakers including a representative from the Gender Affairs Division of the Office of the Prime Minister and the Alliance for State Action to end Gender-Based Violence. There will be performances by calypsonians such as Kurt Allen and Maria Bhola. The event will end at 5.30 pm.