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Dear Editor: Women must point the way to sustainable progress

“[…] Demand, by collective action, radical, positive, permanent change. And that change is not just around gender-based violence, but in every community and institution in the land, be it the legal, political or social system …

“[…] Who must decide what is progress and the sustainable road to such? I daresay, it is our women as a collective—free from political machinations, class and religious biases because they have so much more to lose …”

The following Letter to the Editor was submitted to Wired868 by Fay Rowe of San Fernando:

Photo: A protest for women’s rights.

Trinidad and Tobago is woman country, but the women don’t realise it. At least not to the point of acting on this reality. There I have said it and I mean it.

This twin-island republic may be governed by men but, truth be told, they lead with the permission of our women. I, personally, have no problem with this concept. It’s been so at the family level and it is needed now from a societal viewpoint.

Over the years, we have been skirting around the issue, but it keeps slapping us in the face. When men put aside their machismo, they are simply shakers—our women are the movers. If women don’t move en masse, nothing else will move.

Over the years, women have been president, prime minister, speakers, mayors, CEOs, whatever, but the majority are not taken seriously. Their value is not recognised and encouraged, while our menfolk expose their frailties with empty bravado.

Let’s get deeper into the issue and be honest about it. Who keeps the family unit together, whether they are employed, underemployed or unemployed? It’s the Supermom!

Photo: Nurses get ready to work in full PPE gear in Seattle.

Who keeps the health sector afloat? It’s the over-worked, underpaid largely female nurses. The same applies to the education sector, the civil service, even in culture, whether it’s in carnival, steelbands, best village or sport.

Adding insult to injury, women are locked out, drained of confidence and treated as minions in the church, the labour movement and, as the society was constructed and maintained, in all areas that involve mass participation.

Even our calypsonians, taking their cue from the pervasive view in the society, added to the second-class status of our women, although there have been a few instances when they have praised the woman’s role.

My intervention today is for us to recognise the truth: more than half of our people are suffering based on their gender alone. I intervene to say that our women must rise above rituals, vigils and prayers.

Demand, by collective action, radical, positive, permanent change. And that change is not just around gender-based violence, but in every community and institution in the land, be it the legal, political or social system.

Photo: Women protest against gender-based violence.

Conservative as they may have been socialised to be, women must make use of their intellect and imagination. Knowing there will be push-back from those in authority, simple slogans, in and on any space, could suffice as a first step towards broad-based action.

In time, why not call for the total shutdown of the country as a pivot point? A one-day shut-down in March, calling for dialogue with women’s groups leading the way. If nothing fundamental happens (as expected), then two-days in April and so on.

Every major issue will be on the agenda. This is just my personal suggestion, blasphemous as it may sound, sacrificial as it would be to your comfort zone. But the stakes are too high.

Premature death; life-style diseases; an expensive, unregulated transport system; foreign, high-cost food; the non-availability of affordable housing, all the above and more impact on us negatively.

There is so much to know and understand that no one person or group can devise a pathway for our society to progress. Who must decide what is progress and the sustainable road to such? I daresay, it is our women as a collective—free from political machinations, class and religious biases because they have so much more to lose.

From cradle to grave our lives are in your hands. Power is on your lap, use it now. If not for us, the living, then do it for those to come.

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