By Felicity Darville
Last week I met a group of smart women who decided to come together to do something special for this country. I recognise each of them from their various fields of expertise. All of them represent bodies of people, groups and institutions and are influential in their own right. They have figured out that by joining their forces, putting their brains as well as their hearts together, they can do something powerful – rally the women of this country to positively impact their homes, their places of work and communities.
They came up with: S.M.A.R.T. Women – Spiritual, Mature, Active, Relational Tutors. The “smart women champions” include: Charlene Paul, Marisa Mason Smith, Cheryl Bazard, Corinna Neely and Linda Baker. Paul is a chief internal auditor, Smith is a human resource and training professional, Bazard is a noted attorney, Neely is an insurance executive and Baker is a corporate administrator. These ladies officially launched on Tuesday, March 12 at Luciano’s of Chicago restaurant, with about 30 women attending the event. The attendees represented the broader caucus of core women the campaign is targeting to help reach a broad sector of society.
The mission is to create and develop a network of smart women who “enhance, transform and empower a nation” through seminars, workshops, conferences and mentorship. The motto is: “strengthening her hands, renewing her mind”.
The campaign will begin with a survey of 1,000 Bahamian women in order to gain “statistical data and insight into the role being played by women in our society”. They also want to “ascertain the level of financial skillset and preparation women have for the leadership role they are often forced to assume”, then identify the gaps and needs in financial education. The goal is to host national seminars geared at reaching the average working class woman, attract influential women to share their best practices and mentor others, and provide the tips and tools needed along with motivation and inspiration for change. The SMART Women campaign plans to take to the airwaves to provide tips and encouragement for women to make smart choices on a regular basis. The group wants to provide practical solutions and financial advice that the average woman can implement and follow through to develop financial discipline and change a mindset.
In addition, the campaign will involve the publication of books, newsletters and other related material and paraphernalia to encourage women to stay on track in these key areas of their lives: faith, health, relationships and finances. The women came together and created the campaign because of questions that haunt smart women: Can I have it all? Can I achieve financial success and still have a strong family? Can I survive in a male dominated field? Can I succeed and keep my personal integrity and purity? What do I have to sacrifice in order to achieve personal success?
“In order to do this, we must make smart choices and smart decisions,” the SMART woman brochure reads.
“We must simply be smart women. No one is left out, every woman can become a smart woman. So we invite you to come with us on this journey as we learn, grow and develop into smart women.”
Looking at it more closely the SMART acronym means:
S for Spiritual – “I am more than a body. I am a spirit being with a soul, mind intellect and emotions. I must nurture the whole of me.”
M for Mature – “I must feed and develop all of me (spirit, soul and body). Maturity speaks of developing my gifts and talents, becoming the best me I can be by maximising my full potential, which can only come through diligence.”
A for Active – “I must be intentional in the pursuit of my dreams and goals. I am not passive. I am active physically and intellectually. I take care of myself to ensure that I am in the best of health physically, mentally, spiritually and emotionally.”
R for Relational – “I am a social being with social responsibilities. I am intentional in building strong, positive relationships that improve my overall health and wellbeing. I use my influence for good. I am a leader. I am the head and not the tail. I nurture the relationships that build up and not tear down.”
T for Tutors – “As a woman I am a nurturer. I accept my responsibility to train and nurture the next generation.”
Cheryl Bazard, who elaborated on the SMART Women vision at the event, noted the success of the campaign would help The Bahamas as it strives to reach United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Particularly, goal 1 reducing poverty; goal 2 on food security; goal 3 promoting good health and well being; and goal 10 of creating reduced inequalities in the country. She pointed out that in the latest McKinsey report study in Canada, it has been found that engaging women in the economy will lead to $150 billion in GDP growth by 2026. The United Nations has stated that empowering women in the economy and closing gender gaps in the world of work are key to achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. She notes that only five percent of Fortune 500 CEOs are women, indicating space for growth.
“This is not motivated by party, colour, class or creed; it is driven by our motto of forward, upward, onward, together and every effort, no matter how small, is a trajectory that is progressive and unifying,” she said.
Charlene Paul said the campaign plans to partner with a network of key organisations with a focus on women. Thousands of women will be invited to sign up to join the campaign, and by September, they intend to host a major summit.
“Thousands of women every day are faced with tough decisions. It doesn’t matter where you start, you can still impact your nation. I was raised by a single mother - a smart woman who made smart choices and decisions that impacted the trajectory of my path in life. We can help to change the attitude, mindset and knowledge base, helping our girls to make smart choices. We have smart phones and smart TVs… we should have some smart women! Together we can change a nation by simply being smart.”
“We have gathered to bring focus and attention to the women of our society. Women have an awesome role but also an awesome opportunity to bring the change we need in our society. Over 70 per cent of Bahamian homes are ran by women. Women yield significant hold over our children, our ideologies – religion, health and wealth are in the hands of women.”
Charlene said “everyone is trying to do it on their own, and that’s not how nations are built”.
“Each group can only do so much. But by networking, synergy happens. We can spread our messages far and wide. We have got to work together and support each other.”
The SMART Women campaign’s symbol is the butterfly. “As the process from caterpillar to butterfly is fraught with stages of uncertainty, so is the movement of the female from girl to womanhood. It is only through smart decisions that one arrives at the beautiful and free end of unrestricted movement from a precious, limiting environment.”
For more information, contact Charlene Paul at 422-3766 or firstname.lastname@example.org