EDITORIAL: More action needed in fight for equality

ON Friday, The Bahamas joined the world in celebrating International Women’s Day.

The occasion comes with many different events – and The Tribune was invited to cover a number of them.

There was, for example, the women’s march that took place on Saturday ahead of an expo held throughout the day.

BTC celebrated the women on its staff, but also held discussions about the role of women in leadership.

The Tribune itself included a special supplement in Friday’s edition of the paper, highlighting issues and celebrating women from all walks of life – and from different nations. We learned for example what the pop song is that gets the US Chargé d’Affaires, Usha Pitts, going in the morning – along with many other women also sharing their inspirations, their loves and, yes, those songs. That is also now available on The Tribune’s website, www.tribune242.com.

In today’s Tribune, Chinese Ambassador Dai Qingli shares the speech she gave at an event on Friday.

While the primary focus is on the word “Women” in International Women’s Day, it is good to get the breadth of the international perspective. The day serves to bring us together to celebrate women, but also to look to what binds us together regardless of borders.

One of the invitations that came to The Tribune was from Colina, which was donating $5,000 each to the Bahamas Crisis Centre and to PACE – which stands for Providing Access to Continued Education.

Both organisations carry out valuable – in fact, crucial – work, and representatives of each spoke about their work.

The Crisis Centre’s work is well documented, helping women, children and men who are facing domestic violence and abuse. PACE, meanwhile, has a very specific goal of helping teenage mothers who have been unable to complete school due to pregnancy. It serves to help them to be able to complete their education – even down to helping to provide basics such as diapers for their children as the mothers struggle to balance the combination of studying, raising a child, and simply navigating the world as someone who is possibly still a child themselves or a young adult at most.

The other speaker was Assistant Superintendent of Police Kendra Whyms, the director of the domestic violence unit.

As we celebrate women, we must also do more than that – and support those women who need it.

ASP Whyms spoke – strongly and eloquently - of the number of women who are suffering in silence in violent or abusive relationships.

She talked of how often women who came forward were reluctant to do so, saying that they just want their abuser to stop, they do not want action to be taken against them.

Often some might say they were afraid to call for help because their abuser might be an official or connected to someone in a position of power.

The domestic violence unit, she says, is independent within the force for precisely that reason, to ensure that no one needs to fear calling for help because of concerns about retribution.

A new shelter for women is in progress, due to open in the next couple of weeks or so, she said, but beyond resources, ASP Whyms reiterated the need to support women when they reach out for help.

That is not just a situation in the here and now – but a generational matter.

ASP Whyms talked of how she has seen cases where generations of families have been subjected to abuse, which continues because no one speaks out, and a line is not drawn to save others from becoming victims.

She does not blame victims for this, far from it, they are the ones who are scared for their lives, or perhaps scared for their children’s lives in the middle of the situation.

But it does speak to what we need to do, what we need to continue to do, in our society, to make domestic violence completely unacceptable.

In the past, we have heard so-called jokes made in parliament about hitting women. We have seen proposed legislation for gender-based violence stripped of the gender element and promised consultation has seemingly been pushed into the long grass.

New resources such as the women’s shelter are welcomed – but there is more to do.

International Women’s Day must not just be a moment to say look how far we have come, but rather an opportunity to also say look how far we still have to go.

What will we do this year to make the lives of women better by next year? Will it be that further consultation? Will it be action to bring equality on matters of citizenship? It must not simply be a moment to pay lip service to honouring women, it must be a milepost that shows us the distance that remains.

And one thing is clear – there is still a long way to go.


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