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International Women's Day: Do you think as women we’ve finally attained empowerment?

Monday, March 04, 2013    

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INTERNATIONAL Women's Day (IWD) 2013 is being celebrated March 8.

It's a time when countries the world over assess issues on the gender agenda, especially whether the equal rights of women have progressed.

The women's movement is a global one, which the United Nations (UN) says has been strengthened by four global UN women's conferences, to help make the commemoration a rallying point to build support for women's rights and participation in the political and economic arenas.

"Increasingly, IWD is a time to reflect on progress made, to call for change, and to celebrate acts of courage and determination by ordinary women who have played an extraordinary role in the history of their countries and communities," UNWOMEN said.

Locally, women's groups will tell you that the fight continues — for equality for justice, and for recognition.

This week we asked women, 'Do you think as women we've finally attained empowerment? How far are we away from equal rights, or have we reached this goal?'

Professor Verene Shepherd, director of the Institute for Gender and Development Studies:

If you look at the positions women hold today, and if you look at their education level, then you would be tempted to say we have. But I have to say that as long as the society remains patriarchal, and as long as there is a belief in hegemonic masculinity, then I don't think you can say that we have totally overcome. The society needs to change and there needs to be a belief in gender equality all around and we don't have that yet, so I would say that despite the gains, we have some way to go to achieve the total empowerment of women.

Yendi Phillipps, former Miss Jamaica World and Miss Jamaica Universe:

From an international perspective, women have come a far way. I believe that we have grown tremendously in terms of the recognition of our ability, the recognition of us being capable leaders, and of us being respectable citizens of each society or country that we are from. I find that we have more and more leaders of nations as women, we have more government representatives as women, we also have CEOs and general managers and heads of companies as women. Do I think the battle is done and we are content? No! I think that we still have a far way to go in terms of the perception of women and our abilities.

Shirley Pryce, president of the Jamaica Household Workers Association:

We are making progress, but we are still far off. Women nowadays are empowered, much more than before. There is much more we need to attain, but we have grown. We have so many women now who are managing companies and they are having children later now because they are going to school. Nobody is staying home as the housewife anymore, but they are going to school and going to university. Women are far, far more empowered than before, and we are so happy.

Dr Sandra Knight, chairman of the National Family Planning Board and anti-ageing physician:

Globally the rights of women as it pertains to bodily integrity and autonomy — to vote (suffrage); to hold public office; to work; to fair wages or equal pay; to own property; to education; to serve in the military or be conscripted; to enter into legal contracts; and to have marital, parental and religious rights have increased. Women have come a long way in achieving sufficient status in many societies to propel some even to the highest seat of office. There are gaps, however, and many of these are controlled by males persistent in the concept of what a female should or should not be.

Other advances that women have made, I believe, are precariously close to undermining a few of the fundamental tenets of healthy societies. Research is more and more showing that the empowered female is choosing not to have families (artificial insemination of single females have increased four-fold in the last decade); bartering for sex is acceptable and wildly practised (data shows that in Jamaica it is the more emotionally intelligent females that orchestrate transactional sex); and of course the apparent demasculinisation in the society has seen the increase of violent males who target women for abuse but also unleash terror on others. So have women cone a long way? Yes. But the distance that we need to go should be a guided one.

Julie-Ann Gray, website product marketer:

I believe women have crossed the barrier and made our mark. We, however, still have to work twice as hard to make our presence known in some sectors. So we are well on our way to empowerment but not fully there.

It is our tenacity and flair that are brought to the table at times that definitely have empowered us.

We do tend to achieve goals we set out to do and a lot of times do it in less time than our male counterparts and that makes the competition even harder, so we still have not fully achieved equal rights.

Lisa Martin, teacher:

I believe we have indeed achieved empowerment. Portia Simpson Miller is a perfect example. And we still pledge allegiance to the queen. So I believe we are closer to having equal rights.

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