Weather and women
International Women'sDay is celebrated onMarch 8 each year.

We, out here in the Tropics, are used to sunny days with lovely, warm weather, while our friends 'Over There' would do anything to escape the freeze of winter. Earlier this week word came that, in the UK, people are experiencing “the worst weather in history”. The ice-box conditions are the result of “the beast from the east” — the Siberian weather front.

A very special friend of mine — born in the UK but a committed member of the family of Jamaica — took a recent trip back to the land of his birth. This return was no happy reunion. Instead of the usual outbursts of laughter, this time it was tears. My friend made the trip to lay his dad to rest. The freezing conditions caught my friend in a field of pain and suffering.

The other evening he was taking a bus to get to a family gathering when the bus crashed into two other vehicles. After some delay, he arrived at his destination and, while walking carefully in the snow, he suddenly found himself flat on his back with excruciating pain at his knee. He had slipped on the ice, he wrote. A kindly neighbour came to his assistance, but she also fell, bursting her nose. “It was like a cartoon,” my friend said, Jamaican-style. We have to “tek bad sinting mek laugh”.

After a trip to the hospital, my friend emerged with crutches. The weather continued to cause difficulties. On the day of the farewell ceremony for his dad, the hearse got stuck in the snow. He also reported that the holy water used in the blessings of the faithful, froze and could not get out of the bottle. That cold fi true!

Earlier this week at least 10 deaths in the UK were attributed to the recent storm, but the UK Met Office warned that the figure could rise to more than 2,000 for the winter period. The weather has also caused water shortages as well as disruptions to transportation and maintenance problems at homes and businesses, causing one minister of Government to issue a warning to employers not to unfairly punish workers who took snow days in the past week.

As my friend makes his way back to JA, the prescription from Jamaican tourism interests to those in foreign land is: Be sure to come and get a good dose of Jamaica sun — a recommendation to which he is no stranger.

Recognising women

International Women's Day was celebrated yesterday, March 8. The day was a chance to give some time for reflection on the value of women's lives around the world. How much does this day really mean to us in our country? The many greetings sound nice, but I wonder if we are doing enough for the advancement of womankind.

Why is it that the word woman is often treated as if it is a joke by some people? We're patting ourselves on our backs that women have come a long way to success. There was a time when working class women in our society had to make a living by using coconut brush to clean the floors of their employers and getting swollen knees from the back-breaking work. At the top level we boast about “breaking the glass ceiling”, and we publicise improvement in opportunities available to some women, we could do much better if we were to admit that there are still some women who remain outside the gates of development; stuck in one place. There is still room for improved access to education for women at the lower end of society whose prospects for employment are tied to higher education. How can they make advancement?

Parents, mother and father alike, should be assisted and encouraged to see that their daughters (and their sons) do not waste time in school, but learn how to use the opportunity wisely so that they become useful members of society. And, as for those who are long past their school days, it must be noted that not much is done for the older women. Our senior ladies have a place in the world too. We cannot boast about respect for women, but we see no place for some members of the species. They mothered a nation and they deserve recognition, especially as time flies past.

Where it began...

In 1975 the first international gathering of women from far and wide was staged in Mexico City. Jamaica was represented by a cadre of women including Beverley Manley, Dr Phyllis McPherson Russell, Peggy Antrobus (of Barbados), and others who we will list at another time. These and other dedicated women made their contribution to the gathering and Jamaica was recognised for its commitment to women's rights. As a reporter for The Gleaner I covered the occasion. It was hard work, but seeing so many women from so many countries across the globe committed to the shaping of a new world was more than worthwhile.

The conference was called for by the United Nations General Assembly to focus international attention on strategies and plans for the advancement of women. The UN General Assembly identified three objectives:

• Full gender equality and the elimination of gender discrimination;

• The integration and full participation of women in development; and

• An increased contribution by women in the strengthening of world peace.

There is still much to be done, let's try and do it together.

Congrats, Sis

Special greetings to Jamaica's Poet Laureate Lorna Goodison on being named a recipient of an international literary award, the Windham Campbell Prize, established by Yale University. Another strong Jamma woman!

Barbara Gloudon is a journalist, playwright and commentator. Send comments to the Observer or

Barbara Gloudon

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