NASSAU, BAHAMAS — As she accepted the region’s top award for women, Dame Janet Bostwick last night underscored women must lead the fight against climate change while remaining steadfast as the cause for women’s rights was being “choked by the clamor of others”.
She told regional leaders and delegates that the battle for gender equality and equity was “still too far from victory”, and as such “we need no redefinition of woman.”
“Very much has been accomplished, but much remains to be done,” she said.
“We do not have the luxury ladies of focusing our attention primarily on achieving gender equity or equality. With the real threat of climate change, we must fight now for our very lives, and the continued exisatence of our nations. Women, who are always the most vulnerable, should lead this fight. We are blessed to have Prime Minister Mia Motley lead the charge against climate change, and we’re so proud because she is a woman.
“But all of us must do our part, the lives of our children are at stake. We must take personal responsibility to ensure that our actions lead to the decrease of carbon emissions in our own countries, and to guard against pollution of our waters by ourselves, as well as by international vessel cruising our seas. We must encourage our governments to be mindful in the trade of our precious carbon credits, to ensure that that trade does not facilitate the continued level of emissions by those whose decreased emissions are essential to our survival. There is much to be done.”
Dame Janet was awarded the 13th CARICOM Triennial Award for Women, a prestigious accolade for significant contributions to the socio-economic development of the Caribbean Community and to the advancement of gender equality and women’s empowerment, at the opening ceremony of the 44th CARICOM Heads of Government meeting.
She served as the first woman in a myriad of posts, including Member of Parliament, Attorney General, Minister of Foreign Affairs, acting Prime Minister, and Secretary General of The Bahamas Public Services Union.
Dame Janet acknowledged the many individuals who had helped her along the way, including her parents, siblings, and husband, as well as her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. She also thanked former Prime Minister Hubert Ingram for entrusting her with ministerial portfolios that allowed her to make a significant impact on the development of her country.
She said she was exposed to the plight of women while working at the Supreme Court in the 1950s, but deeply sensitized to the extremities of violence against women when she attended a conference in the early 1990s.
“It was then that I knew that I had to be a part of that group, which sought change and global recognition of men and women, as equal partners in every respect,“ Dame Janet said.
Dame Janet continued: “I heard the cries of those women in 1957. And if you listen, you hear the cries of mothers now. They cry for food security. They need food for their children. They cry for society states cessation of violence, the crime for better education and for better and affordable health services. And yes, they cry for equal rights with their land. While we do not in any way discount the rights of all persons to pursue those objectives, that are specifically important and relevant to them. And this choice is the same way.
“We must be careful to not be distracted from our cause for the rights of women. It is a battle that is still too far from victory. And it is a battle which in my humble opinion is not receiving the acknowledgment attention and action that is required to ensure that the injustice are eliminated. It is a battle that has been relegated to a position of lesser importance, and it’s been choked by the clamor of others.”
She said: “This is tragic. Every one of us who ever existed came into existence through woman. We cannot afford to give precedent to the rights of others if we do not so successfully address and eliminate the inequities that exist throughout our diaspora, and indeed throughout the world, in respect of the rights of us, women. I submit that for this, we need no redefinition of woman. There is much to be done.”
Dame Janet also called on regional leaders to “unite and fight” for Haiti in action that addresses the deepening crisis without historical exploitation.
“Haiti’s problem is a CARICOM problem,” she added.
“Not one to be solved by others. We must be seen to unite and fight for Haiti. I pray heads and delegates, that God guides your deliberation in this respect and that this conference results in action which addresses the problem, without the historical exploitation of Haiti.”