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Achievement, advancement of women in SVG

Achievement, advancement of women in SVG

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In years gone by, women in St Vincent and the Grenadines were not allowed to have children if they wished to pursue certain careers.

This was among the many facts highlighted last Friday, when the National Council of Women (NCW), in collaboration with the Gender Affairs Division, hosted a panel discussion under the national theme: {{more}}“Looking at Achievement and Advancement of Women,” to celebrate International Women’s Day.

Joy Matthews, headteacher and former president of the St Vincent and the Grenadines Teachers Union, declared that the teaching profession today is dominated by females. While she is not sure if this is by choice, Matthews noted that men were often deterred from pursuing this career because before, it was not viewed in high esteem.

“Persons believed that once you were a UWI graduate, you should not be in teaching. They neither saw it in high prestige; it was not a high salary profession and it deterred ambitious young men from pursuing. The teaching profession also appealed more to the nurturing aspect and we, the women, were the ones who were earmarked to become teachers,” she said.

Despite this, women in teaching were either transferred to another job or fired if they got pregnant.

“Pregnant married women were transferred to other institutions, while unmarried women or unmarried teachers were forced to resign or they were fired,” Matthews said.

“This resulted in many women remaining childless or giving birth to one child. Procreation was seen then to be a crime, but thanks to the effort of the Teachers Union, the Act was repealed and at first was able to secure one month maternity leave with pay. Today we are all experiencing three months maternity leave with pay.”

Another panellist, Superintendent of Police Ruth Jacobs also had a similar tale to tell, stating that police women were only given one month maternity leave.

“Sometimes we had females coming to work and when you look, especially if they were wearing a grey shirt, you will see the breast mark, because they were still breastfeeding the baby and the milk was coming through the uniform,” she said.

Now, female police officers are given three months maternity leave. Additionally, once maternity leave is over, the female officer has the opportunity to work in a department where she works from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and has weekends off.

When the superintendent joined the police force in 1983, there were only 27 females and their duties extended only to escorting children across predestrian crossings, staying with a lost child until the parent arrived and taking a female sex abuse victim to the doctor before handing over the matter to a male investigator.

“Today, we have a total of 155 females in the constabulary. We now have females working in every division of the police force,” said Jacobs, who heads the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Unit.

Also on the panel was barrister and president of the Bar Association René Baptiste, chief medical officer Simone Keizer-Beache, former senator and president of the Democratic Republican Party Anecia Baptiste and senior assessor for WINCROP Ifa Miguel.

The women gave presentations on advancements in women in their respective fields and fielded a number of questions from the audience.

The celebration of International Women’s Day began approximately 106 years ago and is observed on March 8 every year.(BK)

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