INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY: The burden of having it all
The United Progressive Party (UPP) stands with the rest of the world in celebrating International Women’s Day 2019 as we acknowledge the important role of women in our societies.
Women in Barbados have been acknowledged historically as the backbone of the family unit. As the society evolves men are taking their place in nurturing home and family which was once the virtual exclusive domain of women.
Women benefited from health care and education
For decades, Barbadian women have benefitted from advancements in education and healthcare. In a 2008 report, it was found that 89.5 per cent of adult women completed secondary level education, compared to 87.7 per cent of their male counterparts. According to World Bank statistics, female participation in the labour market is 65.9 per cent compared to 76.6 per cent for men.
In addition, it is now commonplace for women to hold leadership positions in both the private and public sectors. Indeed, two women have held the distinguished office of Governor General. In the field of politics, three of the major political parties today are led by women.
The decline in infant and maternal mortality is another clear indication of how Barbadian women have also benefitted from healthcare. There is however a worrying trend among women where the rates of obesity and NCD’s are rising.
Women are the primary caregivers
Even though it is clear that many men have stepped up their role as fathers and caregivers it is still the case that women are the primary caregivers.
Women take the lead responsibility for managing the home, raising the children, and providing care for the elderly, all the while holding down a full-time job. There are few women, even middle-income who cannot avoid what is perceived by most as a “woman’s” duty.
The increasing rates of obesity and NCDs could possibly be linked to the fact that women still sacrifice their own health in order to look after others. There is a saying, that Bajan women will “suck salt” for the benefit of their family.
Access to basic education and health care must be maintained
Despite the flaws in health care and education, treating access to them as a national goal has resulted in the advancement of women. The UPP recognises this as transformational and we are committed to improving access and modernising healthcare and education. Of the many cuts in social services and the nation’s forced sacrifices to meet the restructuring, we must never overlook the value of these basic needs.
The implications of reneging on promises of universal access to health care and education are severe. The fact that Barbados is under an International Monetary Fund programme has meant that debt has been restructured and more than that it has resulted in a large number of layoffs. This has hit women and families very hard. And no doubt it has affected too, their prospects for education and good health care. Barbadians must be mindful of attempts to undo gains which we have always taken for granted.
Crime has a devastating impact on women. Perhaps, women carry the emotional and physical scars more so than men, and certainly, those traumas may become intra-generational conflicts.
The underreporting of incidences of domestic violence, especially among some socio-economic groups, because of the shame associated with reports, make statistics unreliable. It is clear that women usually pay the ultimate price for domestic abuse and violence when they lose their lives. With the recent spate of criminal activity where there appeared to be a serial killer, women were two out of the three of the victims.
The Organisation of America (OAS) Final Report of 2017 on the subject states that a major gap in Barbados’ efforts is the absence of a specific plan of action to prevent, punish and eradicate violence against women. The report stated that this required urgent attention. It was also noted that there was an absence of specific budgetary allocations to support anti-violence measures since this had implications for the adequate provision of services, training and sensitisation and public education programmes.
Birthing and burial
While the recent spate of gun-related murders within Barbados were was entirely the acts of men, after the mayhem, women are the ones left to pick up the pieces. Given the rise in single mothers managing families, they overwhelmingly will bury their sons on the one hand and on the other stand behind them when they appear in Court.
They are in the unique position of giving birth to them and burying them. There are many who blame these women almost exclusively for the demise of their sons. This is in circumstances where we as a society do very little to support a rapidly dysfunctional family unit bombarded with foreign values largely from the West, increases in hopelessness and the disparity in wealth creation and distribution.
The UPP reiterates that the societal fall out being experienced by Barbados requires a fix in the education system and strengthening our community and family structures.
The UPP has placed superior emphasis on health and wellness – both physical and mental. This was one of the signature features of the Party’s 2018 General Elections platform and manifesto. Barbadians cannot work to their optimum and cannot be happy without good health.
For most Barbadians, hospital care should be a last resort. Success would be reflected in a reduction in the number of beds allocated to treatment for chronic diseases and injuries caused by crime. The UPP also said then that the education system must facilitate life-long learning and ensure that Barbadians reach their full potential, with the appropriate skills and knowledge.
The UPP believes that we have to go back to people-centered politics and not politics which seeks to reward only a few. History has shown that the benefits of proper health care and education to meet the needs of the people at any given time are of staggering benefit for women and their families. (PR)