Powerful women flocked the auditorium at the Jamaica Pegasus hotel to celebrate International Women’s Day on March 8th, 2022. The theme was perfect and straightforward, “Breaking barriers. Empowering women, Empowering women.” The Bureau of Gender Affairs, in association with the Ministry of Culture, Gender, Entertainment, and Sport, staged the event.
Mrs Basillia Barnaby Cuff, founder and director of the Sterling Gospel Awards, hosted the event. In like fashion, Pastor and motivational speaker Sean Williams delivered the opening prayer. “Good morning, I invite you to look to your left and right and say W.O.W., now say wow. I’m not speaking just about the amazing decor. Because every woman beside you or close to you is a Woman Of Worth. So say W.O.W.!” Mrs Barnaby Cuff picked up on his message with “I know I’m not candy, but can I get a wow”.
Importance of International Women’s Day
Sharon Coburn Robinson, Principal director of BGA/MCGES, provided her acronym for W.O.W., “Wonderful Outstanding Woman”. Subsequently, Mrs Robinson explained the importance of International Women’s Day. She said it “signals to the world just how deeply we appreciate the enumerable contribution made by our women… towards the growth and success we have seen in our society”. For this reason, she emphasized the importance of the theme “breaking barriers”.
Mrs Robinson highlighted that it represents the continued effort needed to empower our women of today. Rightfully so, this ensures that we “create a world of empowered women”. After which, Mrs Robinson quoted Kofi Annan, Former Secretary-General of the United Nations, as saying, “There is no tool for development more effective than the empowerment of women”. She explained, “This is best demonstrated by the fact that sustainable development goal 5, which speaks to women’s equality and empowerment, is the goal which is most important for the empowerment of women as individuals and collectively as a group.”
“We network, we inspire, and we motivate. And we make sure that every person counts and no one is left behind. Happy International Women’s Day”, Mrs Coburn Robinson stated,
Empowered Women are Breaking Barriers
During her address, Ms Monique Long, Planning and Coordinating Specialist, United Nation Women (U.N. Women) Jamaica, expressed, “We must ensure that we create room for all women to break barriers, to advocate for issues that impact them. To continue to empower themselves as they empower each other.” U.N. Women partners with MCGES to empower women and eradicate gender-based bias and crimes in Jamaica.
Ambassador Marianne Van Steen, UN Resident Ambassador, E.U. Delegation to Jamaica, said. “We applaud the women who are empowered, and I’m very happy that there are many empowered women here today. But we also inspire others who are not there yet”. Ambassador Van Steen said empowerment does not equal being a man. In contrast, being different is the added value. She made mention of the U.N.’s pledge to Jamaica through the spotlight initiative. Namely, the funding support of 8 million euros supported sustainability and addressed family violence. The Ambassador ended her message emphasising that it’s important to realize the plight of the women of Ukraine. “Would this world be more peaceful if more women were in power?”
Women Are Breaking Barriers in Leadership
U.N. Resident Coordinator Adinterim Miss Mariko Kagoshima spoke on the high levels of family violence that our women endure. “In good times or bad, women are more likely to face vulnerabilities and also most involved and engaged in response and recovery”. She highlighted the most compelling evidence, that in the Jamaican parliament, women represent more than 30 per cent of the lawmakers. “While we have seen advancement, we still need more women in leadership, government and business, who are not just in the room but who are also sitting at the head table, advising, influencing, directing, leading. The body of evidence proves that when women are at the head of the table, the results are more socially progressive.”
In conclusion, Miss Kagoshima stated, “When Jamaica invests in expanding opportunities for women and girls, all of Jamaica wins. Let’s break the barriers together. Are we ready?”
Women Building Other Women
Mrs Julian Davis-Buckle is the Assistant Commissioner of the Jamaican Fire Brigade. She spoke of her humble beginnings in Manchester and shared her story of hard work, dedication. With this in mind, she also ensured that she would not be mediocre at anything she did. “I didn’t want to be treated as a girl. I wanted to be treated as a Firefighter.” To demonstrate, she expressed that her journey was not easy. However, it was worthwhile, since it paved the way for other women. “Come together, don’t tear each other down”, she advised the women in uniform, emphasizing the importance of building and not breaking each other.
In closing, Mrs Davis Buckle quoted Barack Obama by saying, “Empowering women is not the right thing to do. It is the smart thing to do.” “Prepare yourself for empowerment. I rest my case.”
The constabulary force band performed Taurus Riley’s “She’s Royal” much to the delight of seemingly every female in the building. Under those circumstances, this performance set the stage for the Minister of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sports, the Honourable Olivia Grange, CD, MP. The Minister opened her speech, acknowledging a veteran gender advocacy practitioner. “A few minutes ago, arriving in this room is a lady who has played a very important role in gender advocacy in this country over the years.” Minister was referring to Hermoine McKenzie, President of the Association of Women’s Organization of Jamaica. Ms KcKenzie received a standing ovation. Minister Grange continued, “She was the person we depended on to do our gender budgeting, and she did a wonderful job.”
Minister Grange alluded that even though many barriers no longer exist, many remain. “Today, many women are leaders in all elements of the eco-system of Jamaica’s globally acclaimed creative industry”, she stated. “We remind ourselves and our nation that our coexistence with our male counterparts is not a competition, but a demonstration of equal partnership, anchored in mutual love, in mutual respect and mutual appreciation of our various vulnerabilities.” Given these points, Minister Grange stated, “The government of which I am a part, and as your minister, I renew our pledge to promote equality, equity and support for the nation’s women.”
The Women’s day celebration concluded with a panel discussion. Hence, the discussion included Mrs Kerie-Ann “Kiki” Thombs, founder of Self Love Ja. Mrs Thombs is a Television Producer/Presenter and Author. To her right sat Mrs Lititia Myers-Gray. Mrs Myers-Gray is the President & Chief Executive Officer at Beryllium Limited. Mrs Kalilah Reynolds, Business & Finance Journalist, Founder and C.E.O., (K.R.M.) as well as Ms Pat Francis. Ms Francis is Chair of the Trade Facilitation Task Force. Equally important was Ms Sherene McIntyre, Deaf Culture Facilitator, Jamaica Association for the Deaf(J.A.D.).
All five women shared their journey of navigating adversity to make their mark on society. The informative and inspirational conversations made the panel discussion invaluable. The International Women’s day forum cemented the concept of ’empowered women, empowering women.’