by Judy M McCutcheon
It’s the most fabulous month of the year – March, it’s my birthday month, plus it’s the month that women are celebrated globally. This year the theme for International Women’s Day, celebrated on 8 March is ‘Press for Progress.’
Based on the latest global gender gap report it seems that gender parity is over 200 years away. We all try, even in small ways to highlight the plight of women everywhere, but thanks to movements such as #MeToo that has gone viral, we have seen some courageous women step forward to help stymie violence against women and girls. I want to invite all women and men who love women to press harder for progress so that we can close this 200-year gap. I was doing some research for a UN proposal, and the amount of domestic and sexual abuse cases against women and girls in Grenada were so alarming, that at one point during the research I had to take a break as I started to hyperventilate. I was reading about the rape of a female toddler, and I tell you, we are light years away from making progress if we don’t intend to dig our heels in and say enough is enough. Just venting on social media is not enough, meaningful action is required. As I was writing this article, news came that the female toddler passed away, will true justice be served? We are #PressingforProgress.
In a typical Caribbean family, it’s the woman who is the matriarch of the family, but I keep asking myself, what have we really achieved. Don’t get me wrong, I know that we have come a long way since our great-grandmothers, but really, what have we achieved? I was on a flight this weekend, and there was a grandmother with a little boy who was very high energy, so he did what any 4 or 5-year-old would do, run around. Suddenly, every Caribbean man and woman in the departure lounge had an opinion of how he should be handled; but what was not obvious to them was that this child was extra hyper which suggested that he had some sort of disorder such as ADHD. You ask me how I know; that’s for another article. Their solution was to give him a slap, but my question was, how many slaps would he need to get for him to settle down? What we fail to recognise in the Caribbean is that a slap won’t solve our children’s issues. Believe it or not, disorders such as ADD, and ADHD affect all kids, including Caribbean kids. When I asked one group of people who were telling her to beat him if they knew his background, one man said that we have moved away from a Caribbean upbringing and wanted to be like Europeans. I fully understand that culturally we are different, but we need to think broader. The thing here is that as parents we have somehow failed in how we raise our kids. We have failed in teaching our girls what is acceptable treatment and in teaching our boys how to love and respect our girls. Violence is certainly not the answer, and the only thing that beating teaches is that violence is an option.
As older women, how do we support our girls, are we truthful when we say to them that we are fine, when in truth we are not? Do we tell them that life is not perfect, but it will be just fine? Do we tell them sometimes life sucks and that some days will be good, and some days will be not so good? What coping skill are we giving them when we stay in relationships that are abusive — be it emotional, physical, or financial? I had the privilege of meeting an awesome young lady over the weekend, and as we chatted, she said to me that is was so refreshing to hear another woman say that life sucks sometimes, and that things are not perfect and that we make bad decisions as well as good ones. I believe that it is in making mistakes we grow and develop. She said she wished someone had told her that it’s okay to dream big. To tell you the truth, I wish a woman had said that to me early on in my life; I would not have been so hard on myself. Today, I am told that I want too much, but because I am secure in who I am, I am no longer bothered by those statements. I will forge ahead, I will achieve and so will you.
Ladies, the gender parity starts with us, we are the ones to start the process. We are the ones that birth and raise our boys, so we have quite an influence on how they are socialised. Those of us in the ‘free world’ have a choice; we do not have to sweep sexual abuse under the rug, we should not have to choose between our daughter’s dignity and economics. We cannot press for progress nor achieve gender parity if we are not prepared to take certain positions. It starts with us and while I am very happy that there are men who are along with us on this journey, I need to let you know, that journey begins with us. We must show our daughters how they ought to be treated, and we must show our sons how to treat our daughters. Pressing for progress means more than just having a day of celebrations, it’s a community effort. It should be a lifetime effort dedicated to raising strong girls, letting them know that it’s okay to achieve, that it’s okay to be whomever and whatever they want to be. #PressforProgress.
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Judy McCutcheon is a partner in the firm Go Blue Inc, a Human Development Company. www.goblueinc.net