As we celebrate International Women’s Day, there are several challenges facing our women that have not been addressed by the Unity Labour Party government. These include: increasing violence, sexual assaults suffered by women and children, and difficulties in the working environment.
The New Democratic Party (NDP) Women’s Arm is concerned about the recent incidents of violence against women and has issued the following statement: “In 2022, St. Vincent and the Grenadines recorded a record-breaking number of 42 homicides.
Just two months into the year 2023, the frequency with which new homicides occur is of alarming concern.
On February 4, 2023, media houses confirmed the death of Ms. Altavea Billingy within a few days, on February 10, 2023, the death of Purlinea Greaves was later confirmed. While the alleged perpetrators of these homicides have been arrested and charged, the 2022 homicides of women like Ms. Precious Williams, whose body was found at the decommissioned E.T Joshua Airport Tarmac, remain unsolved.
It begs the question of where the time and resources of the government and, by extension, the Royal Saint Vincent and the Grenadines Police Force (RSVGPF) are being directed. It is indeed doubtful that any real value is being placed on bringing the perpetrators of theses violent crimes to justice.
We vehemently condemn all acts of aggression directed towards our women folk and challenge the government and the RSVGPF to purposefully address the issue of crime and violence in St. Vincent and the Grenadines and further to respect the rights and freedoms of every Vincentian citizen.”
When the NDP was in office, it established the Women’s Desk which addressed women’s concerns. The Women’s Desk worked collaboratively with other agencies to address the gender issues pertinent to women’s development. Its main goals were to work towards the removal of all forms of discrimination against women, to promote the development of their full potential, and to ensure their integration in national development. In an effort to fulfill its mandate, the Women’s Desk immediately set about mobilizing women locally and nationally, with a view to pooling resources to identify and address women’s concerns, interests, needs, problems, and planned and implemented policies and programs to address them. With the assistance from the CARICOM secretariat, these needs, interests, concerns and problems were compounded into a draft policy statement on women, which was utilized for guiding future policies, plans and programs.
The following were achieved: amendment to the constitution, to give recognition to women and men as equal partners in the Vincentian society. As a result, both women and men could confer status/citizenship to their foreign spouses and children, which only the latter could have done. The Domestic Violence and Matrimonial Proceedings Act which makes provision for
matrimonial injunctions, provide police with power of arrest for breach of injunction in Domestic Violence, and make provision for rights of occupation, where both spouses have the same right to the matrimonial home and the Coutts Agreement was removed, to allow maternity leave to female teachers who had to resign, once they became pregnant.
The introduction of the Equal Pay Act, which made provision for the removal and prevention of discrimination based on sex of the employee, in the rates of remuneration for female and male in paid employment. The establishment of the Family Court Act, the first of its kind in the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States that made provisions for women to seek redress in relation to matrimonial matters, domestic violence, rape and other matters. The Maintenance Act, which made new financial provision for dependents and custody of children in or out of wedlock. And amendment of the Matrimonial Homes Act, providing equal right to each spouse to occupy the matrimonial home, thus protecting each against eviction, except where the Court orders.
Although a great deal has been accomplished in promoting gender equality under the NDP administration, much remains to be done at the national level. The NDP is cognizant of the fact that there can be no true development without the total involvement of women as partners in the process. The NDP envisions a society where inequality is overcome.
The way forward
The NDP has historically recognized the major contribution of Women in the workplace, in the home and in our society, and we have sought to empower women so that they can find personal satisfaction in their many roles, as they contribute to the development of St. Vincent and the Grenadines. However, we need to address the many impediments that still stand in the way of our reaching this goal.
We will support the Human Trafficking Department of the Police Force to enable it to continue to improve its outreach and education in the community; ensure that the training of all police recruits includes sensitization in the conduct of investigations in relation to human trafficking, sexual offences and domestic violence; support the Welfare Service so that it can better address the needs of vulnerable women and children and develop community projects that include continuing education and skills training, especially those targeting young parents.
Also, engage with single mothers, and especially single mothers who are farmers, to address issues that are specific to them as a group; provide incentives for employers whose working hours create challenges to the safety of women traveling to and from work, to address these issues and partner with NGOs to offer hotline services and support for women and children who are at risk.
The NDP is committed to the development of women in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and will demonstrate that commitment when it is returned to office. The party’s proud record in the social, economic and political development of women during its tenure in office, is evidence that the NDP is dedicated to women’s development.