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“Changing culture to enforce equality”
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“Changing culture to enforce equality”

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Khadija Holder picEquality for Caribbean women will require an understanding of history and a change in culture, writes Khadija Holder, 26, a Commonwealth Correspondent from Trinidad and Tobago.

“It is how you see yourself, and not how other see you, that is truly important.”

Yet, is this really the reality for Caribbean women? When a woman’s strength, self-confidence and intelligence are bypassed, ignored or dismissed by existing structures, isn’t she then limited by others’ perception of her?

While the role of the ethnically diverse and resourceful Caribbean woman has indeed expanded from domestic purposes to participation in business and politics, there is still much to be done regarding gender equality in the region.

For example, a recent report by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) indicates a fairly high percentage of women in management positions in the region[1]. However, it is the men who continue to dominate top-management functions[2]. The few females who acquire top management positions earn approximately half of male top managers´ salaries[3], and over-all female earnings stand at 19 per cent less than that of males, despite women dominating the formal education system[4]. The political arena mirrors this reality, there being few women in parliament in many Caribbean countries[5].

The relationship between societal culture and organisational behaviour has been demonstrated extensively by prior research. Therefore, it is unsurprising that male domination also characterises the Caribbean woman’s relationship. Unfortunately, in some cases male pursuit of dominance has resulted in violence. Research indicates that one in three women will experience physical and/or sexual abuse at some point in their lives (UNSTATS)[6]. While I would love to argue that this statistic is inflated, in Trinidad and Tobago alone, March brought the deaths of several women from acts of violence by male associates[7].

March 4th – a woman’s throat was slit and her body left in the bushes;

March 5th – another woman was chopped brutally during a cutlass attack by a male counterpart that left both of her hands severed at the wrist and her arm chopped off;

March 6th – a female was forced to drink acid, slashed across her face and doused with the acid by a male relative

March 12th – another female was stabbed multiple times and killed by her boyfriend

With four women killed in nine days, how many could it be in 365?

Although laws and policies are essential to regulating behaviour, we must look below the surface and reshape our culture. Arguably, these acts reflect our historical influences of “masculine colonialism, where many women were sexualised, commodified objects, subject to violent regulation across public and private spheres” (Beckles, 1999: 86)[8].

Consequently, while the Caribbean woman has achieved, she will never be truly equal if historical influences are not healed by building present societal culture upon the empowerment of women at all social levels, education and upliftment of young boys and girls, and encouragement of respect, tolerance and acceptance throughout society, including among our leaders.

References

[1]http://www.ilo.org/wcmsp5/groups/public/—dgreports/—dcomm/—publ/documents/publication/wcms_334882.pdf

[2]http://siteresources.worldbank.org/INTWDR2012/Resources/7778105-1299699968583/7786210-1315936222006/chapter-5.pdf

[3]https://publications.iadb.org/bitstream/handle/11319/6384/New%20Century%20Old%20Disparities.pdf?sequence=1

[4] http://www.iadb.org/wmsfiles/products/publications/documents/35326952.pdf

[5] http://www.ipu.org/wmn-e/classif.htm

[6] http://unstats.un.org/unsd/gender/downloads/Ch6_VaW_info.pdf

[7] http://www.newsday.co.tt/news/0,224981.html

[8] Beckles, Hilary, McD. 1999. Centering Woman: Gender Discourses in Caribbean Slave Society Kingston: Ian Randle Publishers

photo credit: Waiting for the Winds of Change via photopin (license)

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About me:

Discovering my great passion and ambition to advocate for global progress through research-writing stands as one of my most fulfilling attainments to date. I am currently a Research Fellow at the Caribbean Centre for Research on Trade and Development (CCRTD), a Research Consultant for JDR Research Solutions Barbados, a Researcher at Athens Development and am becoming internationally certified in Spanish and French. In my spare time I engage in volunteerism through organizations such as Junior Achievement.

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Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the Commonwealth Youth Programme. Articles are published in a spirit of dialogue, respect and understanding. If you disagree, why not submit a response.
To learn more about becoming a Commonwealth Correspondent please visit: http://www.yourcommonwealth.org/submit-articles/commonwealthcorrespondents/

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