ANGUILLA CELEBRATES WOMEN: “BREAKING THE BIAS”

The content originally appeared on: The Anguillian Newspaper

Women’s Week Honourees

Tuesday, 8th March was recognised around the world as International Women’s Day. To highlight the acknowledgement of God’s provision for women worldwide, a special service of thanksgiving and celebration was held at the St. Mary’s Pro-Cathedral in the Valley. Tuesday evening’s event was part of the annual Women’s Week activities which began on Monday, 7th March.
With the International Women’s Day theme being “Breaking the Bias, Building a Better Me”, the service was held under the auspices of the Gender Affairs Anguilla and the Anglican Church Women Association, in collaboration with the University of the West Indies Open Campus, Anguilla.

An appreciable number of women, both young and the not-so-young, turned out to be part of a beautiful experience which encouraged women to take a stand against discrimination, and to continue forging the way forward for equality and justice in the Anguillian society.

A prayer of Invocation was offered by Pastor Julet Simon and, on behalf of the Anglican Church Women Association, Mrs. Celestine John gave a cordial welcome.

Moderator for the event was the Manager of the University of the West Indies Open Campus, Dr. Phyllis Fleming-Banks. After greeting Government officials, other dignitaries and honoured women of the hour, she recognised fifteen ladies who were to be awarded during the evening, for the mark they made in life on Anguilla.
Formal greetings were delivered by Her Excellency the Governor, Dileeni Daniel-Selvaratnam. She expressed how impressed she was with the organisers of the event and that it was wonderful to see so many women present. “We are celebrating International Women’s Day,” she noted, “at a time when we are sadly witnessing devastating world events. I ask that we take a moment to honour the brave women and men who are fighting for survival and seeking refuge and safety for their families in Ukraine.” (A moment of silence.)

“International Women’s Day,” she continued, “is a global celebration that recognises the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women and all who champion them. In Anguilla, the foundation of these achievements was built firmly by the sacrifices of a generation of Anguillian women who had little choice but to work.

“They were the backbone of family life, and engendered the prosperity of the community. It is important that we give thanks for them and celebrate that generation for driving the pathway to the success of a remarkable community of women that we see here today.”

Gender Affairs Coordinator, Dr. Ronya Foy-Connor, read a special International Women’s Day greeting from the Honourable De-Ann Kentish-Rogers, Minister of Social Development and Education. Her address read in part: “Good afternoon everyone. It is a pleasure to greet you on behalf of the Ministry of Social Development and Education and, specifically, the Gender Affairs Division.
“Happy International Women’s Day. It is indeed a celebration as we gather here at the Pro-Cathedral of St. Mary to recognise Women’s Week and to honour a number of impactful women in our nation. ‘Thank you’ is extended to the University of the West Indies Open Campus, Anguilla, the Anglican Church Women Association, and Gender Affairs Anguilla for providing this forum.”

Greetings to all the women present also came from the Youth Parliament in the person of twenty-year-old Ms. Tyeisha Emmanuel, UWI’s STAT (Student Today Alumni Tomorrow) Ambassador.
“I am a woman.” she said. “Today as I stand in my capacity as Deputy Junior Premier, and Minister of Social Development and Education in the Anguilla Youth Parliament, I would like to thank the organisers of this event for incorporating us, the youth and young women into today’s program.” She noted that the theme “Breaking the Bias; Creating a Better Me” is one that helps the youth to reflect upon their own life’s journeys.

The President of the Anguilla National Council of Women, Ms. Glenneva Hodge, greeted the gathering. “I wish to remind each of us that every woman’s story is unique,” she said, “and while we may have commonalities, it is important for those of us with a voice or platform to lift up the voices that don’t only sound like ours, but those that differ greatly.” She also brought a special message from the President of the Caribbean’s Women

Association.

The feature address was presented by Mrs. Dayna Connor, described as a twenty-eight-year-old wife and teacher who is passionate about working with youth. She pulled out all the stops to motivate women to take action in breaking the unfair bias and prejudices that bind them. Prior to her speech, Rhonica Connor and Alysha Carty had recited a poem that was written lately, just for the occasion. One of the last lines of that poem declared: “We need to make a change; not just noise.”

Mrs. Dayna Connor picked up the strain on that line and spoke highly of her endearing aunt who was quite outspoken about the issues of life — “the woman,” she said, “who nurtured me into the woman that I am today.”

“Today, we acknowledge the great accomplishments of women around the world,” she insisted, “and we admire the progress they made in breaking biases that limited the contributions of women to the development of society. While we have made significant strides in some areas, our communities are still riddled with imbalances and stereotypes that have had a deleterious impact on our people, and disproportionately, on our women.”

“I am unquestionably grateful,” she said, “to have many freedoms that women in some places of the world can only dream of having. I am grateful to live in a place where there are laws, organisations and campaigns aimed at protecting us from some of the more prevalent ills to women such as domestic violence, sexual harassment, and workplace biases.

“But we cannot leave it to the laws of the land, and external entities, to fix something that for years we have facilitated through a hands-off approach. Our ability to help in these areas has nothing to do with having prestigious titles and abbreviations that are associated with our names. In fact, it is the actions of the common person that can help to break the bias far more effectively than any other system can.”

Mrs. Connor said that women should no longer be bystanders of bias while considering themselves as advocates against it. She observed that there are many women and girls who regrettably struggle with self image and self worth. Likewise, she said, that too many boys and men do not grasp simple concepts like respect and consent. “And, too many of us women are looking on,” she said, “rather than actively doing something about it.”
“We can no longer sit back and whisper in our corners,” she said, “while we watch our sisters hurt on a regular basis. We must combat that negativity that propagates itself in our communities, by sharing our love and time with those who need it. Let us break the bias and become better women by positively influencing the life of another — starting today. Happy Women’s Day! God bless you!

Throughout the course of the evening, various groups of women presented appropriate songs as special features for the occasion. Finally, to close out the event, Mrs. Lyn Reid led the women in the singing of Judy Turnbull’s song “Women of Excellence Arise”.