Basseterre, St Kitts (31 May 2014): Dr. Christine Walwyn representing the National Council of Women and Business & Professional Women Association presented a few remarks at a recent meeting of the Rotary Club of Liamuiga (RCL) in which she highlighted the following:
1. Medical costs – the main medical services are free of charge to women in the Federation of St Kitts & Nevis (SKN). Project Viola also assists teenage mothers.
2. Violence against women – SKN is lagging behind in this area. This is mainly discussed by poorer women. The Council sees this as a pertinent issue and is working with the private sector to develop a safe house for women and girls. This is something that has been talked about for years, however, construction plans are in place at the moment but details are not yet available.
3. Protection of employment – maternity leave is available to women and, since 2013, paternity leave is also available. Consultancy is ongoing in order to make this available to domestic workers.
4. Protection of the child – custody is now available to either father or mother since 2013. A man can now sue a woman for child support, if the man takes care of the child.
5. Women in leadership training – over the past five (5) years there have been thirty (30) women trained in leadership (political leadership).
In response to questions raised by the Members of the RCL, Dr. Walwyn confirmed the following additional information:
1. There is sometimes the reaction of raised eyebrows when it is said that women can now be sued for child support.
2. There is a lot of secrecy in relation to men who are in the situation where they are beaten by their women as they are often afraid to talk about this.
3. The Marriage Act still says man “owns” woman or woman is property of man. A member who is part of the legal fraternity advised that there is now a Violence Protection Act in place that can be used for a protection order to keep a man a certain distance away from a woman who feels threatened by him.
It was noted by a member that there were many single mothers in the Federation and when a child is sick most often the mother would have to be away from work but there is no allowance for leave to cover this. For the mother to get time off to take care of her child the doctor had to lie or the mother would not get paid for the time off. Dr. Walwyn advised that this situation was being discussed.
Sensitization of young girls to avoid physical contact and the matter of corporal punishment in schools was being discussed. The Club Member from the legal fraternity advised that there is a new Education Act that deals with corporal punishment that provides for one designated punisher.
In addition to what is happening at the national level, representatives of the local group are discussing these initiatives at the international level, communicating and working with their counterparts in other countries.
There have been changes in gay and lesbian rights at the international level, however in the SKN situation this has to be looked at in relation to what can be tolerated in the local society. Discussion on this area has been placed on the backburner for now.
Equal pay for men and women was being examined. Presently, what a man earns in one year it takes a woman one year and three months to earn. One of the reasons is that women usually accept salary given while men tend to negotiate for higher pay. This is an international situation. There is a claim about maternity leave being given to women while men have to work all the time and work their way up that is an argument being put forward against equal pay.
Women are not out-pacing men in institutions, schools, etc. they are just catching up with men. A recent development is that many of the local banks have women managers.
Although the legislation asks for 33% of parliamentary representatives to be women some women have not wanted to become involved because the environment is not right for this.
Dr. Christine Walwyn is the President of Walwyn Consulting, an Events Planning and Strategic Marketing Company. Past President of the RCL, Clive Bacchus presented the vote of thanks on behalf of the Club while Secretary, Carol Phillips, journeyed to Dr. Walwyn’s office a few days later to present her with one of the RCL’s 10th Anniversary Celebratory pins in appreciation of her taking the time to make the presentation to Club Members.