Basseterre, St. Kitts, April 04, 2016 (SKNIS): A Student Sensitization Campaign which formed part of this year’s International Women’s Day (IWD) activities was seen as key to developing mutual respect between males and females, leading to the overall advancement of society.
This was one of the key aims of presenters who gave addresses in schools at general assemblies from March 7 –18. Volunteer speakers included Jihan Williams, Deputy Registrar of the High Court and Deputy Clerk of National Assembly as well as Asha DeSuza, Foreign Service Office Officer, in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Aviation.
Ms. Williams, who addressed students at the Charles E. Mill Secondary School, noted that she addressed the theme of IWD 2016 which was “Pledge for Parity.” She quoted the United Nations statistics that estimated that for women to achieve full equality, it would take another 80 to 90 years. The High Court Deputy Registrar revealed that the focus of her presentation was to encourage girls to be competent rather than to just compete with boys to be equal.
“I focused on encouraging girls to see themselves as competent rather than equal. I told them don’t try to compete with men but be the best person that you can be,” Ms. Williams said. “And if we take ourselves out of certain boxes then we would actually achieve that equality a lot faster. So if you’re a girl who’s into cars and into fields that are generally dominated by men, just try to be the best one that you can be, don’t listen to the negativity from people who might put you in negative stereotypes because you find yourself attracted to fields that are male dominated.”
Similarly, Ms. DeSuza who spoke at the Basseterre High School, her alma mater, during a general assembly organized by the school’s music department, said that she was taken back to her school days.
“The basis of my encouragement was more or less to encourage young people who are at a time where they’re selecting career paths to be mindful or perhaps ignore the gender biases that different career roles have culturally and traditionally,” she said. “I used the example, where a young lady within the Basseterre High School, wants to become an electrician, she should pursue that regardless of the fact that traditionally the profession has been dominated by men.”
It was revealed that because both males and females were addressed, the opportunity was not lost to speak directly to the boys.
“Of course I felt it my responsibility to encourage the boys to not see themselves as competitors or see girls as threats but rather if all of us work together we could actually make great things happen in St. Kitts and Nevis and in the world generally,” Ms. Williams said. “So it was more about encouraging the girls and the boys – just be the best that you can be.”
“I used another example for the young men if they are interested in cooking – home economics traditionally has been dominated by females so they should ignore the fact that they may be labeled,” Ms. DeSuza said, noting that during the presentation she had called upon persons to stop labelling their colleagues and their fellow students based on the subjects that they pursue.
“Now that I have the opportunity to reach the airwaves to reach a broader audience, I would like to encourage parents as well to encourage their children when selecting their subjects to choose those that they are comfortable with as a prospective career,” Ms. DeSuza said. “The gender bias starts at the period of socialization which starts in the home. If you are encouraged to pursue an avenue that is comfortable for you, then that helps to break the gender bias.”
Ms. DeSuza revealed that her personal pledge for parity was to assist young women and also young men in pursuit of commencing their tertiary level education. This would be done on the level of seeking out scholarship information, as well as with School Based Assessments (SBA), and Internal Assessments (IA) at the college level.
Both presenters said that despite the limited time available for the presentations, students were responsive and seemed quite interested in what was being said.
The Student Sensitization Campaign was coordinated by the Department of Gender Affairs in the Ministry of Community Development, Gender Affairs and Social Services in partnership with the presenters who volunteered their time along with Royd Phipps, drumming specialist at the Department of Culture. This was one event during a month of activities in commemoration of IWD.