The Women’s Arm of the National Democratic Congress joined with women the world over in celebrating International Women’s Day last Sunday, 8th March 2020. The event which included a fun day and public meeting was organised by the Women’s Arm of the NDC with tremendous support from their male colleagues.
The celebration was held at the River Sallee RC School grounds under the theme chosen by the UN for this year’s commemoration: “Generation Equality: Realising Women’s Rights”.
The fun day comprised activities aimed at uplifting women while having fun, and included: booths educating participants on issues related to domestic violence, health, the work of non-governmental and other community based organisations focused on issues of interest to women and games.
The main feature of the fun day was a special booth where attendees interacted one on one with Party Leader, Franka Alexis-Bernardine.
Following the fun day activities, the women of the NDC were featured in public meeting. President of the Women’s Arm, Mrs. Hillary Alexander in addressing the gathering urged women of the NDC and the wider community to do more to lift up each other in our homes, churches, villages and the wider community.
She also called on the seven female members of Parliament to “take up more space” and let their voices be heard in defence of women who fall victim to sexual and other kinds of violence in Grenada. She noted their deafening silence in the face of the assault on female journalist, Calistra Farrier by Senator Winston Garraway and more recently, the allegations of sexual assault on a young, vulnerable woman by the Prime Minister’s chief security detail.
Ms. Cecilia Ann John, Caretaker for the St. Patrick East Constituency where the event was held, welcomed the gathering and noted that while women in our society have made much strides, we still have a long way to go. Gender equality she said, will auger well for national economic growth since women will be given equal opportunity in the workplace, thereby boosting productivity.
Public Relations Officer, Claudette Joseph highlighted the progressive and superior legislative agenda of the NDC in its two terms in office and noted how this progressive agenda has earned the NDC the distinction of being the party in Government passing the most laws that directly bring benefits to women and children since independence. These observations were made in the context of recent allegations of sexual assault against a woman seeking to buy piece of state land, by the PM’s chief security detail.
The NDC PRO told the audience: “We have a process in Grenada for people who are less fortunate to get some government lands to build a home. Now, tell me how on earth does a young, female applicant for a piece of land get to the point where the Prime Minister’s chief security detail reaches to her house to sexually assault her? What authority does the Prime Minister’s security have to be interacting with vulnerable people who are making genuine applications for assistance?
Now, based on what was described in that report, it does not appear that this was a one-off incident. So the question is, did this gentleman’s boss, the Prime Minster know that this guy has these tendencies? And if he did know, why then unleash a predator on a vulnerable woman?”
The NDC PRO also took the opportunity to bring into focus the current attempts by the NNP administration to unlawfully and brazenly acquire the shares in GRENLEC owned by ordinary Grenadians. Ms. Joseph gave a historic account of the GRENLEC debacle dating back to 1990 when the Report of the Worrell Commission was published.
She exposed the roles played by Gregory Bowen and Keith Mitchell from inception to present and much of government’s deception in dealing with this issue, including that it will cost the people of Grenada approximately $200 million to pay off WRB Enterprises and we are likely to be worse off in the end.
All of the speakers paid special tribute to the Party Leader who herself gave the feature address that was well received by all present.
In keeping with the goal of this year’s theme to promote a gender equal world, Sister Alexis-Bernardine addressed the audience on, among other things, the challenges our Grenadian women face as we celebrate International Women’s Day.
She highlighted the plight of the teaching fraternity (of which the majority are women) and the bribe of $500.00 subtly offered to those who did not support industrial action over pension and gratuity. The Party Leader reiterated that NDC deplores this action and demands a full refund of all monies docked.
The Party Leader also joined with the President and the PRO in condemning the recently reported assaults on journalist Callistra Farrier and the young woman from the PM’s Constituency seeking to buy a piece of government land. In urging current female members of Parliament to add their voices in defence of our women, Ms. Alexis-Bernardine said: “…but perhaps the most disturbing of all is the silence of our Women in Parliament who thought it better to say nothing at all, than take a principled stance for absolutely unacceptable behaviour. There are seven women Parliamentarians including a lawyer and several former Ministers working in the Government team in various capacities. None saw it fit to protect the rights of the women involved and condemn the actions; just say something.”
In defence of former Cabinet Secretary, Gemma Bain-Thomas, who was victimised out of her job by the current administration, sued and won her case against the state, the NDC Party Leader again urged the female MPs to stand and speak up. She said: “Mrs Gemma Bain-Thomas, our former Cabinet Secretary, has been left without compensation or salary despite the ruling of the High Court, now 3 years ago. No one pleads her cause. Actions speak louder than words”.
The Party Leader called on all women in Grenada to unite in addressing women’s issues, “The time is now. The time has come. The development of our nation depends on the other 50% [of the population] – the women”, she declared.
The gathering was entertained by the 2016 Junior Calypso Monarch and her elder sister Sadae Sylvan.
(The above reflects the views of the main opposition National Democratic Congress led by former Education Minister Franka Alexis-Bernardine)