The New Today

Commentary

Saluting Sister Judy Williams – an extraordinary woman and pragmatic leader

It is with deep sadness and a profound sense of loss that the nation received the news, on April 21st, 2022, of the passing of Sister Judy Williams, Executive Director of GRENCODA (Grenada Community Development Agency) and a true giant and legend of the NGO (Non-Governmental Organizations) community.

This extraordinary woman, and pragmatic leader, who will be laid to rest on May 20th, 2022, deserves a most fitting send off, after giving almost her entire life, selflessly and passionately, in service to the poor, vulnerable and marginalized of society.

From Pope Pauls Camp in Palmiste in the 1970’s (from September 1972) to the present day GRENCODA in Gouyave, Sister Judy stands out as a shining symbol of hard work, steadfast struggle, undying patriotism, and a tireless yearning for the creation of not just another society, but a new and just society.

Excellent organizer and mobilizer
During her stewardship of Pope Paul’s Camp, Judy opened many doors, providing students and young people with golden opportunities to learn a variety of technical and life skills, and lessons in leadership.

In those early days she proved herself to be an excellent organizer and mobilizer, identifying and bringing together a range of professionals to impart their knowledge, experience and skills to others in society.

Whether donned in her nun’s attire, as in the early 1970’s, in keeping with her then religious status, or formally and sharply decked off to attend one of her regional or international meetings, or just simply and regularly attired to meet with farmers or other rural community groups, Judy’s mission was always the same: to improve the quality of life of her people, lifting them from the depths of poverty and vulnerability, and transforming them into empowered citizens capable of changing their communities and the wider world.

She remained a fixture of struggle, whether it was pre-revolution, during the 1979-83 revolution, or post-revolution, always there, and singularly focused on peoples development and empowerment, particularly of women, children, the poor and the disadvantaged.

Renewed hope for progressive mission
Like for so many others, the 1979 Grenada Revolution brought renewed hope to Sister Judy as it gave impetus to her progressive mission and the fulfillment of her dreams. Agro-processing, adult literacy (Centre for Popular Education), a campaign to ‘eat what we grow and grow what we eat’, establishment of popular organs of peoples democracy (through zonal and parish councils), maternity leave with pay for women – and the preservation of your job upon expiry of the leave, equal pay for equal work, and the mass mobilization of women nationwide – all forming an important part of the agenda of the revolution, falling right into Sister Judy’s own ‘pot’, and dovetailing nicely with her own mission. Regrettably for so many, that Grenada experiment ended after 4 ••• years.

Rising from the ashes
Though devastated by defeat and the traumatic events of October 1983, Judy rose from the ashes, after a few months, and in her characteristic spirit of perseverance, pressed on with her development and empowerment mission, never turning back. She continued to labour tirelessly, and to provide visionary leadership, establishing and building institutions that have served – and continue to serve – the “small man” and the marginalized woman well.

Such institutions as GRENCODA, the Legal Aid and Counselling Clinic (LACC), and programmes and projects such as the School Assistance Programme and Gouyave Fish Fry, to mention just a few, will continue to outlive her.

Genuine friend of the poor and marginalized
GRENCODA lies a genuine friend of the poor, vulnerable and marginalized; of the countless children provided with school books and uniforms who otherwise would be unable to attend school; of the many women who have found an outlet to develop their raw talent and skills whether in the field of agro-industries or otherwise; of the many men who have become good fathers and partners after undergoing counselling in parenting and anger management at LACC; of the many fishermen and fish vendors whose catch was converted into a range of delicacies at the weekly Gouyave Fish Fry, not just providing a ready market for them, but transforming Gouyave into a major tourist destination and national entertainment centre.

For the past 50 years, until her recent passing, Sister Judy never gave up on that laudable vision to create that new and just society.

With grit, determination and unbelievable stamina she labored on and on, improving lives, protecting the environment, advocating sustainable development, and promoting peoples participation.

She not only talked the talk, being outspoken and fearless in her criticisms, but she also walked the walk. Her impressive record speaks for itself.

A woman of action
Judy was pure dynamite, a woman of action, impatient for change – progressive change! She possessed a heart of gold, loving and giving, and despised injustice. She cared for people. She was outspoken and fearless in her criticisms. At the same time, she did not wait for others ‘to do it’.

She led by example, mobilizing whatever resources she could to make a difference. She addressed real problems, facing real people, and came up with real solutions.

Deserving of highest award
Grenada has lost a dynamic, inspirational, visionary, and self-driven leader. Though Judy worked for no reward, she is deserving of the highest award this nation can offer for community service. Better late than never.

Good bye Judy – organizer, mobilizer, leader, activist. Your service to humanity has been exemplary. Your legacy remains intact and will continue to inspire generations to come.

You have fought a long and rewarding battle, providing a voice for the voiceless, hope for the hopeless, and empowerment for the powerless. You have indeed cemented your place in history!

Rest in perfect peace dear friend and sister!

Ruggles Ferguson