Role of honour: crowds mark International Women’s Day
The achievements of Bermuda’s women were celebrated yesterday as part of International Women’s Day.
Rena Lalgie, the Governor, kicked off the celebrations by meeting women who serve in uniform.
Female police, prison and Customs officers, along with firefighters and members of the Royal Bermuda Regiment, were thanked for their service to the island at a reception at Government House.
The event was also attended by Renee Ming, the Minister for National Security.
The day was also celebrated at City Hall in Hamilton, where a wall of purple flowers was erected in a show of solidarity on gender equality.
Purple is the traditional colour of women’s suffrage.
Charles Gosling, the Mayor of Hamilton, opened the event and told the crowd that his father died when he was only 11 years old.
He added: “I know the challenges of a woman raising a family alone.”
“Most of my working life was spent under the leadership of a female cousin and I’ve experienced the assumptions people make when we stood side by side – ‘man boss, female not so boss’.”
Mr Gosling added: “I’ve been married for 30-plus years so I know the challenges women face in the workplace earning percentages of what their male counterpart would earn.”
Carika Weldon – the scientist who until recently headed up the laboratory that carries out Covid-19 tests – was named Woman of the Year and paid tribute to the work of women who helped battle the Covid-19 crisis.
Dr Weldon told the crowd: “The amount of women leaders during this pandemic in Bermuda I think may have even outweighed the men.
“We have been in leadership positions to get us through this and that is just who we are.
“We are emotional right? And that’s fine. I know I’m very emotional. But it translates into our passion and what drives us. It’s not a tool to be used against us, it’s a tool that helps us to do what we need to do.
“I know sometimes we want to put everyone else first and we feel that we have to put our children and our families and our colleagues and everyone else before us.
“But we cannot keep going if we don’t take care of ourselves. So make sure you take care of yourself because we can’t keep giving as we want to if we’re burnt out.”
Tina Laws, the executive director of the Women’s Resource Centre, said the organisation wanted to “eradicate injustices, inequalities and sexism” against women.
She added: “The impact of Covid-19 has been tremendous in our community. Over the past two years we have pivoted to become an emergency response agency. ”
Politicians also marked the day.
Tinée Furbert, the Minister of Social Development and Seniors, addressed public service workers at an International Women’s Day event.
Lloyquita Symonds, the assistant general secretary of the Bermuda Public Service Union, told the audience at City Hall: “It is not enough for workplaces to only provide training on biases.
“We must be serious about having the difficult conversations, getting to the root of the biases, and adopting a ‘no tolerance policy’ to bias in the workplace; without this there is no way to be truly inclusive. Workplaces must be transparent in providing an infrastructure that seeks to eradicate hidden biases by preventing actions that allow the unconscious biases to show up.
Robin Tucker, a senator for the Opposition One Bermuda Alliance, also showed support for the celebration.
Ms Tucker listed a string of women who had broken barriers, including Ms Lalgie as Bermuda’s first female Governor.
She also singled out Dame Lois Browne-Evans, the first female lawyer and first female Opposition leader in the Commonwealth, Dame Pamela Gordon-Banks, the first female Premier, Keeva Joell-Benjamin, the first female Commissioner of Corrections, and Dame Flora Duffy Bermuda’s first Olympic gold medal-winner.
Ms Tucker said: “While there have been significant strides towards gender equality there remains a long way to go for women to achieve full equality, especially in relationships, workplaces, politics and in sports.
“There is research that suggests that the way we are socialised as children may play a role in reinforcing male superiority and that gender role imbalance may be a contributor to occurrences of domestic violence.
“While men may also be victims of domestic violence, women are mostly impacted and it cannot be lost on us that more urgency might be placed on addressing domestic violence matters, by changing the laws and making it a crime, rather than a private matter, if more men than women were victims.
Ms Tucker added that women were still paid less than men “even when holding similar qualifications and job roles”.
She said: “As a society we must become aware of our conscious and unconscious biases.
“We must keep the conversation going and address attitudes supporting gender inequality in our schools, families, churches and in the broader community before such norms become ingrained.
“We can do this through education, social media, and radio campaigns to heighten awareness until we develop new societal norms that bring about gender equality.
“Lastly, we must challenge the stereotypes that support gender inequity and speak out until there is no longer disparity between men and women.
“The future of our country depends on it.”