Tipping the balance for women
Two teenagers said yesterday that their experiences as girls in Bermuda bolstered their commitment to change the shape of women's lives for future generations.
Maya Yates and McKenzie-Kohl Tuckett want to see more women parliamentarians and added that the cultivation of attitudes of respect in childhood would lead to boys growing up to be the feminists of the future.
The girls were speaking as they joined Alison Crocket, the Deputy Governor, for International Women's Day, which this year had the theme “Balance for Better” — a call for gender equality.
They were selected after a competition for teenage girls with the chance to shadow the diplomat at one of the events across the island that marked the global event.
Ms Tuckett, 15, from St George's, said: “I was thinking about gender inequality and women in power, I looked at the hashtag ‘balance for better', the first thing that popped into my head was Parliament in Bermuda.
“I've been in Parliament many times and seen many of the debates and I always recognise the lack of females and thought that was the most important piece to address.
“With 36 Members of Parliament and eight being female, with a 52 per cent female population — just looking at those numbers really shocked me into thinking that I have to be the one to say this for my peers so that once we get older, we don't have that issue and have a lot more females in Parliament for future generations.”
She added: “You can be female and still be a good member of Parliament, nothing has to stop you from getting there.”
The girls won the opportunity to join Ms Crocket after they submitted video clips about women's issues that were important to them.
Both spoke yesterday about the need to develop a culture of respect in boys at a young age, as well as encouraging them not to be afraid to stand up for girls.
Ms Yates, 18, said: “My video was about being a young female, especially in Bermuda, and the way that society can get to you.
“A lot of Bermudian men are open in their opinions, especially in their opinions of women.
“I've been as young as 14 and you have men catcalling you and beeping at you on the roads.”
She said that for older teenagers the attention can include physical contact.
Ms Yates, from Warwick, said: “It can make you really uncomfortable.”
She added that young women can feel “scared to say something” in situations where the men were older.
Ms Tuckett, who is the Premier of Bermuda's Youth Parliament, said: “I believe that if you start the change from young, you grow up to see the change.
“When you have a really serious issue like the #MeToo movement and you see young men going around schools joking about it, as a young feminist you call them out.
“We can't expect change if we don't start calling it out from young ages, then they have that for the rest of their lives.”
She challenged the idea that only women could be feminists and said it was important for boys to understand what the word really meant.
Ms Yates added: “With a lot of boys it's this kind of masculinity. They think it almost emasculates them to stand up for women. I think the females of our generation are really good at empowering each other but the men are almost afraid to join in.”
The teenagers joined Ms Crocket and others at City Hall where women leaders from a range of sectors addressed a crowd including schoolchildren bearing banners in support of women's rights.
Katarina Hoskins, one of the organisers, said the event had grown over the past four years.
She explained: “The public changed from more casual people stopping by, to now, when we have corporate sponsorship, the Government and participation from schools.”
Ms Hoskins hopes to see more public schools in years to come and said the team was considering if they could arrange a bus to collect pupils next year.
She also welcomed participation from other organisations in their own International Women's Day celebrations.
Ms Hoskins, who is the island's Honorary Consul for Austria, said: “The more, the merrier.
“We want to encourage everyone in Bermuda to take this opportunity and plan something for next year, whether it's an exercise group, a corporate group, mothers with babies — they should all be encouraged to organise something themselves but obviously come to our event at lunch!”
She added: “Let's take this day and continue throughout the year to raise the awareness of gender inequality and balance for better.”
The Bermuda Police Service also welcomed schoolgirls to its ranks yesterday after pupils wrote essays about empowerment for women.
And HSBC announced its sponsorship agreement with the Bermuda Football Association in an effort to help create more diversity in the traditionally male-dominated sport.
More than 50 women attended a breakfast event hosted by ASW Law at the Royal Hamilton Amateur Dinghy Club, where panellists included Laura Taylor, the chief financial officer of Nephila Capital, Rebecca Singleton of clothing firm Tabs, and Gitanjali Gutierrez, the Information Commissioner.
Among the topics covered were gender quotas, work-life balance and millennials in the workforce.
KPMG's celebrations included a breakfast briefing, in collaboration with the Institute of Directors, that focused on inclusion and diversity in the boardroom and fundraising for the Women's Resource Centre.
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