Monday, March 10, 2014

The condition of women's equality in The Bahamas today

"Join me on the Bridge" 03-08-14 Remarks by Branville McCartney

Mr. McCartney was indeed humbled for the opportunity to address women on International Women's Day at the event "Join me on the Bridge" in Freeport, Grand Bahama. He was the first male to be chosen to speak at this event since its inception.

"A Celebration of Women"
The woman.
The better half.
The backbone of society.
The one behind every good and successful man.

Nature has, for the most part, made her physically less intimidating than man.  But although she may be, or appear to be, the physically weaker of the sexes, she is always the strength of a nation.

If her work is never done, it is because caring for current and future generations is a full-time, all-consuming, and lifelong work, in and out of the home.

As once expressed by Margaret Thatcher, "...if you want anything said, ask a man.  If you want anything done, ask a woman."

To my colleagues, to the organizers and patrons of Join Me On the Bridge, to our visitors, and to all of you here with me, it is my great pleasure to be with you today, and to speak to you, in celebration of International Women's Day.

It has been 51 years since women got the vote in our Bahamas, but, in many ways, they continue to fight for some very fundamental rights by way of activism in women's equality.  And these rights, in large part, are very slow to realize, because the basic tenet of women's equality begins with the perception of women's equality.  Changing a perception is - and has always been - more challenging than changing a law.

There are many facets of our society that continue to move us along in the antiquated ways of the past, never truly giving light and precedence to the importance of women's empowerment.  And there are many people who remain ignorant of, or negligent in, the ongoing pursuit of gender equality for Bahamian women.

So much that women have accomplished in business, in government, and in their home lives, goes unnoticed, or is taken for granted.  So much that is not right, but is considered tradition, is overlooked, disregarded, and continued, because complacency and status quo are easier than improvement.

To this day, a Bahamian woman's child, unless born to a Bahamian man, is not born a Bahamian citizen.  It is a frustrating, unfair, and sexist position, the origins of which are remarkably archaic and equally unbelievable.  But this is something passed down into our laws from centuries ago, in a world where men were even more boldly regarded and treated as more human and worthwhile than women.

And these laws were written by men, of course... men who, for all the good that comes their way when women are content, have never sought to rectify this injustice once and for all, by fully aligning themselves with women in the cause for women's equality.

It is now up to the men who stand strong in this era, to ensure that women who, of their wombs birth generations of brilliant men and women, can pass on their Bahamian citizenship to the children they give birth to anywhere in the world, and with a spouse who possesses any nationality.

Women are discriminated against, even in the workplace, with respect to their opportunities for career advancement and the equality of their pay for doing the same jobs men do.  This is a more subtle, yet still prevalent, occurrence of the inequality of the sexes.  But there is no reason, whatsoever, why a woman who has the same education and training as her male counterpart, goes to the same school that he does, has the same work experience that he does, should ever be considered unequal to him, or incapable of leading a company or a government (or a family) to success, at an income that is equivalent to the one he will be offered.

I have a wonderful, hardworking, and beautiful mother.  I have wonderful, hardworking, and beautiful sisters.  I have a wonderful, hardworking, and beautiful wife.  I have wonderful, hardworking, and beautiful daughters.  I have wonderful, hardworking, and beautiful aunts. They are all dear to my heart.  And as important as my mother, my sisters, my wife, aunts, and my daughters are to me, so are the issues of women's rights, women's equality, and women's empowerment.

I want my daughters to grow up in a country... in a world... which is fair to them, and does not assume that because they are beautiful, feminine, or female, makes them any less qualified to do important work. And the only way I can help them to live the lives they deserve is to do my part as their father, and as a man, to ensure that right is done by and for them.  And I encourage each of you - man, woman, boy, or girl - to recognize, respect, and advocate for the equal value and rights of the women of our country.

When the whole Bahamas does this, along with the whole of America, the whole of the United Kingdom, the whole of Europe, the whole of India, the whole of Africa, etc., it changes the world we live in for the better..... and for the long haul.

Men can, in support of all women, in their ongoing fight for full equality, be good, responsible, and fair fathers to their daughters, husbands to their wives, sons to their mothers, and bosses to their employees, affording women and girls the opportunities to dream and to realize their dreams, to grow and flourish in them, to stand firm in their convictions, and to express the ideas and sentiments that change nations.

"What would men be without women?" the esteemed author, Mark Twain, asked in his writing.  To his own question, he replied, "scarce sir... mighty scarce." 

The condition of women's equality in The Bahamas today, particularly the ill-conceived notion that a woman is a man's possession, punching bag, servant, or source of pleasure and nothing more, is a direct result of the fact that men (and women) have not sought to make it different, and ultimately better, for all women.

Let us not allow this to be the case, after now.

Ladies and gentlemen, I thank you for allowing me to share this special day with you.  I hope you will enjoy it and to all of you a good afternoon.

Branville McCartney on Facebook