Today March 8, 2021 on International Women’s Day, it gives me great pleasure to celebrate the accomplishments, and leadership of women all around the world. We have come a long way, from when we were not allowed to vote, make decisions or hold certain functions to breaking the molds set by men throughout history. We have seen women rise to the occasion, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, and exhibit leadership skills in protecting their communities in governments around the world.
This year’s International Women’s Day theme is ‘Choose to Challenge’ raising awareness against bias and taking action for equality. We recognize the fight of women for economic, social, and political rights, and celebrate their progress and success.
In 2020, we celebrated the first year of the Oualichi International Women’s Day Award Ceremony in recognition of 50 strong and influential women of St. Maarten/St. Martin. This year we are celebrating virtually, due to COVID-19 and other operational issues. Even so, I am thrilled to have the opportunity to recognize all the wonderful women who have made a difference through 2020 and throughout our history. Bringing awareness to our community on the great achievements and contributions of women throughout the many sectors of our society will only serve to motivate and inspire our young women and girls to be even more, and show out both here at home and abroad.
In our daily lives and in our community, we have women who inspire us every day. We have women leading in virtually all our sectors; women who are entrepreneurs, doctors and other health care workers, lawyers, artists, activists, educators and so much more, even serving at the highest level of government. Since the achievement of the constituent state status on October 10, 2010, St. Maarten has had 2 Chairladies of Parliament, namely Gracita Arrindell and Sarah Wescott-Williams, as well 3 female Prime Ministers, namely Sarah Wescott-Williams, Leona Marlin Romeo, and myself; female heads of the Council of Advice, the late Mrs. Mavis Brooks-Salmon; the General Audit Chamber, Joan Dovale-Meit; Ombudsman Nilda Arduin-Lynch and Social Economic Council Oldine Brison-Pantophlet.
For the first time, out of 15 Member of Parliament, we have 5 female members and of the 7 ministers in Government we have 3 female ministers. St. Maarten is indeed leading within the region and the world with women in leadership, representation, and equality. We see these changes around the world as well; the US recently saw its very first female Vice President elected in 2020 in the person of Kamala Harris. We stop, acknowledge and honor the milestones achieved and the persons who achieved them, even as we acknowledge that despite all of that – there is still much work to be done.
As March 2021 progresses, government will continue to highlight women throughout our community via our various media. I encourage all organizations to take the time to highlight an outstanding woman during this month.
There are still some countries around the world where women do not enjoy equal rights, are not allowed to speak, voice opinions, make choices or decisions and have to obey their ‘superiors’; places where little girls aren’t allowed to dream. In these countries, the role of women is limited to traditional roles within the home and community. Our honorees mentioned above, has defied these traditional roles and are making an impression on us all.
Our best effort continues to be “Choosing to Challenge” by speaking out where inequalities exist. We must continue to highlight positive examples and take action for equality by providing more opportunities for gender equity for every woman and girl. As a country, this means we continue to lead by example, as mothers, sisters, colleagues and friends, so that our little girls will strive to achieve even more than we have achieved and our little boys will respect and honor them for the valid contributions they make. Understanding, equity and compassion should also be taught to our boys and men as they also have a role to play in the promotion of equality for women and girls.
On behalf of the Council of Ministers and the people of St. Maarten, I wish a Happy International Women’s Day to all women residing on or visiting St. Maarten/St. Martin and to all women around the world! May you continue to shine your light, as a beacon of hope to inspire young women and girls to challenge any vestiges of inequality aimed at deterring them from achieving their dreams.
Happy International Women’s Day!!
Prime Minister Silveria E. Jacobs