Winners with Mrs Rowley, Minsiter, AFETT Pres and BATT VP & Director

Men Challenged to do more to Promote Gender Equality

It was a celebration of womanhood at last week’s Women of Influence Awards and Mentorship Function, hosted by the Association of Female Executives of Trinidad and Tobago (AFETT), and the Bankers Association of Trinidad and Tobago (BATT), as both organisations joined the rest of the world in commemorating International Women’s Day (IWD) a global campaign, held annually on March 8, to highlight and promote women’s rights and empowerment.

The 2019 theme, #BalanceforBetter, is a call to action for accelerating gender balance, while promoting the participation of women as equal partners with men in achieving sustainable development, peace, security, and full respect for human rights.

Five women, from different spheres of life, were recognized for their achievements and contributions to society.

They were:

  • Business Pioneer: Candice Welch
  • National Spirit: Renele Ford
  • Social Entrepreneur: Chevaughn Joseph
  • Young Female Leader: Nyoshia Cain
  • Spirit of AFETT – Sherleen Young-Griffith

Sharon Rowley, the wife of Prime Minister, Dr Keith Rowley, delivered an impassioned speech, at the Hyatt Regency, as she urged the young girls in the audience to work hard and “never depend on a man to survive.” Mrs. Rowley pointed out that even though she is married to the Prime Minister, she has chosen to remain financially independent.

“Work and make your own money. I am an attorney. I make my own money. I have my own bank account and I certainly don’t have to ask the Prime Minister for money,” she said. “Several people ask me if I continue to work since my husband became Prime Minister. My answer is a resounding YES. I consider myself an empowered and independent woman.”

And while women and girls took center stage at the event, Mrs. Rowley also challenged the men and young boys in attendance to do their part to promote gender equality and empower the women and girls in their lives.

“I am married to a man, your Prime Minister, who believes in the equality of the sexes. We cannot ignore the unacceptable and senseless acts of violence committed by some of our men and boys against our women and girls. We must not excuse or tolerate these actions.

“The world of humanity has two wings—one is women and the other men. Not until both wings are equally developed can the bird fly. Our men must be visible and vocal in that quest for gender equality.”

Mrs. Rowley said she was happy that Trinidad and Tobago had made considerable strides in the area of gender equality, noting that politically, this country has had female cabinet members since the 1960s, and in 2010, the nation’s first female Prime Minister, Kamla Persad Bissessar, joined the list of female prime ministers in the region.

”Many of our women have a voice. We are lucky. There are many countries where women are voiceless. They are seen but not heard. Sometimes they aren’t even seen.”

Nigel Romany, Director, BATT, echoed similar sentiments, lamenting that in Latin America and the Caribbean, only forty-nine percent of women have a bank account, eleven percent have a savings account, and ten percent have access to credit, while men account for fifty-four percent, sixteen percent, and thirteen percent, respectively.

rowley tours Beaty and Grace booth

“So there are compelling business reasons to actively promote and support the engagement of women in all spheres of life, particularly in business,” Romany asserted,

He was “taken aback” by statistics from the World Economic Forum, which noted that it could take “another 100 years before the global equality gap between men and women disappears entirely.”

AFETT President, Yolande Agard, said achieving gender balance will contribute to a better society, and a better world.

“As a country and most importantly as a people, we need to – individually and collectively – do our part to ensure gender perspectives in all spheres, thereby promoting the full and equal participation of men and women in the development process.”

sharon hugs

Also on the agenda was a Couch Conversation between Karen Darbasie, Vice President, BATT and Brian Lewis, President Trinidad and Tobago Olympic Committee, who discussed several pertinent topics, including the rise of feminism and its impact on gender roles, the influence of social media on young girls and gender equality in the world of sport.

Later, a powerful spoken word by Amaris Noray, a form three student of St Augustine Girls High, and a performance from an all female dance group, Destiny Dancers, kept the audience entertained. Following the event, excited students got the rare opportunity to interact with Mrs. Rowley, who graciously posed to take pictures and selfies with them.