By Office of the Press SecretaryThursday, Mar 9, 2017.

BASSETERRE, St. Kitts, March 8, 2017 (Press Unit in the Office of the Prime Minister) – Officials in St. Kitts and Nevis used today’s observation of International Women’s Day 2017 to amplify their calls for greater efforts in the promotion of gender equality and for a change to the way women are perceived in the workplace.

Prime Minister Dr. the Honourable Timothy Harris, speaking at the ceremony to open the new Victoria Road Preschool on Tuesday (March 7), said the Government of National Unity remains a strong advocate for gender parity.

Prime Minister Harris said, “With respect to women at work, St. Kitts and Nevis is very much in advance of this goal. There are some areas at which women excel and indeed dominate the workplace. Some of them come quickly to mind; education, early childhood, health delivery, gender and counseling.”

The theme for this year’s observation is “Be Bold for Change”.

Delivering the featured address at the 2017 International Women’s Day award ceremony held earlier today (Wednesday, 8th March), Senator the Honourable Akilah Byron-Nisbett reflected on this year’s theme, while pointing to the disparity that still exists in the way women are viewed in comparison to their male counterparts.

“Being bold for change requires a woman to be, well, bold, courageous and confident. However, for decades women have been conditioned to believe that being a woman and being bold, courageous and confident equates to being a woman who’s egotistical, domineering, abrasive or crude. All terms, we would agree, which have negative connotations associated,” Senator Byron-Nisbett stated.“The challenge that this theme creates, however, forces us as women to begin to consider defying our conditioned beliefs.”

Minister of State in the Ministry of Gender Affairs and Social Services, Senator the Honourable Wendy Phipps shared similar sentiments, particularly as it relates to the respect for women in the workplace.

She added, “As we ponder what we’ve achieved – and we have done quite a bit here in St. Kitts and Nevis in terms of the appointment of women to positions in politics, in the diplomatic corps, in healthcare, Social Services and so forth – there is still a long way to go. Gender parity cuts a lot deeper than that in terms of not just placing women in positions of leadership but do we give them the respect that they deserve? Is the respect garnered in terms of pay; equal pay for equal work?”

The minister said for her, gender parity can also be viewed in the context of how women are treated by other women in the workplace.

“I find in St. Kitts and Nevis, I can’t speak for the rest of the world, but here in St. Kitts and Nevis, I have found that unfortunately women are sometimes the biggest critics of other women,” Senator Phipps said.

“There is also the paradox that we face in terms of women who try to achieve in spite of circumstances. Being told that you’re the five letter word beginning with ‘b’ and ending with ‘h’, while if you are a man you are told that you’re aggressive and you are assertive and that you’re a go-getter. Well how is it if you are a woman and you have those qualities, you are told you are the ‘b’ word?” the minister questioned.

Minister Phipps stated that the time has come to change the national conversation and rhetoric in terms of how professional women are perceived.