Who was she?
Born in Trinidad and Tobago on September 7, 1925, Walcott was a trade unionist and political activist.
Best known as…
An ardent champion for the working class.
Starting as a member of the Union of Commercial and Industrial Workers at the age of 40, she continued her fight for the plight of the working class in her country by supporting political campaigns and candidates as well as joining the local Black power movement.
How she was a Caribbean Catalyst for Change:
When newspapers of the time refused to publish her opinions, she took it upon herself to learn how to type and publish her own materials, selling them at political rallies. Some of her earliest writings dealt with the exploitation of women in the workplace, such as: The exploitation of Working-Class Women – v Cannings Ltd. Guilty?, A Woman’s Fight – An exploitation of the Working-Class Woman, Women’s Aim Now is to End Exploitation and Working-Class Woman Speaks Out. These pieces were then published by the Institute of Social Studies in Netherlands in a 1980’s booklet titled “Fight Back Says a Woman.”
Her work and campaigns also resulted in the passing of the Minimum Wages and Terms and Conditions for Household Assistants Order under the Minimum Wages Act as well as the Unremunerated Work Act, 1995, making Trinidad and Tobagoone of the first countries in the world to pass such legislation and the Trinidad and Tobago language being used as the model for the Beijing Declaration on Women.
Reflections on International Women’s Day
Thinking of it now, I must have given my family so much hell.
Barely 15, I stood at the front of the church my grandparents literally helped to build during a youth service and said that I thought it was unfair that wives should have to “submit” to anyone they had barely known for a couple years.
Then I said marriage was suppressive to women and vowed never to marry, because of my beliefs.
About three years later, at yet another youth service, I argued vehemently that abortion should be a woman’s choice, as the one who carried the child, an unpopular sentiment still held by the traditional congregation I grew up in. I also often queried why our small, predominantly female church was run by the slim majority of men, or why women who had children out of wedlock were in effect excommunicated as a matter of policy.
My grandmother told me to be quiet. My sister told me to trust the Lord. My mother, living in the States at that time, often heard about my questions from “the concerned”, and told me to behave.
I tried, but I couldn’t.
While I am in no way saying that the aforementioned stances underpin all feminist belief, my strong opinions did lead me into finding out what women in academia had to say about these matters. That search eventually resulted in reading the stories of women making their mark around the world. I am intrigued by women who maybe like me, asked questions and never got the right answers; those who then took matters into their own hands and decided to do something about a situation that displeased them: lobbying for legislation, forming collectives and creating campaigns to inform and inspire.
This was one of the driving reasons behind the concept of Caribbean Catalysts for Change for International Women’s Day this year. The women highlighted here have all worked, or continue to work within their respective fields to bring about positive social change within the region; either as head of state or head of an organisation. Some are better known than others, but they are equally deserving of having their achievements honoured.
I hold the position that the “her-story” of the Caribbean has been largely underrepresented, and International Women’s Day is the best time to shout positive stories for justice, equality and rising to the top from the rooftops. And while we are up there, let us not forget about the many issues that need to be brought to the public’s attention, including the representation of women in the popular culture, the laws protecting us from domestic violence, rape as well as sexual harassment in the workplace.
These issues also underscore the need for a younger crop of female activists in the Caribbean to question, challenge, probe and research contemporary Caribbean life. And here comes me, Leigh-Ann: writer at heart, feminist by choice, hoping to someday be the change I want to see.
Leigh-Ann Worrell is a 24-year-old currently studying Contemporary Development at the Beijing Normal University. She possess a Bachelor of Arts in Media and Communication, with a minor in Gender and Development. She spent two years as a journalist in her home country, Barbados. Reading is one of her greatest joys.
Who is she?
Trinidadian activist, with an interest in raising the social consciousness of women and girls, as well as bringing attention to the issue of small arms control in the twin-island Republic.
Best known as…
The executive director of the Women’s Institute for Alternative Development. This organisation also serves as the secretariat for the Caribbean Coalition for Development and Reduction of Armed Violence (CDRAV).
Why she is a Caribbean Catalyst for Change:
She instituted an inter-generational women’s leadership program in Trinidad and Tobago, creating ways for girls and women to draw on collective experiences to empower all.
In addition, the CDRAV brought a gendered lens to investigating the issue of small arms control in the Caribbean, which eventually led to the Caribbean Coalition of Civil Society Organisations. This body effectively lobbied CARICOM governments to support the Resolution on the Arms Trade Treaty in 2006.
Who was she?
Hailing from Port Antonio, Jamaica, she was an activist and Pan-Africanist
Best known as…
The first wife of Jamaica’s most prominent Black Nationalist and Pan-Africanist Marcus Garvey.
Why she was a Caribbean Catalyst for Change:
She ensured the female voice was represented in the black power struggle by opening a women’s section of the United Negro Improvement Association in 1914. She included discussions about gender into the fight for the rights of the African descended people.
She was instrumental in the opening of the London-Afro Women’s Centre and was a founding member of the Nigerian Progress Union and International African Service Bureau, among many other organisations across Africa.
Caribbean Catalysts for Change.
In celebration of International Women’s Day on March 8, WomenSpeak will be embarking on the 5-days series - Caribbean Catalysts for Change.
The idea for the series came from one of our avid community supporters, Ms. Leigh-Ann Worrell. Over the next five days Leigh-Ann will share with you some of the women who she has identified as making significant contributions to the Caribbean in general as well as their contributions to issues affecting women and girls.
International Women’s Day 2011
Today, many women in Trinidad and Tobago are jumping and dancing and revelling in the spirit of ‘freeness’ on this Carnival Tuesday. Many of them have no idea that it’s also the 100th Anniversary of International Women’s Day. And perhaps in one way this a good thing: that women feel so comfortable in their skins; free to roam the streets in various levels of dress or ‘undress’; to sing, to dance, to ‘wine’ down to the ground without fear of judgement or reproach; free from the overwhelming responsibility of work and caring for the family. Surely, such an exuberant expression of women’s freedom is in fact the real significance and true celebration of International Women’s Day.
But what happens come Ash Wednesday when women will resume their regular lives?