Basseterre, St. Kitts – The contribution of women to their families, communities and country of St. Kitts and Nevis was recognized Wednesday as the twin-island federation joins the rest of the world in celebrating International Women’s Day.
But chairperson of the St. Kitts-Nevis Labour Party (SKNLP), Hon. Marcella Liburd is of the view that the last three years of the Timothy Harris-led Team Unity Government, women have been struggling as a result of worsening economic conditions and victimisation.
She noted that much of the achievements made over the years should be credited to the 86-year-old political organisation, which has been in the vanguard of those accomplishments.
The SKNLP in keeping with its motto: “For the Good that we can do,” has delivered by ensuring that women were given the right to vote and the right to free secondary education which allowed them to pursue studies in subjects like chemistry and physics in 1965,
“Girls were not allowed to study those subjects then and this opened doors for our females to become doctors. The then opposition (PAM) vehemenently opposed this move in their effort to keep the socio-economic-class divisions that existed at the time,” said Liburd during the Wednesday Issues programme.
She pointed to the Labour Party’s role in promoting women in leadership with the appointment of Ada May Edwards as the first female Speaker of the St. Kitts and Nevis National Assembly in 1978, before political independence in 1983.
“St. Kitts and Nevis already had two female speakers when the United States elected Nancy Pelosi as the first female speaker after 200 years of independence. That push by our Labour leaders continued in 1979, when Ermine Queeley-Evelyn of Nevis became the first female candidate for a political party in St. Kitts and Nevis by contesting the Nevis Local Elections and the National Elections in 1980.
“Although Ermine was not successful, I want to thank her for the courage that you had and the pioneering spirit that you had to move forward and thus paving the way for those who came after,” said Liburd, who also pointed out that the St. Kitts-Nevis Labour Party in 1980 appointed Mrs. Eugenie (Jean) Condor as the first female senator in the National Assembly.
The SKNLP in 1995 appointed Marcella Liburd and Anne Wigley as senators in the National Assembly, said Liburd, who became, Deputy Speaker, Speaker and currently, Parliamentary Representative for St. Christopher 2 (Central Basseterre).
Up to 2015, the SKNLP was the only party that had appointed female senators in the National Assembly. The SKNLP first female minister was Jacinth Henry-Martin in 2000. She was the second female minister; Constance Mitcham, being the first in 1984.
“Our women were making progress in business, in leadership and in becoming homeowners,” said Liburd, a former minister of health, community and social development and gender affairs.
“We need to Press for Progress because for the last three years, our business women have been struggling to survive, unable to pay their rents, pay their mortgages, feed their families properly and unable to access adequate healthcare,” said Liburd.
Food vendors are cooking less and at the end of the day food remain unsold as a result of the harsh economic conditions with the Barbados-based Caribbean Development Bank reporting that the St. Kitts and Nevis economy decelerated to 2 percent of GDP in 2016 and less than 3 percent of GDP in 2017 compared to seven percent of GDP in 2013 and 2015 under the SKNLP Administration of former Prime Minister the Right Hon. Dr. Denzil L. Douglas.
“It has become so difficult for these persons to survive. Families are feeling the squeeze,” said Liburd, who made reference to the scores of women who have been victimized by the Timothy Harris government by dismissals and the reduction of the holiday pay of maids, cooks, cleaners and orderlies at the hospitals and other health institutions.
“They have their families to look after. This is heartless,” said Liburd.