September 26, 2020

Cayman Islands IWD celebration applauds women, asks men to do more

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This year’s International Women’s Day (IWD) celebration attracted the largest attendance in recent years.

Held at the Marriott Grand Cayman Beach Resort Ballroom on Wednesday, 8 March 2017, the sold-out event attracted a capacity audience of 350 men and women from the public and private sectors.

Drawn principally by the prospect of a provocative keynote address by leading gender activist Jackson Katz, the evening gave attendees plenty to think about and act on.

While applauding the pioneering work of women in raising the welfare of communities by fighting for gender equality, the IWD Celebration was also a rallying cry for men and boys to “step up” and become more vocal in their support of gender parity.

 Speeches were given by Hon. Tara Rivers, Minister for Education, Employment and Gender Affairs and Hon. Osbourne Bodden, Minister for Community Affairs, Youth and Sports. They highlighted the specific advantages garnered by the raft of gender equality measures enacted locally in recent years, and called for greater civic activism by all.

The Department of Sports 2017 female athletic honourees were also congratulated.

Minister Bodden said, “Let us not forget, while Government actively promotes equal opportunity for women in the Cayman Islands, it is not just a women’s issue. We also need to ensure that men actively challenge societal norms and beliefs around male dominance and superiority”.

Dr. Katz explained the bystander theory, advocating that men and young males play a greater role in challenging sexist behaviour and attitudes of their peers, as well as promoting gender equality, as a means of raising higher social and economic benefits for all.

Males were also asked to challenge gender inequity by denouncing all kinds of acts from inappropriate sexist jokes to sexual harassment, domestic violence and rape – as remaining silent implied acceptance.

He stressed how women’s leadership is often taken for granted, even though it had paved the way for much of the social advancements we have today.

Dr. Katz felt that central to men’s heightened role in the struggle was, the need for a paradigm shift regarding masculinity. He said that traditional notions of masculinity were counterproductive: real strength meant taking a stand against inequality by making perpetrators accountable and by acknowledging the need for men to counterbalance male gender privilege.

By way of illustration, Katz, who has worked closely with the US armed forces, showed a video clip of a senior Australian military chief strongly denouncing sexual bullies within the army. In it he categorically stated that such soldiers had no place in the country’s armed services.

Attendees also watched a 30-second trailer: “Her Story is Our History: The Women’s Suffrage Movement in the Cayman Islands”. Produced by the Ministry of Education, Employment and Gender Affairs, the documentary will be premiered next month.

“Dr. Katz’s message about women’s leadership benefiting society as a whole was very fitting as it tied into one of the reasons why this educational documentary is being produced – to pay tribute to Caymanian women’s leadership in the past that was the catalyst for change and acknowledgement of our current political rights which many take for granted today,” stated Minister Rivers.

“We must never forget the actions of those brave women who stood for equality of franchise, leading to women not only casting their vote but also standing and being elected to the Legislative Assembly.”

Acting Governor, H.E. Franz Manderson, attending as Head of the Civil Service later said, “As an officer of the Cayman Islands’ single largest employer, I came away from the event heartened that Government is on the right track in combatting institutional  gender inequality. My buy-in from Dr. Katz’s talk was my resolution to redouble my efforts to work towards even greater gender inclusivity within the Civil Service.”

John Gray High School counsellor, Philip Parker went with several students. He said, “Dr. Katz’s presentation was absolutely striking, substantial and meaningful. The quote he mentioned from Lieutenant General, David Morrison, “The standard you walk past is the standard you accept,” will remain with me for a very long time.”

“Our students were enraptured by his illustrations and comments, and in their own words said: “It was good, Sir.” An event of this nature needs to be held more than once per year, kudos to the Family Resource Center,” Mr. Parker added.

For further details about other Honouring Women’s Month events, visit the Family Resource Centre’s Facebook page.

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