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Governorís Speech at Heroes Day

His Excellency the Governor 
Mr Stuart Jack, CVO

Speech by His Excellency the Governor, Mr Stuart Jack, CVO,

At Heroes Day Celebration, Monday, 26 January 2009,

On the theme "Rights of Women"

Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen

On behalf of the British Government, my wife and myself I should like to congratulate the people of the Cayman Islands on the occasion of National Heroes Day.

I am honoured today to pay tribute to the strong women of the Cayman Islands. They take their rightful place in these Islands with pride, and we salute them.

Cayman's women have long played a significant role in the country's development and progress, sharing the burdens of the early years with stoic endurance, yet also being loving, caring, nurturing maternal figures for their families.

Some remarkable individual women have been recognised over the years by the community - women of different generations and in different fields. We have with us today Miss Sybil McLaughlin, one of our two National Heroes whom we particularly remember on this occasion.

Their contribution to the spiritual and cultural heritage has been considerable. The Government and community groups are to be lauded for their efforts to preserve the house of one, Miss Lassie.

Only this weekend we have been celebrating the 100th birthday of another, Mrs Julia Hydes - I had the honour yesterday to present her with greetings from Her Majesty The Queen.

And many women continue to be examples to us all through their hard work or community service. A few days ago 5 outstanding female civil servants received awards for the excellent service they provide to the public.

The tradition of women playing a major role in the life of this country is undiminished. By no means for the first time that includes the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly.

In the public service - in Ministries and in statutory authorities - women occupy a higher proportion of the senior jobs than in the UK. The country relies enormously on the leadership they provide - including the impeccable organisation of today's celebrations.

The women of the Cayman Islands have had to fight hard for many of their rights, for example the right to vote, to stand for election, or to enjoy equality in the work place or proper treatment in the home.

When the time came to publicly seek these rights, they neither hesitated nor shied away from speaking their minds and demanding what was rightfully theirs'.

The struggle continues. In Estella Scott Roberts we tragically lost a young and energetic advocate of better treatment for women.

I hope that before long we can honour her memory, and further the rights of all women in this community, in a number of ways:

Firstly, by reducing domestic and gender violence.

Secondly, by addressing inequality in the work place, notably lower pay than men, and by continuing the efforts to provide better education that will make that more achievable.

Thirdly, by agreeing a new Constitution that recognises the contribution of women and, to a meaningful degree, adds to the protection of their human rights; and

Fourthly, by extending to the Cayman Islands the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).

The Government of the United Kingdom is, I know, prepared to play its part in achieving these improvements in women's rights in this Territory. But most of the effort must come from within the Cayman Islands - from legislators, educators, employers, spouses and other ordinary members of the community.

We can with confidence look forward to an even greater contribution by women to the well-being and prosperity of these islands. And to many more outstanding women - and of course men - to celebrate in future years at National Heroes Day.