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LOGB Speech at National Heroes Day

LOGB, Hon. Kurt Tibbetts, JP

National Heroes Day 2009, January 26, 2009

Speech by the Leader of Government Business, Hon. D. Kurt Tibbetts

"In Praise of Our Women"

Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is my honour and privilege to join you today, as we, celebrate National Heroes Day. This year, I am particularly delighted that the focus is on recognizing and celebrating the invaluable contribution of our women to national development.

This year's theme is specifically dedicated to honouring Caymanian women,recognising their struggles, and celebrating their achievements and aspirations to rise above their circumstances.

I speak today of Caymanian women down through history -- from the woman of earlier times who spun thatch rope to make a living for herself and her children while her husband was at sea, to the woman of today who is forging ahead as a top executive in her firm while studying at night in some cases and still being a compassionate mother and caring wife. We recognise that a woman's path has never been easy.

I recall my own mother, Mrs. Selma Tibbetts, with the utmost admiration and respect as I reminisce about my own childhood as the youngest of four children. Our father sailed the seas for 35 years, and we are most proud of his many achievements and accolades over his lifetime. But the fact is, I was long past the age of majority before I saw him for more than two months out of any year. As a result, our mother was "mother and father" most of the time, while our dad did what he had to do to provide for us. Our mother nurtured us, taught us family values, all the right things her mother had taught her.

Mom, like myself, was the youngest of her siblings. Most unfortunately, she never saw her father, as he was lost at sea four months before she was born. You can imagine some of the challenges which she obviously faced growing up as a result. However, later as a young woman and parent herself, Mom was still able to show us the right mixture of love and discipline. She taught us responsibility and she taught us how important it is for God to be in our lives. When I think back, I realize she still lives on in us as we continue to teach our children and grandchildren the very same values she instilled in us.

As the women of today move ahead in their own lives, and although we do understand that the issues you face are not always easy, we ask you to consider that there have been tougher times for women. If you will allow me to do so, I wish to go back to a period in Caymanian history, some 50 years ago, when the laws of this land dictated that women did not have a say.

I refer to a time when women did not have the right to vote in the Cayman Islands. It was on the 19th of August 1948, that twenty-four women from George Town took it upon themselves to write to the Commissioner, Mr. Ivor Otterbein Smith, to inform him of their intent to vote during elections that year. In spite of their courage, they were ignored and, sadly even ridiculed. However, they remained undaunted and continued their struggle for equal rights. Nine years later, in 1957, the women submitted another petition to the Legislative Assembly, this time signed by 358 women. A year later, the women not only accomplished their goal of gaining the right to vote, but also attained the right to hold public office in the Cayman Islands.

Last month, on December 8th to be exact, we gathered at the steps of the LA to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the passage of the Sex Disqualification (Removal) Law. The occasion recognized the brave, relentless and dedicated efforts of the Women's Suffragette Movement here in Cayman all those years ago and was marked by honouring women who have been elected members of the Cayman Islands Government and Speakers of the House.

Today, we wish to recognise these women,

At this time, it is also my honour to publicly acknowledge Cayman's present-day woman, her endurance and her strength. We also wish to celebrate ALL our women of the Cayman Islands, from the young women at school and university, to the women in the corporate world. From the women who decide to undertake one of the hardest jobs on earth - the occupation of a House Wife and Mother - to those women who are our teachers and mentors in the community. We wish to recognise your occupations and undertakings, equally amongst each other and equal to those of your male counterparts.

Today, as we commemorate the women of so many years ago, we must also emphasize one thing - that their goal was achieved through UNITY, collaboration, dedication and loyalty to their cause. History has shown that one of the greatest forces on earth is created when humans decide to come together and unite for one purpose and one cause. I speak to Caymanian women of all ages and stages, of all backgrounds and economic levels, of all creeds and colours. I say, unify in your goals and these shall be achieved faster than you had anticipated. History has proven that it is so.

On this occasion, it is only fitting that I encourage the men of our community to continue to support our Caymanian women in their goals and aspirations, as they have always supported you regardless of the situations that may have arisen against them. These women are our mothers, our wives, our daughters, and the mothers of our children.

They are also the women who work alongside you every day, as well as your friends and mentors, and in many cases, they are the primary and only reason you made it through this life. So I take this opportunity to implore all men to be there for our women, as they have been there for us.

As we get ready to unveil our National Heroes Day Monument, on behalf of the men of the Cayman Islands community and our Government, I wish to say "Thank you" to the women of our community for standing by us. Thank you for your love, care, support, and dedication. We say thank you for your love of country. You enrich our lives, and the lives of those around you. For that we are eternally grateful. I thank you.