National Hero's Day Remarks
Hon. Anthony S. Eden, OBE, JP, Minister for Health and Human Services
Monday, 26th January 2009, Hero's Square
Good morning ladies and gentleman, boys and girls. As the Minister responsible for Gender Affairs, it gives me great pleasure to be here, on a day that the Cayman Islands Government has set aside to honour women. It is wholly appropriate that this should take place on a day as prestigious as our National Hero's Day.
From the days of swinging smoke-pots and laying thatch rope, to the current times of cell phones and complex financial planning instruments, the women of the Cayman Islands have continually and diligently contributed to the development of our beloved Cayman Islands.
Today we wish to formally acknowledge, and to say loud and clear, to our women, that we recognize and appreciate your contributions, your tenacity and the sacrifices that you have made and continue to make, for our families, our communities, our churches, and indeed our entire community, over the generations and into the future.
Susan B. Anthony, a prominent 19th century American Civil Rights leader who played a pivotal role in introducing women's suffrage in the United States of America, once said, "The true republic: men their rights and nothing more; women their rights and nothing less."
Just over fifty years ago, the Cayman Islands Government listened to the voices of over 300 women who expressed similar sentiments by way of an island wide petition, and in 1958 the Sex Discrimination (Removal) Law was passed, and women were granted the equal right to vote and to stand for election to public office in these Islands.
The passage of that important piece of legislation was in many respects an acknowledgement of the vast contributions of women in the Cayman Islands over time; it was also probably a catalyst, that prompted the women of the Cayman Islands to make further enormous strides since, there is still more work to be done in order to ensure that women are engaged in participating in the development of our country, not only at the familial and community levels but at the highest national levels, of decision-making.
Improvement in our gender relations is essential to the achievement of social well-being, and a responsibility of good governance. To improve gender relations, we must ensure and nurture an environment in which women and men are allowed equal conditions to realize their human rights, and their potential to contribute to political, economic, social and cultural development not only locally, but also at regional, and international levels.
Currently, my Ministry is developing a framework to establish an Office of Gender Affairs, which will serve as the national machinery for ensuring that a gender perspective is utilised in our social development projects, and indeed across all areas of public policy.
It is an expansion of gender awareness that will enable policy makers, planners, administrators and society at large to better understand that inequality between the sexes is a significant underlying cause of national and global difficulties, within families, labour, trade and migration, to name a few areas.
I am pleased to announce that the Government is currently working towards two pieces of legislation that will enhance the lives of women, men and families. The first bill is an Anti-Discrimination Bill that will enable the Cayman Islands to become a signatory to the Convention of the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination (CEDAW), and the second piece of legislation being worked on is the revised Domestic Violence Bill.
As we take stock of the many advances the Cayman Islands has made in terms of human rights, and general well being we must not forget those courageous and spirited women who would not permit their voices to be silenced, who fought for the right to have a say, and play and to be recognized for the integral part they have always played in building our country. Without their struggles to be heard, and their successes, we would not be here on this beautiful day; and if we were, we would be far less blessed, in the quality of life we enjoy.
God Bless you all.