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Trinidad and Tobago is woman country but the women don’t realise it, at least not to the point of acting on this reality. There, I have said it and I mean it. This twin-island republic may be governed by men but, truth be told, only with the permission of our women. I, personally, have no problem with this concept. It’s been so before at family level and is needed now from a societal viewpoint.

Over the years we have been skirting, fiddling, dancing around the issue but it keeps slapping us in the face. When men put aside their machismo style they are simply shakers—our women are the movers. If they don’t move en masse, nothing else will move, unless we consider marking time in quicksand as a ritual of progress.

Over the years, women have been anointed as president, prime minister, speakers, mayors, CEOs, whatever, but the masses are not taken seriously, their value not recognised and encouraged, while our men-folk expose their frailties with empty bravado in public,

Let’s get deeper into the issue and be honest about it. Who keeps the family unit together, whether they are employed, underemployed or unemployed?

It’s the Supermom!

Who keeps the health sector afloat, despite the politicians creating a two-tiered, disjointed reliance on institutions instead of resources for public health?

It’s the overworked, underpaid largely female nurses. The same applies to the education sector; the civil service, even in culture, whether it’s in Carnival, steelbands, Best Village or sport.

Adding insult to injury, women are locked out, drained of confidence and treated as minions in the church, the labour movement and, so the society was constructed and maintained in all areas that involve mass participation.

Even our calypsonians, taking their cue from the pervasive view in the society, added to the second-class status of our women, although there have been instances, few and far between, where the singers praised them for their role.

My intervention today is for us to recognise the truth. That more than half of our people are suffering based on their gender alone. I intervene to say that our women must rise above rituals, vigils and prayers. Demand by collective action radical, positive, permanent change.

Change, not just on the gender-based violence issue but in every single community and institution in the land, be it the legal, political or social system.

Conservative as they may have been mentored to be, women must make use of their intellect and imagination. Knowing there will be push-back, simple, overt or covert slogans, in and on any space, could suffice as a first step towards broad-based action. In time to come, why not call for the total shutdown of the country as a pivot point?

A one-day shutdown in March calling for dialogue with women-centric groups leading the way. If nothing fundamental happens (as expected), then two days in April and so on. Every big issue will be on the agenda. This is just my personal suggestion, blasphemous as it may sound, sacrificial as it would be for your comfort zone, but the stakes are too high.

Premature death; lifestyle diseases; an expensive, unregulated transport system; foreign high-cost food; non-availability of affordable housing, all the above and more impact on us negatively and more so on our matriarchal gatekeepers.

There is so much to know and understand that no one person or group can resolve our common affliction and challenge, and that is to devise a pathway for our society to progress.

Who must decide what is progress and the sustainable road to such, is, I daresay, our women as a collective—free from political machinations, class and religious biases because they have so much more to lose.

From cradle to grave our lives are in your hands. Power is on your lap, use it now if not for us, the living, then for those to come.

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