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Message for International Women’s Day 2021 by Chairman, National Council on Substance Abuse, Hadford S. Howell MBE JP.

I am delighted for this opportunity to offer congratulations to women of all walks of life on March 8th, the day designated as International Women’s Day (IWD) 2021. Since 1911, IWD has been that day annually when we celebrate and recognise, on a worldwide basis, women’s achievements – historical, social, familial, cultural, economic and political.  

Raising awareness of women’s issues – particularly related to equality, and lobbying for increased gender parity, are also core objectives of IWD. And rightly so. IWD colours are purple (for justice and dignity), green (for hope), and white (for purity).

This year’s IWD theme is Choose to Challenge while the UN Women’s theme is Women in Leadership: Achieving an equal future in a COVID-19 world.

The ongoing pandemic has seen women serve on the forefront of the COVID-19 fight, for example, as health and wellness workers, caregivers to seniors, educators to our schoolchildren, as heads of women’s organisations, across the public service, business sector, and in politics as Heads of Government in a mix of European, African, Asian and Caribbean countries.

Where would we be without women? Right here at home in Barbados, our Governor General and Prime Minister are women of great note. In preparation for this year’s IWD message, I reflected on the immense value women have provided (and continue to provide) in our inclusive Barbadian society.

A 1985 Pic-O-De-Crop Finals song entitled “Woman”, was performed by renown calypsonian, Peter ‘Adonijah’ Alleyne. It contained these chorus lines:

“To me, she is mother of my children, bearer of life, my queen, my friend, my woman, my wife… come walk with me, hand in hand, to guide the youth into the promise land.” Adonijah also urged us to “show appreciation, love, consideration, stop the exploitation… its time to take a stand (because) woman helped to build this nation, she helped it to advance…without her, the human race is gone…”

Adonijah was on point nearly 40 years ago. Others who have also recognised the worth of women include our own Rihanna: “There’s something so special about a woman who dominates in a man’s world. It takes a certain grace, strength, intelligence, fearlessness and the nerve to never take no for an answer”.

Mother Theresa once said: “I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples”. Serena Williams has opined: “Every woman’s success should be an inspiration to another. We’re stronger when we cheer each other on”.

So, how can, or should we celebrate IWD 2021? By writing and performing more positive calypsos celebrating women’s successes and contributions to our society? By appointing more senior female business leaders, professionals, entrepreneurs, church and public service leaders?

And what about out invaluable home-makers? As a husband, father and God-father, I remain convinced of the great value of women within our society and welcome scenarios to celebrate female contributions and achievements in Barbados, our Caribbean region and around the world.

I look no further than to our agency, the National Council on Substance Abuse (NCSA). The Permanent Secretary from our parent Ministry, is female. As is our Manager. Sixty and fifty percent of NCSA staff and Board Directors are women. The role women play in the NCSA’s ongoing work is hugely valued and as such contributes significantly to the output of this important national agency.

Congratulations again to women everywhere on International Women’s Day 2021. I wish you all continued success, health and happiness for the rest of 2021 and beyond. Stay safe!

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