INTERNATIONAL WOMEN'S DAY - 8 MARCH 2012
by Jean Lowrie-Chin
|Yours truly with fellow awardee the legendary Syringa Marshall-Burnett, nursing educator, former NAJ President and former Speaker of the Jamaican Senate|
In 1962, the great Louise Bennett exulted in Jamaica’s Independence:
‘Teet and tongue was all united
Heart an’ soul was hans and glove
Fenky-Fenky voice gain vigour pon
‘Jamaica Land We Love’
Many of us here played a part of those celebrations, and today, we are deeply moved that we are receiving Awards named for Jamaica’s Golden Jubilee.
Replying on behalf of this august group of sisters is intimidating. So here I go trying to follow some advice I got: “Always try to be modest …and be proud of it!”
Reflecting on the extraordinary Jamaican heroines who preceded us, it is certainly easy to be modest. The pride we feel is really for their unimaginable courage, they who have toiled for centuries to bring us to this proud day. As our peoples of various ethnic origins comingled to make us truly ‘Out of Many One People”, we have used our hybrid strength to become the ‘biggest little country’ on the planet.
As our sister Jean Wilson says, there can be "No more smalling up of us"!
Today our spirits rise to meet our heroines of the past, defying armies with National Heroine Nanny of the Maroons. We march with Aggie Bernard, Gladys Longbridge-Bustamante, Edna Manley and Madame Rose Leon to defend the rights of our workers and fight for self-government. We rally behind Amy Bailey and May Farquharson, founders of the still vibrant Women’s Federation. On their shoulders we the recipients stand.
We consider it a privilege to have been born and nurtured in this beautiful land Jamaica. It is with an attitude of gratitude that we have continued to give of our best because to this country, our Mother-Father God gave the best.
The most moving experiences I have had recently are with Jamaica’s seniors, many of whom are being honoured this afternoon. They are mentors, nurturers and prayer warriors. Their beauty shines forth in the wisdom of their eyes and their passion for our people.
The Bureau and its generous partners have done well today to have singled out our seniors – too much of their legacy has been lost as some attempt to rewrite history in this dizzy information age.
It is also wonderful that you have chosen younger recipients as well, because they remind us that Jamaica’s good name will endure – we have achieved much and we will continue to achieve even more.
Today’s honour is a clarion call that at a time when the world is facing many crises, we need to draw on our collective strength of mind, body and spirit – as Dr O’Meally-Nelson has asked us - to remind our fellow Jamaicans that there has been no challenge that we have not been able to overcome. The Women’s Bureau with their various projects for economic and political empowerment, inspires us to ensure that as we progress, we create opportunities for our fellow Jamaicans (women & men) to take that upward path with us.
We are grateful to the Bureau of Women’s Affairs supported by the United Nations entity of Gender Equality & the Empowerment of Women and the Dispute Resolution Foundation, for taking on what must have been a near impossible task – that of choosing 50 women from among literally thousands of phenomenal Jamaican women.
And so we share our Awards with our sisters rousing themselves day after day to diligently raise their families, stretching their budgets, showing up for their jobs – ill or well, volunteering in their communities and churches and preserving their dignity in the most trying of situations. We salute them today and we give thanks for this memorable event.
In closing, I quote from a poem by that brilliant Jamaican and international activist and writer, the late Una Marson:
“One prayer I make
Use all of me
To make Thy children
To those who need
May all I give
Oh make me worthy
So to live”
May God bless you all – thank you so very much!