On Tuesday, March 8th, Women on Saba, celebrated International Women’s Day with a well-attended event at Queen’s Garden that put strong women and female entrepreneurs in the spotlight.
Befitting the objective to celebrate the power of independent women, six women with their own business on Saba received an award. Verna Robinson Simmons of Verna Security Company, Gloria Johnson of Tropical Bakery, Angie Ignacio of Unspoiled Queen Massage & Wellness, Maria Christina Sarmiento Firme of Angelina’s Saba by Owaichie Bar & Restaurant, Lourdes Simmons of Aggies Bakery & Catering Creation and Veronica Janzon of Saban Rock Living each received a gift bag with products made by women on Saba. All six recipients shared a short story about their business, their success, their challenges and how they wanted to inspire others to become their own boss.
Master of Ceremonies (MC) Elsa Peterson opened the evening with a short, historic description of the fight for freedom and equal rights for women. “150 years ago, women could not vote, stand in parliament, receive proper medical attention, women could not own property or access fair legal support, women could not get paid the same as men, women could not visit the same public areas as men, get a proper education, or even get a divorce. It changed over time with brave women and men fighting for what is right. Both genders realizing women are also human beings and not objects,” said Peterson.
From 1903 women stood up and fought through mass protests, rallies and strikes during which women were arrested, jailed and some lost their lives. “Even though we now have many rights and privileges, there is still work to be done on equality and stereotypes amongst women. Let us all remember to be positive and kind to each other for empowered women make a difference, empowered women have a voice and empowered women get things done,” said Peterson.
Commissioner of Social and Gender Affairs Rolando Wilson wished everyone a happy International Women’s Day. “Each one of you were created in a marvelous, unique way with all your talents, strengths, weakness, wisdom, understanding and much more. We can rightly say that you can handle any job you set your mind to in any work environment. You are amazing, beautiful, brilliant, caring, nourishing, graceful, intelligent, strong, courageous, limitless, and blessed. Continue on the path that you are traveling to make it a brighter, better world for the generations to come. And remember to continue to pray for those that are in the struggle of their life, to survive in other parts of the world.”
Janelie Barnes, a self-made successful entrepreneur and a domestic violence survivor, gave the keynote speech. Referring to this year’s theme ‘Solidarity, the power of change,’ she asked the women present to imagine how things could be better if there was no greed, if women stopped comparing themselves to one another, if they would cheer each other on.
Changing the world
“We can contribute to changing the world if we accept that we all have bad traits that need to be worked on. Let’s choose to lift each other up, rather than tear each other down. Let’s choose to set the example of kindness, love, compassion, understanding. Let’s choose to extend a helping hand where it’s needed. My fellow women, we need to restore our morals, values, principles and self-esteem, not only within ourselves, but also in our children for future generations to follow,” said Barnes.
Guest speaker Barnes gave recognition to local female entrepreneurs and urged women to start a business. “All you have to do is believe in yourself and put in the work. It won’t be easy, but it will be worth it. She also mentioned domestic abuse of which she has been a victim herself. She called on abused women to break the cycle, to speak up and get help. “Dig deep inside for your inner strength to break free from this abuse. You deserve better.”
Coordinator of Domestic Violence and Child Abuse Mildred Rijhiner also addressed this important topic. “I am convinced and aware that there is also violence on Saba in the sexual, economic and social field. One of the common challenges for women is economic disadvantage, which is why they often stay in a relationship where they will remain in a dependent position. Ever found yourself staying in an abusive relationship because you thought you had no other choice? We know this and we want to do better by you. You are not alone.”
Rijhiner spoke of a broader effort to empower women. “We are here to recognize that we must do it together with the community to raise the position of the women. Strong women too have moments where they can use a strong supporting hand, whether by their faith, partner and or society. We must work together to bring across desired changes,” she said.
Tuesday’s event was organized by the Domestic Violence Action Group Saba with the involvement of the Public Entity Saba, Body, Mind & Spirit (BMS), Stichting Reclassering Caribisch Nederland (SRCN), the Court of Guardianship, Care and Youth Caribbean Netherlands (ZJCN), the Caribbean Netherlands Police Force (KPCN), Mental Health Caribbean (MHC) and Saba Cares.