In 1976 a Trinidadian in the USA, with an eye on returning home and working for the government, decided to apply to do a Masters in Public Health at Johns Hopkins University (JHU).
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Our feminist legacy intact
It was the Girl Guides who rocked the International Women’s Day (IWD) march, held on March 8 in Arima and organised by Ida le Blanc and the National Union of Domestic Employees (Nude).
Under midday sun, these young women carried us forward on their songs. Caught up by their camaraderie, all I could see was them making the right steps to becoming the faces of future Caribbean feminisms.
An earlier generation of committed women’s rights advocates was there, women like Jacquie Burgess, Hazel Brown, Rhoda Reddock, Folade Mutota and others. Those younger than me, Marcus Kissoon of the Rape Crisis Society, long-time reproductive rights activist Nicole Hendrickson, and UWI students Stephanie Leitch and Sommer Hunte, were in the intergenerational mix. Besides the women, there were men from the OWTU, Shiraz Khan representing Trinidad Unified Farmers Association, and more.
We were continuing the path cut by women like Daisy Crick and Elma Francois, Thelma Williams, considered the “mother” of the OWTU, international socialist and pan-Africanist Claudia Jones, Christina Lewis, of the Caribbean Women’s National Assembly, who first started International Women’s Day commemorations in Trinidad in 1958, and Clotil Walcott, founder of Nude.
These were women who knew that neither they, nor we, could get weary until labour held the reins of power, legislated the rules and wages that created decent conditions of employment, and transformed the kinds of injustice that affected all workers and especially women, unequal workers in their own homes, in other people’s homes and in the lowest-paid sectors of the economy.
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