March 8 marked the 100th anniversary of the celebration of International Women's Day, or IWD as it is more popularly known.International Women's Day was first celebrated in 1911, following a decision taken at the second International Conference of Working Women held in Copenhagen in 1910.The conference had been attended by more than 100 women from 17 countries, representing labour unions, socialist parties, working women's clubs, and the first three women elected to the parliament of Finland.
At the conference, Clara Zetkin, leader of the Women's Office of the Social Democratic Party in Germany, proposed that every country should celebrate a Women's Day annually, to enable women to press for their demands.Her proposal was agreed unanimously, and the first celebrations took place in 1911 in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland, where more than one million women and men attended IWD rallies.
They campaigned for the end of discrimination against women, and their rights to work, vote, access training, and hold public office.This year, marking the centenary of International Women's Day, we celebrate women's contribution to societies globally, through their paid employment and unpaid work in the home.We also highlight the need for further opportunities for women's education, training and employment in fields such as the trades, sciences and technology.
The international agencies led by the United Nations have put in place international laws, such as the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), and the Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women, to which individual UN member states, including T&T, have ratified or signed up.And national governments have been putting in place gender policies, legislation, and programmes of action to promote women's full and equal citizenship.What have women in Trinidad and Tobago achieved during the last 100 years? The following list of milestones is by no means exhaustive and bears noting.
• 1924: Men aged 21 and over and women aged 30 and over are given the right to vote.
• 1932: Gladys Eileen Ramsaran of Guyana is the first woman admitted to the Bar in T&T.
• 1936: Audrey Jeffers gives a speech on The Urgent Needs of Women in Trinidad, describing the plight of the "middle-class educated negress" who is denied gainful employment in the civil service. She also discusses the rise of prostitution in Port-of-Spain and the failure of men to support their illegitimate offspring.
• 1936: Jeffers is the first woman elected to Port-of-Spain's City Council as an independent candidate for the Western Ward, with backing from the Trinidad Labour Party. She faces a barrage of opposition and defends her decision by underlining the usefulness to the Council of including a woman with social concerns.
• 1946: All men and women aged 21 and over are allowed to vote.
• 1950: Councillor Beryl Archibald-Crichlow is the first woman elected Mayor (of San Fernando).
• 1955: The Police Service admits women recruits.
• 1961: Isabel Teshea is the first woman elected to the House of Representatives.
• 1963-1967: Teshea is the first woman to serve as a Cabinet Minister.
• 1970: Teshea is the first woman appointed to serve as an Ambassador of T&T (to Ethiopia).
• 1976: The right to vote is extended to men and women 18 years and over.
• 1977: Calypso Rose is the first woman to win the Road March in 35 years of competition.
• 1978: Calypso Rose is the first woman to win the Calypso Monarch competition, since it started in 1939.
• 1994: Marie Toby is the first woman captain of a steelband (Redemption Sound Setters).
• 1995: Kamla Persad-Bissessar is the first woman appointed as Attorney-General.
• 1995-2005: Amoy Chang Fong is the first woman to serve as Deputy Governor of the Central Bank.
• 2000: Kamla Persad-Bissessar becomes the first woman to act as Prime Minister.
• 2004: Sharon Alfonso becomes the first woman Lieutenant Colonel in the T&T Regiment.
• April 2007: Dr Linda Baboolal is the first woman to act as President of the Republic of Trinidad & Tobago.
• 2007-2008: The Trinidad & Tobago Manufacturers' Association elects Karen de Montbrun as its first woman President.
• 2009: Fay Ann Lyons-Alvarez is the first woman to win the Power Soca Monarch competition; and the first woman to take four major titles in the Carnival Season (Power Soca Monarch, Groovy Soca Monarch, bmobile People's Choice and Road March).
• 2010: Kamla Persad-Bissessar becomes: the first woman elected to lead a political party (January); the first woman Leader of the Opposition (February); and the first woman Prime Minister (May).
• 2010: Marcia Ayers-Caesar is the first woman to serve as Chief Magistrate.