As the First Prime Minister, and as the First Female Prime Minister, I have the great honor of addressing you today on the one hundred and second anniversary of International Women's Day. The objectives of this day are for us to gather to celebrate the struggle for women's rights in the economic, social, political, and cultural domain; to reaffirm women's solidarity for their country and to show collectively what women have achieved for the island which we call home.
Although there are still significant hurdles our country faces with regards to equality for women in terms of equal rights in the workplace, at home and in society in general, we are indeed making large and significant strides in that regard. It has always been a priority of my cabinet and this government to strive hard to make the necessary changes with regards to the empowerment of women through providing the proper social services and support necessary for our mothers, sisters, aunts and grandmothers to reach their full potential in our society and indeed in our country. Empowering women is an indispensable tool for advancing development and reducing poverty in our country. For ensuring that we are able to reach our full potential as a nation. Empowered women contribute to the health and productivity of whole families and communities and to improved prospects for the next generation. The importance of gender equality is underscored by its inclusion as one of the eight Millennium Development Goals, which is going to be an integral part of our National Development Plan and is acknowledged as being a key to achieving the other seven goals.
It is the vision of my Government that a Nation thrives when all can participate in politics, business and society as equals. At present, women in the Caribbean account for just one in three people in formal employment and despite our relative progressive society there is still significant inequality amongst social groups.
We also know that violence against women and poor maternal health outcomes persist in this region and this government, the Government for the People, is striving hard to make St. Maarten a forerunner in changing this trend. Promoting gender equity is about addressing these inequities while it simultaneously functions in being a smart economic decision. Women are as much the pillar of our society as men are. On St. Maarten investments in women bring dividends to our country in terms of stability, prosperity and productivity.
On Thursday I witnessed the signing of a project to train selected members from the Core Group of the Network and Support Group for Women to become support group facilitators, to ultimately establish support groups for women to tackle the various social issues that women face. The objective of this group will be to train participants to set-up support groups; to train participants to facilitate support groups, to guide participants in developing a provisional business plan, to establish support groups for women in particular, and to establish a network structure for women to support each other and network with relevant stakeholders.
The core of the network will be comprised of various organizations that will be taking the leading role in the establishment of several support groups for women. Groups which will reinforce Government's Role, through the Women's desk, in empowering women in our community.
Today we honor each and every woman on this island. Women who raise children, sometimes by themselves, while still working and contributing to our society. This goes for the matriarchs who, like Mrs. Arrindell who celebrated ninety years last weekend, have carried whole communities on her shoulders.
Lastly I would also like to encourage all women to stay healthy and get busy. Through my U 2 Can Move I have, in particular, encourage female civil servants and the community at large to come out and get fit. Friday will feature a lecture by the world famous nutritionist and women's health expert Dr. Ro at Sonesta Maho at seven thirty. I encourage all to come out and attend this special event and all the other events that go along with the commemoration of International Women's Day.
I have said this before in the lead up to International Women's Day; one of the old, traditional names for St. Maarten is Oualichi, Land of Strong Women and indeed this is a land of strong women. I encourage the community to recognize and to celebrate the mothers, grandmothers, daughters, nieces, aunts, wives and in fact all women in our society who have made our Sweet St. Maarten Land what it is.
So Happy International Women's Day to all Women and, I daresay also to all men. And God bless you and God Bless St. Maarten