Every morning for some 60-odd years, she was up by 2 am; prepared food for her family and set off to plant or reap crops of sugar cane, and later vegetables, ground provisions and beans before the sun came up. On those mornings when she did not go to the land, she went to the wholesale and retail market in San Fernando or Princes Town to sell the produce, which she would also share with neighbours on request.
When she returned home, it was to prepare meals, clean the house and look after the demands of 13 children, two of whom she had inherited.
Poverty was not a condition she acknowledged. She instilled in her off-springs that intelligence was the greatest wealth, and that came with knowledge and education. No sacrifice was too high to ensure that her children had as much of that as could be accessed.
She had no parenting books to consult, because she never leant to read English, and what ought to be primary and secondary school days were occupied with looking after the domestic wants of relatives who took her in. Her mother had died when she was only and infant. Married at 15 with her first child at 18, parenting came from instincts and whatever information on child-rearing was passed on through oral lore, neighbours and friends. None of the sons, and eight daughters scattered across the hemisphere in variety of fields that now do acknowledges women’s work, some supporting families of their own, ever questioned her authority on parenting. All draw inspiration from her effervescent spirit, tirelessness, and refusal to be cowed by life’s seemingly daunting confrontations, including loss of her husband two decades ago.
At four scores and one this month, it is difficult to get her to break that routine. Still up in the wee hours of the morning, all but one of her children in homes of their own, her indomitable spirit refuses to allow her to concede that her health is failing and she is less capable of doing the things she has been doing all her life. Frailty of body is in constant conflict with strength of a mind that has been the catalyst of change for three generations.
Her contribution to home, family and community would never feature in either assessments of productivity or otherwise for national or other recognition. Recognitions, when they are given, are usually to those who have developed a public image, as executives, politicians, singers and actors, people in media, education, sports, science, research and others.
But many of these would claim that there was some catalyst for change that fuelled their success, and in many of those instances, these would be a woman. Though the lights of fame may never shine in their sunburnt faces, women like these have been the bedrock of our society, on whose shoulders stand the achievements of our businessmen and women, executives, sportsmen and women, politicians, superstars and other professionals. These are the women whom the Network of NGOs for the Advancement of Women hopes to bring to national attention with its call for 100 Women Agents of Change.
In support of the theme for Commonwealth Day and in recognition of the centenary of celebrations of International Women’s Day by the United Nations, the Network, in collaboration with the Trinidad and Tobago chapter of Friends of the Commonwealth are looking for 100 women among us who have been catalysts and who have inspired or are inspirations for change.
It is the Network’s belief that in remembering and acknowledging the real source of genius or of greatness, and the hallmarks of true achievement beyond the sizes of one’s incomes, cars, houses or the number of times featured in the media, those who hold high office are less likely to err. As we get organisations and communities contemplating and submitting nominees, we are hoping they will also engage in interrogating definitions of success and achievement, which will help us move closer to identifying the true centres of power and influence in our society.
In keeping with this year’s theme, Commonwealth’s Day, March 14, Women as Agents of Change celebrates women whose work has made a positive difference to the lives of others; who are successful in their own right; have achieved something for other women and whom can be proudly held up as role models. It will identify the transformative role women have in our society, and our world.
The exercise echoes the awareness tabled by the Network and other women’s organisations at the 2009 Commonwealth People’s Forum in Trinidad and Tobago “that gender equality is viewed not only as a goal in its own right, but also as a key factor in enhancing democracy and peace, eradicating poverty and violence against women, ensuring education for all, improving maternal health, reducing child mortality and combating HIV and AIDS.”
Nominee may come from any walk of life, social background or profession. A nominee could be a professional, charity or NGO worker, volunteer or family member. By submitting a nomination, persons must have the nominees’ consent to allow the text and any supporting documents and photographs to be published, publicised or otherwise promoted by the Network and the Commonwealth Secretariat. Winners must be willing to participate in publicity surrounding the competitions including the publishing of their details, photographs and video footage which will be made available in all media, including on the internet.
The 100 women selected will be featured in a publication on Women Agents of Change in Trinidad and Tobago, and from them will be drawn nominees for the Commonwealth Women Agents of Change who would form part of the delegation to the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Perth Australia in October 2011.
Further information and nomination forms, which include contact details of nominee and persons nominating (who must not be self are available on the Network’s website (http://www.networkngott.org; email: firstname.lastname@example.org)
Completed forms must be submitted to the Network at the Professional Center, 11-13 Fitzblackman Drive South, Woodbrook, Port of Spain, by February 26, 2011.
Also, listen to Heartbeat Radio 103.FM for further details and join our Women Agents of Change of Trinidad and Tobago discussions on facebook.