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Speech

Women and girls of Jamaica! – my sisters!I greet you warmly on this International Women’s Day.This is the day when we celebrate our strengths and our victories. It is the day when we reflect on the long struggle from being treated as persons of limited capabilities to receiving equal opportunities and respect.
Today, more women are entering and doing well in so many areas. Our women are in established professions and are now making their mark in areas that were once dominated by men. More women are coming forward as leaders in businesses and in the state sector. The performance of women and girls in the field of sport continues to be outstanding.
Our women remain a strong and powerful force in community building, in politics, and in the effort to prod, push, reshape and create greater opportunities for advancement.
When we look at these developments and the strides women are making, we can take heart, but we cannot take leave. There are still big challenges and obstacles to be overcome.
These include domestic violence, sexual violence, the spread of the HIV/AIDS pandemic and poverty. We are also challenged by the disrespect shown to our women and girls by the images portrayed in some song lyrics, and aspects of popular entertainment and in the media.
The theme chosen by the United Nations for this year’s observance “Ending Impunity for Violence Against Women” is therefore most relevant.
Violence against women is growing at an alarming rate worldwide. It is growing in Jamaica and it has to stop!
We are signatories to many international conventions
But signing international conventions and passing laws is not enough. Nothing much will change, unless every Jamaican woman and man takes a stance against those who continue to beat, rape, murder, sexually and carnal abuse the women and children in our society.
On this International Women’s Day, I put out a strong call to end the physical, sexual and emotional violence against our women, girls and boys.
It is a call to everyone to make a personal pledge to respect the life and the rights of every human being, regardless of gender.
It is a call to clean up our personal relationships and find a way to talk out disagreements, instead of resorting to violence.
I make a special plea to the mothers, daughters, sisters, wives and girlfriends to stand up and speak out. We can no longer continue to cover up the shameful acts of terror against our women and girls.
On this day, let us also honour and treasure the women of the nation, from those doing community work and serving in their churches to those cutting and carving to make the house money stretch as they single-handedly support their children.Let us look after the elders and those who cannot help themselves, and those who work in challenging areas such as teaching, nursing, household work and holding down jobs as top professionals and leaders. Today, I salute every Jamaican woman and girl and urge you to strive to make the kinds of contributions that will change the Jamaican nation. I also encourage the men in our society to join hands with us in partnership to stop the violence and remove all other obstacles that keep us back as a people.
We have the vision, the courage and the ability to move forward and achieve our rich potential. Sisters, celebrate yourselves on this International Women’s Day. Make the day prayerful, purposeful and peaceful! And may God continue to bless you and all the people of Jamaica!

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