Saba’s women celebrated International Women’s Day on Friday March 8 with a well-attended event at Queen’s Garden Resort. Safe Haven Director Cassandra Richardson of St. Maarten was the guest speaker and several women were recognized for their contributions to the community in general, and women in particular.
The Public Entity Saba recognized three women and one business for their contribution. Joyce Smith received a plaque for her dedicated service to Saba’s community in the area of health care. Helen Hassell received a plaque for her committed work as a special education teacher. Jarmila Wilson received a plaque for her continued efforts to promote sports locally. Lorna Simmons and Stacey Simmons received a plaque in recognition of their dedicated service through E & H Home Center.
Guest speaker Richardson, who manages the women’s shelter on St. Maarten, was invited to address the women on Saba and to share her thoughts on this year’s theme #BalanceForBetter. Richardson noted for the record that there was still much to achieve since “from bedroom to the board” women still suffered the disadvantages of not being able to call the shots in their own lives.
“Depending on where you live on the planet, women fall victim to this at different levels and at different severities. Sometimes to such a level where women lose not just their freedom, but their life. What societies fail to understand is that by creating space where we are #BalancingForBetter and promoting gender equality, we make life better all around, for all of society,” she said.
Richardson was very direct about the strength of women, which in her opinion was tied to this year’s theme. “It’s tied to the understanding that sisters need to love, support and uplift other sisters. Black, white, Chinese, Indian, slender, voluptuous, young, not so young. Uplift, support, encourage and cut the judgmental nonsense that we women often times practice because of the patriarchy. We have come to use competition and tearing down of our sisters as a tool in a weak and nasty attempt to make us feel better about ourselves.”
According to Richardson, strength is not only about being independent, assertive or decisive. It is also being vulnerable as a person, and allowing others to be vulnerable as well, so together everyone may grow. “If we have the courage to be vulnerable and let our darkness bathe in the light, we are not just better and happier women for ourselves, but we are better women for our sisters and daughters and mothers, and aunties and girlfriends… gay, straight, bi and everything in between.”
Woman of substance
Richardson said that it took six ingredients to be “a woman of substance who is not afraid to let her light shine,” while at the same time allowing others to do the same. Empathize with her, listen to her, confront her, sit still with yourself, love her through it and compliment and empower her.
Women experience the world in much of the same way, under the umbrella WOMAN. However, the hue of the female experience will be different, and that often prevents women from knowing and feeling what another woman is going through, whereas it is important to empathize to reach her, that other person, and to connect.
“Another ingredient is to be a good listener and try to refrain from imposing your own stories on your sister when she is trying to express her truth. Actively listen to her. Listen to not just what is said, but listen to what is unsaid. Let her know that you feel whatever it is that she is feeling, and that you are here with her.”
Women should not be afraid to confront other women with their own nonsense, but without resorting to name-calling, shaming and tearing down. Sitting still with oneself, taking time to be just with you and your thoughts, is another important ingredient. Richardson said that Saba has an “exquisite scenery” to do so. “Take advantage of the beautiful natural abundance that surrounds you. Finding time for yourself in reflection gives you an inner space to respond and not react to things.”
The beautiful thing about the fifth ingredient, loving her through it, is that love has no boundaries, no finish. “Give your sisters the deserved time, respect, affection and attention. Cultivate and nurture your friendships. These humans and relationships are what will carry you and sustain you through your life.”
Lastly, it is important to compliment and empower a sister. “Don’t just compliment her looks, compliment her character. This is especially important for young girls who need to know that they are not just beautiful outside, but that they are smart, talented and skilled. She needs to know and recognize that she is a woman of depth, of substance. That she is a super woman. Strong Women of Saba: may we know them, may we be them, may we raise them.”