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March 15, 2022
Called to spread the passion
March 15, 2022

Let’s #Break the Bias!

By Dr Margaret Nakhid-Chatoor

International Women’s Day (IWD) was celebrated on Tuesday, March 8. The theme was Gender equality today for a sustainable tomorrow, with its campaign theme #BreaktheBias.

This occasion celebrates those women and girls who are leading the charge toward a more sustainable future, creating a world free of bias, stereotypes, and discrimination—a world that is diverse, equitable, and inclusive and one where difference is valued and celebrated.

The colours of this day are purple, which represents justice and dignity; green for hope; and white for purity.

It is the belief by many that collectively we can all #BreakTheBias against equality and inequity. These are two entirely different challenges however, as equality means that each individual or group of people is given the same resources or opportunities for success, whereas equity recognises that some persons may have different circumstances and must be allocated additional resources and opportunities if he/she is to reach an equal outcome.

But is there really a bias against women and girls, and how do we break the derogatory and cultural biases which can be solely based on others’ perceptions of a person or situation?

In 2020, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) released new findings from 80 countries as part of its Gender Social Norms Index. The report revealed that 90 per cent of men and women hold some sort of bias against women and there can be no gender equality or gender equity for any sustainable tomorrow until we address these biases and prejudices that are prevalent in many societies globally.

These findings also state that “unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic has worsened the situation. Men and women have been affected unequally. Unsurprisingly, the toll on women has been greater. Women are now dealing with more domestic abuse, significantly more domestic work and unpaid care, loss of jobs, higher stress, and mental health challenges”.


The workplace

In Trinidad and Tobago, there are persons/groups/organisations who are speaking up on gender equality in the workplace. Yet more voices need to be heard on harassment, sexism, verbal and sexual abuse, discrimination against women with children, women employed as a measure of tokenism to show that there is ‘diversity’ on the job, yet paid less for the same work and the many ideas that she has produced, women who are not promoted at higher levels because of the in-group boys’ clubs that still exist in many organisations, and the misogynist attitudes of male leaders.

Let us promote a culture where tolerance of these stereotypes and biases is zero-rated, and where employees are empowered to identify these discriminatory and offensive behaviours and to report them.

Enough is enough! #BreakTheBias!


The schools

Where is the gender equity for the hundreds of girls who drop out of our schools every year for various reasons especially at the secondary level, and are then compromised into undesirable situations beyond their control? Some are forced into early marriages, have unwanted pregnancies or are parentified into domestic circumstances, taking care of younger siblings in the absence (sometimes) of mothers.

More advocacy is needed on their behalf, to help them to grasp educational opportunities and to see themselves as worthy to fulfil their abilities in this life, despite their cognitive, behavioural, and social challenges.

Let us give them a chance to believe in themselves and to change the negative stereotypical attitudes of others that speak to their impoverished situations.

Enough is enough! #BreakTheBias!


How can we break the bias?

There are not enough laws and policies that address the discriminatory practices and biases against women and girls. Domestic violence (DV) for example, is still considered a private issue by many, despite some progress made in reporting violence and abuse due to the Sexual Offences Act and the DV Act.

These implicit biases, however, are not hardwired in our brains and can be changed through public awareness of these negative and intolerable acts.

EACH one of us has a part to play. We need to get more involved in leading the way and in transforming the path for our women and girls—turn your inaction into action; your anger at issues of ignorance and injustice into volunteerism at homes and shelters.

To all the women and girls in our society – continue to be bold, daring, and courageous in the face of adversity. You are stronger than anyone can ever imagine. Believe in yourself.

Enough is enough! #BreakTheBias!