SEATTLE — Grenada is a Caribbean island and one of the smallest independent countries in the western hemisphere. It is known as the Spice island due to being the world’s second-largest producer of nutmeg, as well as being a major manufacturer of mace, cinnamon, ginger and cloves. The most impressive aspect of its independence is the government’s focus on taking women’s issues seriously and finding ways to protect them from any violence that may arise.
Specifically, the Grenada National Organization of Women (GNOW) was launched on April 23, 1995, to address equality and women’s empowerment in Grenada. It is a non-governmental organization promoting women and is involved in the development of economic, social and political dimensions. Predominately, its mission is to “create a change in the socialization and culture of power relations between women and men.”
GNOW has worked to reform the narrative of gender-based violence. In 2005, several projects were launched that focused on gender, sexuality and HIV/AIDS projects. This was a “behavior modification and awareness programme aimed at changing the gendered ideologies about sexuality and empowering women to negotiate safe sex.”
Since then, GNOW has created a support network for all types of gender-based violence, beginning with the “formation and maintenance of an informal Community Support Network of Volunteers” expanding through Grenada and northeast towards the Grenadine Islands. Specifically, Carriacou police officers were trained on how to respond to domestic violence, and legislation was passed detailing the intricacies of sexual harassment, leading to protocols on handling domestic and sexual violence by both police officers and medical personnel.
In the government’s 2006-2009 Strategic Plan, the fundamental priority was women’s empowerment in Grenada. The goal was to eradicate poverty and hunger among women, as that is the only way they can realize their full potential. By having the same access that men have to economic opportunities to provide for their families, women can select where they want to work without the fear of sexual harassment.
As women were becoming a leading voice in the country, International Women’s Day (March 8) and the Days to Protest Violence Against Women (November 25 – December 10) became important events to commemorate the activism for women’s empowerment in Grenada. This past year on International Women’s Day, Lorice Pascal, the project coordinator for GNOW, revealed the launch of a two-year projected called Empowering Rural Women Through Horticulture for Sustainable Livelihood. Approximately 120 women between the ages of 18-60 would be trained to plant and grow exotic flowers.
As the project was funded by the Commonwealth Countries League of Women in the U.K., Pascale strove to create a link between Grenada’s winning streak at the Chelsea Flower Show and the ability to maintain an economical and conservational regime by empowering women through this interactive project, with the main purpose being the alleviation of poverty among these women.
The greatest achievement of women’s empowerment in Grenada has been representation in leadership roles. Currently in Parliament, 33 percent of the members of the House of Representatives are women. This is a large increase from the 13 percent of women in the last Parliament. In the Senate, two of its 13 members, including the President of the Senate, are women. In 2013, Cecile La Grenade was sworn in as Governor-General, becoming the first female head of state in Grenada’s history.
These equal opportunities for women have reduced sexual harassment and violence, as women are treated as human beings and capable of being leaders. Through a continued focus on women’s empowerment in Grenada, women can garner respect and help advance the country as a whole.
– Nicole Suarez