Students from Bayside and the Gibraltar College joined Westside pupils in their lunch hall yesterday morning to mark International Women’s Day and discuss gender equality.
At the event, the Minister for Equality and currently acting Chief Minister, Samantha Sacramento, addressed the students.
In addition, a student from each of the schools gave a presentation and the winner of an art and video competition on gender equality was also announced.
This year’s competition theme was ‘Press For Progress’.
Winning first prize in the video section was Westside student Alicia Fernandes, a group entry comprising of Natalia Reyes, Morgane Jacobs, Natalya Buttigieg, Abigail Bellingan from Westside were runner-up.
Lily Fairbank from Westside won first prize in the art section and Chloe Victor from the Gibraltar College was the runner up.
The students who gave presentations were Henry Archer from Bayside, Jacquima Rios from the Gibraltar College and Melanie Trinidad from Westside.
Henry Archer remarked that International Women’s Day was very important and is a day that will make people think, as it made him think, about gender equality.
He commented that gender equality should not be the issue it is, noting that when he has played sports in Gibraltar he has faced equally as tough a battle against girls as he did boys.
He said he experienced the same within education and that the teachers who had inspired him most were women.
He also spoke of another inspirational woman in his life, adding: “My mum has worked hard both as an accountant managing a department and managing my brothers and my dad.”
His speech focused on gender equality within the sciences, listing numerous male scientists everyone would have heard of such as Einstein then asked the students to name female ones, especially one that was not Marie Curie.
He noted that the Nobel Prize in Physics and Chemistry had been awarded to six women and 379 to men.
He added that he believed the prejudice towards women in science is changing “but there are many areas where stereotypes are still present.”
“We need to make sure that gender equality is not a question but an assertion that we believe,” he said.
Jacquima Rios spoke about all the women in her life that has affected her in many different ways and for “the women who were not afraid to be bold and independent, the women who have fought for us in the past and those who have paved the way for our futures,” she said.
She said that these women are valued and we owe it to them to take on every opportunity this world has given to women as a result.
She mentioned Malala Yousafzai, who was shot in the head for believing that every girl has the right to an education.
“When I was growing up my Grandmother would always express how lucky and fortunate I was to have such opportunities and how we look back at those who were less fortunate is the way to live life,” she said.
“She would always tell me we should build up others and we must stick together and push for change. Since that day I have been grateful for every opportunity that has come my way,” she added.
Towards the end of her speech, she said, “We are intelligent, we are courageous, we are vicious and we are the future.”
“Individually we are one drop, together we are an ocean, together we can overcome anything, together we can make progress.”
Melanie Trinidad opened up her speech recalling that 100 year ago women were given the right to vote in Great Britain.
“Women gave up their lives to have this right and people still fight across the world to have this freedom,” she said.
“We must exercise all rights that we have been given and be not afraid to ask for more,” she added.
She noted that 100 years later the presence of women in politics is lacking and the rights of women is still a “constant uphill battle.”
On achieving equality and representation in Parliament she said: “If you count every women who has ever been elected to the Houses of Parliament in the past there still would not be enough to fill the green benches.”
She also stressed that mothers not just single women on a career ladder need to be given the opportunity to become MPs just like men who are fathers. She believes that by having more women and mothers in Parliament issues regarding women in this sector are more likely to be raised and which in turn will benefit both men and women.
“Women must not be passive to these challenges and we should always exercise the right we have so far achieved. I am looking forward to exercising my right to vote,” she said.
She also noted that female MPs receive a lot more online abuse and threats than their male counterparts, with black MPs receiving significantly more. In addition, how the lack of ensuring safe environments free from sexual harassment is halting women from entering into that workspace.
“A society based on solidarity between genders leads to the inclusion of all,” she said.
Addressing the students, acting Chief Minister Ms Sacramento said: “I am very pleased to continue supporting this competition and to see that it has grown in a meaningful fashion to include Bayside and Gibraltar College students.”
“This is very important to engage young people and to include young men in gender equality issues as this also affects them directly, it is important to get everybody thinking of the relevant issues from a young age.”
“I was moved to see the engagement by the students this morning, particularly in their speeches and their expression of the subject matter through art, today was both positive and encouraging. The work that has been undertaken by the teachers who work alongside my Ministry for Equality in developing this initiative is of tremendous importance and is demonstrated in the success of the event, I would like to thank all participants for making this such a success,” she added.
The Minister for Education Dr John Cortes, was also present and told the students that “education is all about preparing young people for life. Awareness of the injustice of gender inequality is part of the toolkit that we all need to take our place in society. That is why initiatives like this are so vitally important, and most continue.”
“The initiative to mark International Women’s Day, now in its third year, has become entrenched in the annual curriculum and it is very much something that students look forward to. This is mark of the excellent work done by teachers and the Department of Education who work closely with colleagues from the Ministry of Equality to develop this initiative,” he added.