International Women’s Day was marked at various events across the Rock yesterday including a reception held by the Mayor of Gibraltar, Kaiane Aldorino Lopez, which featured a panel of well-known female leaders in the community.
Welcoming the guests, predominately women in high professional roles or who have contributed greatly to society, Ms Aldorino Lopez said the day celebrates the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. In addition, “it is a call to action for accelerating gender parity.”
She called the community build-up to yesterday’s celebration an empowering one with a number of events being held across the Rock including in schools.
“Today I wish to bring balance to how the role of women has shaped Gibraltar and challenge the way we think about our history, with the theme ‘herstory’ – bringing balance to Gibraltar’s past,” said Ms Aldorino Lopez.
She added that Gibraltar has strong, powerful and an increasing number of women in leadership positions and that Gibraltar has plenty of history that involves women, adding that this should be shared and brought to life especially for younger generations.
On empowering women she said: “As a mother I feel it is important to raise my daughter in an environment where she can see equality at home.”
“Or at least I try to make it a point, it’s easier said than done I must say,” said the youngest mayor in Gibraltar’s history.
“Children I believe should understand that women are not made only to handle household chores or take responsibility of home and family.”
“Instead both men and women are responsible for home and family as well as the working world.”
In her speech she also noted that she felt privileged to have a platform where she can inspire and motivate the younger generations to think about leadership roles.
During the event Claire Montado, the CEO of the Gibraltar Heritage Trust, gave a presentation on women throughout Gibraltar’s history, or a herstory of Gibraltar, as panel chairwoman Professor Daniella Tilbury named it.
After the Mayor’s speech the only female in Government and Gibraltar’s first Minister for Equality, Samantha Sacramento, addressed the audience.
“As Minister for Equality my department works tirelessly throughout the year on all gender and equality issues,” she said.
“Today as we mark international women’s day we will discuss issues in relation to gender inequality, but we work on these issues everyday throughout the year.”
“I am glad we have the opportunity to recognise the work, the substantial and sustained work being undertaken.”
In addition to her speech Ms Sacramento formed part of the panel of four women who each featured in Gibraltar’s ‘herstory’. They included Professor Daniella Tilbury, Denise Matthews and Marlene Hassan Nahon.
Introducing the women, Professor Tilbury said: “Thinking about a theme for the session we talked about possibly looking at the word history. History in itself is his story. Why couldn’t we celebrate herstory? Why couldn’t we look at history with a female perspective?” she asked rhetorically.
Noting that it is up to the people of Gibraltar to bring to life and keep alive the history and herstory of the Rock.
Ms Matthews, at the age of 18, was the first plaintiff to argue and successfully succeed in getting the vote for Gibraltarians in the European Parliament.
Speaking modestly about her role in obtaining that vote, Ms Matthews said that her father was the chairman of the Self Determination Group and it was decided that Gibraltar could not be excluded from the vote within European elections. With the criteria being that the person had to be at least 18 and had not ever voted, Ms Matthew said she fitted the profile.
Ms Hassan Nahon spoke next and noted how great it was to see the day “catch on” in Gibraltar and how its importance grew. She also noted that it was not until she became a parliamentarian that she saw the importance of such a day.
“I realised how importance it was to celebrate women and fight the cause for equality,” she said.
She commented that Gibraltar was among the countries with the lowest number of female representatives in Parliament.
“We look back only 50 years ago and we see only a handful of women who have graced Parliament with their presence.”
She noted that this void has resulted in an underrepresentation in terms of law making with regards to perspective and that women obviously have a different perspective and thinking process than men do.
“I used to think that equality should not be based on gender as we are all members of the human race but when you realise that your own gender isn’t represented I think that you have to wake up and try and do something about it so that decision making processes are equal,” she added.
Ms Sacramento spoke next and echoed some of Ms Hassan Nahon’s opinions regarding Parliament and the role women have had in forming Government.
She recalled having entered the race for Parliament in 2011 and how she was perceived as the “token woman”.
“People started commenting that this is the woman that is standing for election and I am thinking well I am one of the candidates,” she said.
“Then you have this issue of stereotypes and people’s opinions that there is one woman in the line-up that must be the token woman.”
“At that point I think because of my nature and the person that I am I never thought that of things like gender balance until people started talking to me about it,” she added.
She also noted that when she became the Minister of Equality things she never thought about before all of a sudden were her responsibly and she has endeavoured to work at dealing with the various types of inequality since.
The panel took questions from the audience, including from lawyer Justine Picardo, whose husband is the Chief Minister.
She asked Ms Sacramento and Ms Hassan Nahon for their views on why there were so few women in Parliament.
Both felt that it was hard for women to feel that they can do it all, in the sense that they can have a family and a position in public life.
They also felt that there was a belief that woman are only capable of having the “soft portfolios” and that the vision of Parliament was predominately male.
They noted too that a woman’s appearance, be it her body or the clothes she wears, is often commented on, while that of males is not.
Both women echoed once more their desire to see more females in Parliament and noted that in this day and age with flexibility and technology is it easier for women who are parents to obtain and hold the role.