INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY SYMPOSIUM
The inaugural International Women’s Day Symposium jointly hosted by the Ministry of Tertiary Education and Skills Training (MTEST) and the College of Science, Technology and Applied Arts of Trinidad and Tobago (COSTAATT) took place at the Hyatt Regency Trinidad on Friday March 14, 2014.
The symposium themed ‘Inspiring Change…Influencing the Future’ was designed to bring together a wide cross section of participants from the education, corporate and non-governmental sectors to engage in focused deliberations on key issues relating to women’s current and evolving roles in Trinidad and Tobago and the wider Caribbean region.
Over 300 participants who attended the symposium, as well as those who joined in the discussion via the online live chat facility, were inspired by remarks given by the Honourable Prime Minister, Kamla Persad-Bissessar, Senator the Honourable Fazal Karim, Minister of Tertiary Education and Skills Training and the panel of women leaders who shared their experiences and insights with the attentive and engaged audience.
The panellists brought diverse perspectives to bear on the discussion themes of advocacy and service, leadership, coaching and mentoring the next generation of leaders, and breaking through boundaries. In their presentations, Ms. Sharon Christopher, Deputy CEO of First Citizens Bank, Sister Paul D’Ornellas, President of the Foundation for Human Development, Dr. Camille Samuel, Vice President, Student Affairs, COSTAATT, Dr. Bibi Ali, Project Coordinator of Agriculture Now Unit, Ministry of Food Production, and Captain Wendy Yawching, former Caribbean Airlines Pilot, all touched on different aspects of their work, values and careers, which resonated with the participants and provoked a lively question and answer session.
In her closing remarks, Dr Gillian Paul, acting President of COSTAATT, who moderated the panel discussion, congratulated participants for making their voices heard at the symposium, and in so doing, contributed to charting the future course for gender policies and programmes in the tertiary education sector for the next decade. Both the participants and the panellists expressed interest in continuing to work with COSTAATT in the areas of coaching and mentoring and women’s leadership development, and Dr. Paul gave the assurance that the College would continue to build on this initiative, given its potential to positively impact the next generation of women leaders in Trinidad and Tobago.
The Honourable Prime Minister Kamla Persad Bissessar, S.C., M.P.
“I am today very touched by the words from 16 year old Malala who has withstood great adversity and triumphed. She is indeed an inspiration and an example to all women and girls and of course, every male and female who has faced any odd and triumphed. We look forward to her visit. We will encourage her to not just have an official visit with us but also journey into the schools and meet the young ones who she can further inspire. My entire career has been one that has focused on education and when we see this young girl standing up for education I am equally proud. My words have always been “Education is the passport out of poverty. Education is the opportunity to achieve a better quality of life, and it is the key to development.”
Senator the Honourable Fazal Karim
Minister of Tertiary Education and Skills Training
“I often reflect on my life’s journey with immense gratitude and respect for the women who have brought me to where I am today. I think of my wife, Pastor Judy who is here with us, and the invaluable supporting role she has played in every single way, enabling and encouraging the man that I am today. Today, I listen to my granddaughter Kristen speak about wanting to be a brain surgeon and I know the opportunities for her to pursue this dream will be there because our society is one that supports and facilitates education for all.”
Dr. Bibi Ali
Project Coordinator, Agriculture Now Unit
“Our young women and young men are currently positioned on the leading edge of creativity. Despite all the negativity you see and hear, it is an amazing time because all chaos really means, is that there is an opportunity to create something. If you can perceive and manage that, you have everything you need to take our country and our world forward. You just have to pull it in the right direction and always remember that the focus should be on serving humanity”.
Captain Wendy Yawching
Former Pilot, Caribbean Airlines Ltd.
“I believe that we break through boundaries whenever we disregard other people’s illusions on who we are and what the world is in their minds. A lot of people asked me, “What was it like being a woman in a man’s world?” I respond with, “I never considered it to be a man’s world.” In any field, no matter what path you choose, if you have internal drive and passion you will not notice other people’s illusions. Know your stuff, work hard and you will overcome challenges that arise and you will succeed”.
Deputy CEO, First Citizens Bank
“Not only in corporate life must we move to do the things we want to do but all of us, in whatever space we stand, must ask ourselves, What can we do to ensure that our sisters are able to live their best lives? Even in the midst of our successes, we must continue to be concerned about the needs of our people and seek to involve ourselves in activities that make us sustainable”.
Sister Paul D’Ornellas
Former President of the Foundation for Human Development
“You cannot do everything, but choose to do something worthwhile and do it well. Will Trinidad and Tobago be better because you were born and educated here? What difference will you make? What difference will your life make to this land of ours? Leave a memorable legacy for those who will come after you and remembering who you are informs and shapes what you do and how you do it. Be women of calibre who stand tall and express their worth through the competence by which they perform the all things”.
Dr. Camille Samuel
Vice President of Student Affairs, COSTAATT
“Today is about reflection, but it is also about honouring the struggles of the past and using the knowledge of what has happened to plan for the betterment of men and women. We have to work together to plan for women’s development. Today is about understanding that the struggle is not yet over, but we must agree to support each other and craft a way forward to support the entire transformation of the nation.”
Dr. Gillian Paul
President (Ag) of COSTAATT
“You don’t have to choose between leadership styles. What the research teaches us about successful leadership is that skilled leaders have a deep and clear understanding of what constitutes effective leadership, and are consciously able to deploy both feminine and masculine leadership behaviours, depending on the situation. We have started a conversation today that hopefully will lead us to explore these issues in our local context in more depth.