Message from President James Michel for International Women’s Day, 8th March 2014

07 March 2014 | State House

It is with a renewed sense of dedication and commitment to gender equality that every 8th March we join the rest of the world in celebrating International Women's Day.

This year's theme, "Equality for Women is Progress for All", promotes and encourages advocacy for women's advancement everywhere and in every sphere.

As we reflect on this theme, we are reminded that Seychellois women already contribute immensely to our nation's great progress. Today, our women are no longer just mothers and housewives. They are the nurturers and caretakers of the next generation.  Our women are breadwinners and heads of families. Many women occupy top posts of leadership in the country in the legislature, the judiciary, the public service and in civil society. Seychellois women pilots fly us across the world. They help to protect our territorial integrity and defend our national sovereignty. They contribute to the maintenance of law, order and security. They treat us when we are sick. They empower the more vulnerable. They are the teachers of our children. The future of our nation is safe in their hands.

Positive change has happened in Seychelles, for all Seychellois. My Government believes firmly in the potentials of every Seychellois.  We are not just men and women playing different roles based on our physical and physiological differences. We are above all human beings, born free and equal in dignity and rights. This is the belief that underpins the philosophy of my Government. It is this belief that has allowed us to progress; that has allowed everyone who is serious, determined and committed to advance in life.

We should, however, be mindful of the challenges that remain. The next steps in the full realisation of gender equality lie more in a change of attitudes and cultural beliefs. Whilst we can legislate for women's rights and greater equality, we cannot make this a reality unless we are prepared to make it part of our way of life. Our challenges today are not necessarily visible. And because they are so subtle and manifest themselves in so many daily stereotypes, they will require our greatest effort and commitment to overcome them.

This is evident in the role of fathers in family life, where too many of us still think that taking care and responsibility for our children is a woman's primary function. It can also be found in media advertisements and vacancy announcements that unknowingly and without intention, discriminate against women. We have much to do to also ensure that our girls are better represented in employment fields such as engineering and technology, where academically, they have consistently been outperforming their male counterparts over the years.

Another challenge we must overcome concerns gender-based violence. Whilst we condemn violence at every level, it is recognised that women still bear the brunt of domestic violence in Seychelles. We must reject violence in our homes. There should never be any excuse or justification for violence. Our women must stand up for their rights. Our men must recognise that women deserve our full respect because they are our equals.

As a determined small-island developing state, we have much to be proud of on International Women's Day. But there is still work to be done. Let us take inspiration and encouragement from our efforts and achievements.

I wish all Seychellois a happy and joyful International Women's Day.

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