On the occasion of International Women’s Day, observed around the globe yesterday March 8, the Women in Action and Solidarity Organisation (Waso) in partnership with Double Tree by Hilton Seychelles Allamanda Resort and Spa on Saturday organised a half-day conference under the theme, ‘Advancing Women Rights for Empowerment, Development and Change’.

Grouping together some 70 plus women and men from all walks of life including high government officials, dignitaries, private stakeholders as well as civil society, the conference sought to educate attendees and get the ball rolling on discussions pertaining to women empowerment, the rights and responsibilities of women, as well as other issues touching on the women’s role in the Seychellois society, legal issues, gender and socio-economic issues for greater empowerment needed to ensure progressive change and gender equality.

In her opening address, chairperson of Waso, Rose-Mary Elizabeth, recounted the earliest efforts of women in 1906 to fight for their rights and demand gender equality, making reference to the mass marches and rallies around the world in subsequent years until 1975, when the United Nations (UN) organised the first World Conference on Women to focus solely on women’s issues and which has been touted as a significant turning point for the global agenda for gender equality.

Mrs Elizabeth went on to note the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action at the Fourth World Conference on Women, held in Beijing, China in September 1995, whereby governments from around the world agreed on a comprehensive plan to achieve global legal equality and to reaffirm their commitment to women’s rights and empowerment.

Chairperson of Ceps (Citizens Engagement Platform Seychelles), Jude Fred, delivered the keynote address in which he noted that in Seychelles we are yet to strive for gender equality at all levels starting in the families and imploring families to treat their children as equals and in love, regardless of their gender.

“Nonetheless, we must acknowledge that in our society we have made great progress, for instance within the government, there is equal representation of male and female ministers. In 1995, there were no women in the judiciary but today, we have a female Chief Justice and she is very capable. The first and second Ombudsman were males but thereafter, we have known two female Ombudsman,” he noted.

“We are yet to strive for our women and girls’ rights to be respected in many other areas such as protection from abuse. We can no longer tolerate situations where our young girls are abused, and often by people close to them. We want to see women progressing socio-economically, politically and culturally,” Mr Fred said.

Numerous women who have excelled in their professional careers and other endeavours were also present to share their experiences with their fellow ladies through short presentations in which they highlighted their personal journeys, the values and principles they live by as well as words of advice for other women and young ladies. Among the ladies who took to centre stage were the resort manager of Double Tree by Hilton Allamanda Resort Doreen Valentin, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Seychelles Mathilda Twomey, Ombudswoman Nichole Tirant-Gherardi and chairperson of Enterprise Seychelles Agency (ESA) Marie-Celine Zialor.

Minister Counsellor of the Delegation of the EU to Mauritius and Seychelles, Carla Osorio, commended local efforts towards gender equality as is evident through gender parity in the cabinet.

“There is no place for second best. We women, we have our dignity, we have the right, and we will claim that right to equal treatment,” Mrs Osario concluded.

The conference, which was realised with the support of Ceps and the European Union (EU), was well appreciated by all who attended.


Laura Pillay