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The Grenada Revolution - the most progressive period for Grenadian women

The Grenada revolution was the most progressive period for the advancement and empowerment of Grenadian women. Beginning in 1980, the PRG implemented initiatives aimed at improving the lives of women. The period was most notable for enhancing the value and self-worth of women to Grenadian society.

Women during Grenada revolution

Source: Grenada Forward Ever

Work of NWO

The work to advance women was the brainchild of the National Women's Organization (NWO). The NWO was started in 1980 with the objective of mobilizing women in support of the work of the revolution. Phyllis Coard was the President, Rita Joseph became Vice-President and other notable members were Tessa Stroude and Claudette Pitt. The successes of the NWO included advocacy for the maternity Leave law, establishment of the Women's desk in government, distribution of milk and cooking oil to needy families, and improving adult literacy through the Center for Popular Education (CPE).

By November 1982, there were 6,500 members of the NWO in 170 organized groups across the island including Carriacou and Petit Martinique.

Maternity Leave Law

In 1980, the Maternity Leave law was enacted to provide special protection to mothers, before and after childbirth. This new law entitled women who had worked for at least 18 months prior to childbirth to be able to obtain a maternity benefit. This maternity benefit was payment for three months (two months in full pay, and 1 month in half pay). Furthermore, it benefit entitled women to be able to return to work after three months to their substantive position and pay. Women who were pregnant had to notify their employer, three (3) weeks prior to taking the leave, and indicate also return to work upon completion of leave. The maternity benefit enjoyed by Grenadian women today, provided through the National Insurance Scheme (NIS), came during the revolutionary period.

Maternity wards

In health care, there was the establishment of the Maternity ward at the General hospital in St. George's. The ward allowed for expecting and new mothers to be cared for within a specialized unit.

Daycare centers and Pre-schools

The introduction of day care centers arose as a result of the women's arm of the PRG, the National Women's Organization (NWO). Phyllis Coard, the wife of the deputy Prime Minister, Bernard Coard, was the head of the NWO. The intention of the day care centers was to allow for women to enter the labour force in larger numbers as there was a place to care for their children. Therefore, many women changed from being housewives and homemakers into occupations such as administrative roles in government and private sector.

There was the expansion of pre-school centers across the island. Pre-schools allowed for children to enter school at an early age, thus allowing more women to venture into the labour force and become employed.

Upskilling into non-traditional careers

Women got the opportunity to learn trade skills. These were areas where women had not traditionally been employed. Areas included construction, agriculture and automotive. Women participated in courses offered through the Technical and Vocational Institute including carpentry, welding and woodwork. Women were also trained in fisheries through the True Blue Fisheries School.

Expansion of health care

To service free health care, which was one of the promises of the PRG, many women entered into the field of nursing. Nurses were needed in the hospitals. Also, there was district health teams set up to facilitate primary health care throughout the island, and nurses were in demand to serve on such teams.

Growth of cooperatives

The start of cooperatives helped to advance women. Cooperatives in the handicraft sector and in agro-processing began. Women were able to gain employment opportunities through the cooperatives.

Equal pay

One of the biggest gains made for women was in equal pay. The slogan, "Equal pay for equal work" became popular. In the agricultural sector, women worked for less compared to male workers doing the same job. The PRG sought to improve the wages of female workers to better their standard of living and quality of life.

Education and the Arts

Women were able to attain scholarships to attend tertiary institutions. Women were afforded the opportunity to study medicine and dentistry in Cuba and the Soviet Union. Dr. Annette Alexis became the first female ophthalmologist to practice in Grenada. Justice Monica Joseph became the first female judge in Grenada in 1982.

Women also excelled in culture and the arts. Grenadian born authors such as Merle Collins published poetry books. Cynthia Ogiste (Lady Cinty) won the Calypso monarch in 1983 and became the first female monarch of Grenada.

Grenada revolution and women
Judge Monica Joseph

Grenadian poet
Merle Collins

Source: Women in the Grenada revolution 1979-1983 by Dr. Nicole Phillip Dowe.

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