Women of all ages, backgrounds and achievements were honoured at the National Heroes Day on Monday.
A new statue called Aspiration, depicting two women, one young and one older, mounting stairs was unveiled as a tribute to the work and struggles of the women of Cayman and to the future generations of women.
During a 90-minute ceremony, to the background sound of flags and bunting flapping noisily in the breeze, 15 women who had helped shape Cayman and who have served as inspiration for young women today were honoured with Spirit of Excellence Awards. Several of the awards were made posthumously and accepted by the awardees’ family members or descendents.
Those who received the Spirit of Excellence Awards were: Mary Genevieve Bodden, Olive Miller, Mary Lawrence, Adriannie Webb, Islay Leonie Conolly, Mary Isabel Powell, Beulah McLaughlin, Almeria Tomlinson, Dr. Margaret Leonie Hesla, Sybil Joyce Hylton, Clara Dicia Brown, Leila Ross-Shier, Vernice Zeta Hawkins, Mary Evelyn Wood, and Annie Huldah Bodden
Olympian sprinter Cydonie Mothersill, who reached the finals of the 200 metre sprint in the Olympic Games in Beijing last year, was awarded Sports Person of the Year, which was accepted on her behalf by her mother, Angela Whittaker.
Three other Caymanians – Andy Martin, Wanda Tatum and Diana Whittaker, were also given their Certificates and Badges of Honour. They had been named in the Queen’s Honours List and chose to receive their awards on Monday.
Governor Stuart Jack paid tribute to ‘the strong women of the Cayman Islands’ who had played a major role in the country’s progress.
He pointed out that a higher proportion of women in Cayman hold more senior positions in public service than their counterparts in the UK.
He remembered the late Estella Scott-Roberts in his speech, saying Cayman had ‘lost a young and energetic advocate for equal treatment for women’.
Special mention was made by the governor and by Angela Martins. who officiated the ceremony, to Julia Hydes, who celebrated her 100th birthday this week.
On the other side of the age spectrum, John Gray Year 11 student Ginger Ebanks showed that young females in Cayman are not wasting their talents. She wowed the audience with her crystal-clear singing voice in her rendition of the Cayman National Song, accompanied by the Brass Band of Battle Creek, and later with The Wind Beneath My Wings, with fellow student Chevis Dilbert on saxophone.
While women have come a long way since the days of looking after their families while their husbands were away at sea, still more needs to be done to protect and enhance their rights, according to Health and Human Services Minister Anthony Eden.
Mr. Eden announced that the government is working toward introducing two new pieces of legislation, an anti-discrimination bill and a revised domestic violence bill.
A change in law 50 years ago brought women in Cayman the right to vote and stand for election. Monday’s ceremony celebrated that day.
Alongside the Aspiration monument, the names of all but eight of the 358 women who signed a petition demanding the equal right to vote on 29 May 1957 have been inscribed on a wall. The names of eight on the petition were lost when the document was damaged in a fire in Government House in 1972.
Descendants and relations of the women’s whose names are on the walls were invited to lay flowers immediately after the Heroes Day ceremony and scores of Caymanians ran their fingers over the wall, trying to find the names of mothers, grandmothers, aunts and sisters.
The Aspiration monument features the younger woman holding the world in her hands, with countries inlaid with caymanite.
The monument was made in just five months at the American Bronze Foundry in Sanford, Florida. It was shipped to Cayman last week and erected in the early hours of Saturday morning.
Among those at Monday’s ceremony were Roxie Bodden and Georgette Hurlston-Ebanks, both of whom signed the women’s voting rights petition. National Hero Sybil McLaughlin and women who had served as members of the Legislative Assembly over the years were also in attendance.
Minister Alden McLaughlin, who was instrumental in bringing about the day that celebrated the achievements of women said: ‘This day has been a long time coming… Too long. But this day, this National Heroes Day 2009, we raise our voice in praise of our women. This day we pay homage to the lives of those who have gone before and who inspired the next generation.’