Earlier this month we celebrated International Women’s day. But for far too long, women have shouldered a disproportionate burden in the Virgin Islands and have severely lacked adequate representation in our government. Day-to-day, we are the ones who are doing the real governing in this State.
We govern our families and households, the foundation of a society. The best of us would lay our lives down for our children, just so they can have a little better than we did.
Our day starts by sending our kids to schools that fail them as children, us as parents and society as a whole. The alternatives for our shameful number of youth dropouts are unemployment and subsequently crime.
But the luckiest of us trudge through jobs that pay us less for the work than that our male counterparts. Of the 55% of single household families in the VI, 40% of those, which are headed by women, really have no alternative.
In the face of all this, women still face the additional threat of rising domestic violence when this, in all reality, should be the most alarming and primary concern. The safety and security of its society is and should be the primary concern of any concept of government in a civil society.
The only way to save ourselves, our children, our families and our society is to fix it ourselves. We don’t need our voices heard by government. We need be government. We need to govern as we have for so long.
When we send our kids to school in the morning, none of us want our kids to score proficient as its called. Do any of us want our call our kids “proficient”? No. We want our kids to be the best. To excel. We should accept nothing less than that same level of excellence in every area of our government.
Since 2008, the slight gains made in gender disparities in employment and wages have slowed. We need to strengthen our participation in developing our female workforce by helping them not just seek and find employment, but by also developing skills so that they can further their careers and compensation.
We should accept the same level of excellence when it comes to the safety of our communities.
On our streets:
Drugs and guns continue to wash up on the shores of many unprotected beaches, providing desperation with a violent answer. We need to strengthen the patrols of our borders and the contents of incoming cargo.
In our homes:
By time I finish speaking to you, 25 women will have endured the terror of domestic violence.
And their children, who witness these vicious crimes? More than half will go on to either become victims or batterers, continuing this vicious cycle.
In the face of these disturbing and rising trends, we need to provide women’s shelters with the adequate funding to address the victims.
When the Virgin Islands did receive money from the federal government to address the issue of violence against women, the Department of Justice found that the money had been grossly mismanaged. It wasn’t until an audit was conducted questioning the use of the funds that corrective action was taken.
In every area of the government’s responsibility, mismanagement seems to run rampant. Our government is scoring barely proficient at a time when we can afford nothing short of excellence.
As a member of your legislature, I would make it my priority to demand that level of excellence exists in our legislature.
Today, we start with a small step. One vote. Your vote.
Alma Francis Heyliger
Special Election for the 33rd Legislature