Ms. Phyllis Shirley’s daughter, Mrs. Teresa Frett
Ms. Phyllis Shirley’s daughter, Mrs. Teresa Frett, accepts an award recognizing the late Ms. Shirley for her years of service at the Family Support Network during the International Women’s Day Informational Event at Peebles Hospital on March. 8. (Photo: GIS)

It was International Women’s Day on Friday and female leaders in the Virgin Islands came out with messages of empowerment aimed at women of all ages during an informational session at the Peebles Hospital veranda.

“Share your magic, laugh loud and proud and don’t sweat the small stuff,” said Tourism Director Sharon Flax-Brutus, one of the speakers at the event. “And above all, blow your own damn mind.”

Ms. Flax-Brutus took it upon herself to conduct a survey of women in positions of power on various boards in the Virgin Islands and shared her findings.

Four of the BVI Tourist Board’s 13 members are female, as are two of 10 on the BVI Electricity Corporation board; three of 11 on the BVI Ports Authority board; two of ten on the BVI Airports Authority board; and five of nine on the National Bank of the VI board, she said, adding that she sits on three of these boards.

“The struggle for the recognition of women is real, and I have decided to be a champion for the cause by advocating for equality for the rights, whether at home or in the workplace,” she said. “What I ask for and demand is a level playing field: no more, no less.”

Ms. Flax-Brutus’ sister, Junior Tourism Minister Shereen Flax-Charles, cheered her on from the crowd, and Health and Social Development Minister Carvin Malone also addressed the gathering.


Also during the event, Marlene Trotman and the late Phyllis Shirley were recognised for their years of contributions to the Family Support Network. Mses. Trotman and Shirley helped establish the FSN in 1989; Ms. Trotman became its first president with Ms. Shirley as secretary.

At first, FSN provided weekly support meetings and periodic lectures about family issues. In 1991, the network responded to a growing concern about the extent of domestic abuse and violence by developing a workable plan to serve victims of abuse. FSN is now 30 years old and continues to function as a nonprofit that helps those affected by domestic violence.

Though Mr. Malone and Ms. Flax-Charles were supposed to present an award each, Mr. Malone said, “I think I’ll let her do both.”

Other speakers

Avaline Potter from A R Potter & Associates Ltd. and Violet Gaul from Colonial Insurance also spoke at the event, imparting wisdom from their respective professions: architecture and insurance.

“The construction industry has been traditionally male-dominated,” Ms. Potter said. “I think at times some men can be disrespectful or dismissive. I would suggest that workers are always treated with respect, but be clear and uncompromising about who calls the shots.”

Her advice to homeowners and builders was simple: Get references, hire experienced professionals, and “don’t hesitate to terminate anyone who has disrespected you.”

Students from the Cedar International School and women from the Zonta Club of Tortola, an organisation that advocates for gender equality, attended the event. FSN representatives handed out yellow roses and bouquets to the speakers, honourees, and Ms. Flax-Charles.