On this International Women’s Day, we celebrate the achievements, triumphs and progress of all women and take up the cause to think equal, build smart and innovate for change.

The framework of the United Nations 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda has encouraged countries around the world to take decisive and concrete action in increasing the economic, social and political opportunities available to women and girls. Although it has long been acknowledged that when women are empowered, the entire community prospers, a high degree of gender inequality continues to drive down national productivity levels and stymie the personal and professional development of women.

On the surface, Trinidad and Tobago appears to have done very well in bridging the gender divide as our girls regularly outperform boys at school and go on to occupy various positions of authority in the public and private sectors. Beneath that glossy veneer, however, lies the glaring reality of unacceptably high levels of domestic violence against women, teenage pregnancy and sexual harassment in the workplace.

Even though girls excel academically, there is a conspicuous paucity of women in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), areas which are critical to the future of this nation particularly given the recent sharp reduction in traditional sources of national income.

Innovation and technology have long been identified as the new frontiers in achieving social progress and transformation. If we are to keep pace with the exigencies of the modern world, the perspectives and unique experiences of women must be able to influence the creation and implementation of technological structures and solutions which will determine the way forward for this country. This year, we acknowledge the need to revisit conventional approaches to advancing gender equality if we are to remove all barriers and close the gender gap once and for all.

International Women’s Day 2019 is a clarion call for all industry leaders, activists and entrepreneurs to step forward and contribute to the development of systems that promote the empowerment of all women and girls. Everyone has a part to play in bridging the gender divide, whether by challenging social norms and behaviours or by militating for changes to legal constructs which perpetuate inequality.

Now is the right time that we buckle down to ensuring that no woman or girl is left behind as we move into the future. Let us take action to #Balanceforbetter and realise a gender-balanced world in which every woman and girl can achieve her greatest potential.