Celebrating women: trailblazers during a pandemic

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By Carlena Knight

As the world stops to celebrate women today under the theme ‘Women in leadership: Achieving an equal future in a Covid-19 world’ we at Observer media thought it only right to shine the spotlight on a few women here in Antigua and Barbuda who over the past year, have not only led in the fight against the deadly coronavirus, but continuously break the mold and kick down the barriers that women have faced for centuries.

Dr Rhonda Sealey-Thomas

Who better to head this list than someone who here in Antigua and Barbuda has become a household name, our Chief Medical Officer, Dr Rhonda Sealy-Thomas, a woman of high intelligence and grace.

Dr Thomas has been one of many medical officials who has stepped up and been at the forefront of this fight against Covid-19 from the onset. It is her wisdom, leadership and pristine work ethic that pushes those around her to do the same as we continue to navigate these rough waters.

Nurse Soria Dupie Winston

She embodies the phrase ‘action speaks louder than words’ each day, and even more so, as she became the first person, man or woman, to take the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine in the country. This, she noted was a way of encouraging others who may be concerned to summon the courage and get vaccinated as well.

Despite the many criticisms and long hours, you will never find this beautiful woman complaining as she continues to put the well-being of others, the wellbeing of a nation, before her own.

‘Brave,’ ‘outspoken,’ ‘kind,’ ‘respected,’ these are just a few of the adjectives we can associate with Nurse Soria Dupie-Winston, one of the frontline workers who were honoured at last year’s Independence Day celebration.

Nurse Winston, who is president of the Nurses Association, continues to fight not only for the well-being of patients, but her fellow nurses.

Nurse Cynthia Byers (deceased)

She is never one to shy away or remain silent on controversial topics, and she continues to demand the respect of those in higher authority for the ‘little man.’

Winston continues to be a voice for her nurses during this pandemic, reminding the public and those higher up the food chain that nursers lives matter too.

It would be remiss of us to not highlight those women who are no longer with us, but who also played integral roles during this pandemic – Nurse Cynthia Byers whose bubbly personality left a mark on the hearts of those who worked alongside her.   

How could one forget the fitting tribute her colleagues gave her as they lined Friars Hill road in an all-white ‘guard of honor’ that could rival many diplomatic or military processions.

Nurse Byers dedicated her life to her profession, having worked at the Holberton Hospital, the Mount St John’s Medical Centre (MSJMC), Matron of the Hannah Thomas Hospital in Barbuda, Deputy Matron of the Fiennes Institute and Acting Matron of Clarevue Psychiatric Hospital, that last she assumed just days before her passing.

Hospital worker, Rhea Jarvis

Another fallen gem, hospital worker, Rhea Jarvis, was a sweet soul whose dedication to her community will forever be cherished.

Jarvis dedicated over 20 years to youth development through sport.

 The working mom dedicated her time as a manager of the Pigott’s Football Club and an organiser of the North Coast Nation Cup Tournament and the Villa Lions Premier Youth League.

She served as manager of the boys’ and girls’ national teams, and was also the local course organiser for the ABFA, Concacaf and FIFA, and a Caribbean Football Union and ABFA match coordinator. She was appointed to the Concacaf 2020 list of coordinators.

Both women during their lives showed by example what it meant to be a working mom, community activist, lover of sports and more so, a lover of people. Once again breaking the mold, that a woman can do it all.

We at Observer media salute them for being  trailblazers in their own right.

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