As part of the “Commonwealth Inclusive Dialogue and Women’s Political Participation” project, the Commonwealth Secretariat, UN Women and Caribbean Women in Leadership (CIWiL) jointly hosted a three-day workshop on Leadership for Good Governance and Social Transformation in the Caribbean two weeks ago.
The workshop - held in Bridgetown, Barbados - was attended by female leaders, as well as aspirant politicians and political leaders from across the Caribbean. Civil Society representatives and experts in good governance and gender responsive policy were also in attendance.
Three-days of spirited discussions and informative panels were kicked off by Dr Shavana Haythornthwaite, Head of Human Rights at the Commonwealth Secretariat.
Key-note speeches were made by Commonwealth Secretary-General, Rt. Hon. Patricia Scotland QC, Ambassador Malgorzata Wasilewska - EU Ambassador (designate) to Barbados, The Eastern Caribbean States, OECS and CARICOM/CARIFORUM, Deputy High Commissioner Alexandra Langley - Australian High Commission, Trinidad & Tobago - and Her Excellency Lilian Chatterjee - High Commissioner of Canada to Barbados.
Attendees explored barriers to women’s political participation, identified opportunities to promote gender equality in parliamentary processes, and shared strategies and opportunities for overcoming structural and institutional barriers to achieve equal participation of women in democratic processes, especially in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic, and how to replicate these practices at the local and national levels.
Speaking about the significance of the conference, Dr Shavana Haythornthwaite said:
“Breaking the barriers that prevent women from entering politics, and building the capacities of women already in political positions, is essential to a just, peaceful and equitable society.
“Only by creating, and thereafter strengthening, inherent gender-responsive approaches in all aspects of parliamentary work can we move forward to achieving gender equality, inclusive governance frameworks, democratic participation and equitable development.”
The inspirational speakers at the event included: Hon. Speaker Valerie Woods of Belize, Lady Anande Trotman-Joseph and Dame Billie Miller of CIWiL, Her Excellency Elizabeth Thompson of Barbados, Senator Natalie Campbell-Rodriques of Jamaica, Minister Keisal Peters of St Vincent, Hon. Minister Dr Virginia Albert-Poyotte and Senator Alvina Reynolds of St Lucia, Hon. Ms Glynis Roberts of Grenada, Her Excellency Ambassador Yolande Smith of the Organization of American States (Grenada), Dr Rosina Wiltshire of CARICOM and OAS, Minister Gail Teixeira and Hon. Juretha Fernandes of Guyana, President, Hon. Carolyn Trench-Sandiford and Hon. Elvia Vega-Samos of Belize, Hon. Kentish Rogers of Anguilla, Senator Gabriela Morris and Miss Tamika Davis of Jamaica.
Each gave passionate accounts of their experiences as women leaders across the Caribbean, generously shared lessons learnt and reflected on best practice whilst emphasising their continued commitment to support aspirant women leaders and gender-equality generally across the Commonwealth Caribbean.
Ahead of the workshop, Lady Anande Trotman Joseph said:
“Multiple crises are threatening to reverse the gains made in the past 50 years, by deepening existing inequalities, impacting women’s income generation, hampering their political and social mobility and exacerbating the dire levels of violence against women and girls.
“This workshop will critically reflect on the status of women in the Caribbean as well as create spaces and enduring networks where Caribbean women leaders can share lessons, experiences, best practices and develop their transformational leadership ethic.”
Mr Frankie Campbell of the Bahamas, Senator Nicholls of Barbados, and Mr Shane John of the Trinidad Youth Council expressed a renewed commitment to allyship and re-emphasised the importance of men’s support as the gatekeepers of the contemporary political landscape.
Experts from the World Bank, International Foundation for Electoral Systems, Parliamentarians for Global Action, ParlAmericas, CARICOM, UN Women and others also shared tools, and highlighted practical steps to implement strategies for advancing women’s parliamentary leadership.
Representative, UN Women Multi-Country Office - Caribbean, Ms Tonni Brodber said:
“Data continues to show that inclusive policies and legislation that integrate gender responsiveness led to reduced inequality and increased economic growth. Parliaments need more diversity of voices including more women from across all walks of life and vocal male allies demonstrating transformational leadership and advocating for gender responsive solutions to build back better.”
The workshop concluded with a renewed commitment to the advancement of gender equality. Participants agreed that it was an important step in developing influential parliamentarians who will serve as champions on a local and regional level, for gender-responsive legislation, policies, governance and development processes.
- Amy Coles Communications Officer, Communications Division, Commonwealth Secretariat