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Women present in political engine rooms but absent from Parliament

Melene Glynn, Organisation of American States representative in St. Vincent and the Grenadines (Photo: Searchlight)

KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent – While many women are firing the pistons in the engine rooms of political organisations here and across the region, they are not very visible in actual representational politics.

“As a result, the Caribbean lacks a critical mass of women political leaders committed to promoting gender equality in areas such as women’s economic empowerment and security, ending gender-based violence, advancing sexual and reproductive health and rights, equal pay for work of equal value and shared family responsibilities,” Melene Glynn, the Organisation of American States’ (OAS) representative here said last week.

Glynn was at the time addressing the media launch of the first-ever National Women’s Congress slated for March 21-22 under the theme “Women Rising, Crisis and Response-Women as Agents of Change.”

And while Trinidad and Tobago and Jamaica currently have women prime ministers, in most Caribbean countries, fewer than 15 per cent of parliamentarians are women according to Glynn.

In St. Vincent and the Grenadines, there are only three women among the 22 Members of Parliament: the Deputy Prime Minister and the two opposition senators.

Glynn said that since late 2001, the OAS has been working within the stakeholder group to conceptualise approaches and implement activities to empower the women of this country, particularly in terms of leadership and governance “in order to encourage them to assume their rightful place as leaders in the national context”.

She said that a recurring point at events held last year was that while women are fully represented in the engine room of party political activities here, they are not very visible in actual representational politics.

“And this is a phenomenon that is not unique to this country. A lack of parity in political representation is the reality in most Caribbean countries,” she said.

According to Glynn, this was one of the principal findings of the Women Leaders as Agents of Change: Caribbean Regional Colloquium in Trinidad last June.

The Port-of-Spain Consensus on Transformational Leadership for Gender Equality issued by the colloquium noted that women’s political participation is now recognised internationally as a key element in fostering genuine democracy and social progress, Glynn said.

“Yet, despite high levels of participation by women as voters and campaigner, few women are selected by political parties for leadership positions or as candidates to contest parliamentary elections and even fewer are elected as members of parliament.”

The Port of Spain Consensus concluded that women’s equal political participation is a fundamental human right and contributes to social cohesion, security and sustainable economic development. The Consensus developed set of recommendations to increase the women in political leadership acting as change agents, Glynn further stated, adding that this is one of the principal objectives the congress hopes to achieve.

She further said that the congress would seek to identify obstacles to more women taking up leadership at the political level and how Vincentian men and women can set about removing them.

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