More than twenty female parliamentarians from the Commonwealth gathered in the Virgin Islands to discuss women’s issues, and strategies to promote greater female representation in the political sphere during the Eighth Conference of Commonwealth Women Parliamentarians held on Saturday, July 25.
The Eighth Conference of Commonwealth Women Parliamentarians is part of the week-long 40th Annual Conference of the Caribbean, Americas and the Atlantic Region of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA) hosted in the Territory.
In delivering remarks during the Opening Ceremony, Acting Premier Dr. the Honourable Kedrick Pickering stated, “This gender discourse on women’s political participation in the Caribbean is a debate that has spanned decades as women’s issues have been advanced, and with universal efforts made to eliminate all forms of violence against women.”
In applauding the accomplishments of female parliamentarians, the Acting Premier highlighted the dynamic social shift in the role of women in society as they now dominate every sector. In closing, he wished the parliamentarians a day of fruitful deliberations.
Bahamian parliamentary representative and Minister of Transport and Aviation, the Honourable Glenys Hanna Martin also addressed the gathering and stated, “I am pleased that we have been able to formulate a strategic action plan for our respective countries to stimulate greater participation and cause for more women to come forward to service in Parliament.”
Honourable Hanna Martin said as female participants in the political process, the experience is a highly unique, and often a very difficult one, as females are small in number, but representative of one half of the population throughout the region. She added that there is no endeavor quite like the political endeavor, which is all at the same time, one of the most satisfying, frustrating and rewarding privileges one can have during a lifetime.
She said, “It is through this process that true social and economic transformation can be effected. It is the business of people. It is through this endeavor that we can indeed achieve the creation of a new social and economic reality for distinct human societies in our respective countries.”
Honourable Hanna Martin stated, “During this eighth session we will sit together to discuss this serious issue; we will listen to each other, we will give analysis to the stubborn cultural and institutional barriers that we face as women in the political realm. We will share thoughts and ideas on methodologies and solutions. Very importantly, we will have presentations on the proposed Sustainable Development Goals which will have a fundamental impact and influence on our agenda in the days and years ahead.”
The Bahamian Minister expressed her confidence in the outcome of the meetings and that the delegates would return to their respective countries with more knowledge, fortified and ready to implement strategies to effect fundamental change.
The two-day meeting of the regional sub-group of the Commonwealth Women Parliamentarians (CWP) precedes the main conference. Day one of the conference saw female parliamentarians discussing a range of topics including, the role of political parties in female representation: making it happen. In this session, parliamentarians agreed that women must strive to increase participation within political parties. Furthermore, women needed to continue creating bridges, change cultural thinking and encourage other women to become involved in the political process.
The plenary sessions also explored women’s political participation and economic empowerment: an activated agenda. They examined ways and discussed strategies to gain financial and economic support to participate in the political process.
Additionally, the parliamentarians discussed gender ideology, structural and political factors as predictors of women’s political representation in the parliamentary process. The discussion highlighted ways in which women can continue to contribute to community development - socially and economically; the need for a shift in institutional language to address gender stereotypes; the importance of focusing on competencies rather than gender preferences; and ensuring gender equality.
The parliamentarians also reviewed the sustainable development goals and how women can change the world through greater participation. They discussed the importance of having a unified approach for supporting equal rights to economic resources, and ways of generating and managing financial resources to ensure transformational change across the region in meeting the development goals.
The 40th Annual Conference will also include the Regional Executive Committee Meeting, Plenary Sessions, the Annual General Meeting and the Regional Youth Parliament.
Member States of the CPA include Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Belize, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, Montserrat, Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, St. Kitts, Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, the Bahamas and the Turks and Caicos Islands.
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