By Makeida Antonio
The future of women in politics in Antigua and Barbuda has been reexamined during a national symposium held to commemorate this year’s International Women’s Day.
Under the theme #BreakTheBias, the Parliament of Antigua and Barbuda came alive yesterday during the event organised by the Acting Director in the Directorate of Gender Affairs (DoGA), Jamie Saunders, Programme Officer Raisa Charles, and President of the National Youth Parliament of Antigua and Barbuda (NYPAB) Kamalie Mannix.
Women who currently hold top government positions, including Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Barbuda Affairs Samantha Marshall, Senator Gail Christian, and Senator Aziza Lake provided mentorship to 19 young women who aspire to enter the country’s political arena.
Delivering the keynote address, Marshall highlighted that while strides have been made in the Upper House, also known as the Senate, where 53 percent of seats are filled by women, more work needs to be done in strengthening the representation of the nation’s women as only two women hold seats in the Lower House of Parliament.
This resulted in the Agriculture Minister calling for more women to be in the forefront politically, which she believes can only occur if men desist from engaging in negative behaviour in public forums, which serve as a deterrent to women who desire to enter local politics.
Senator Christian presented on advocacy, in which she challenged the participants to speak up if they desire to play a meaningful role in society.
Additionally, the former Antigua Barbuda Labour Party (ABLP) Chairperson echoed similar sentiments to Marshall, indicating that there is no need for ‘nastiness’ which has become commonplace in Caribbean politics.
“There is no room for acrimony in our political discourse. There is no need to get personal. We can disagree, but we can have that collective consciousness to have the best interest of the people in Antigua and Barbuda,” Senator Christian argued.
The St Peter Team Leader for the Democratic National Alliance (DNA) Chaniel Imhoff, who was one of the participants, said she was impressed by the other young and upcoming parliamentarians. She stressed that organised events such as this are important to the development of women in Antigua and Barbuda.
Meanwhile, the NYPAB representative for All Saints West, Shontae Smith, told Observer that her passion for female empowerment education is critical to young women receiving support from society.
“Considering the ratio between women who are actively in politics, versus those in the background, is disappointing. I believe days like these are imperative. It says that women are capable and can complete the job despite what has been the norm. Women have been unsung heroes in all aspects of society and it is high time we rise up,” Smith said.
The motion “Resolution of the women assembled approving the decision of the aforementioned group to give support to the advancement and promotion of women, and to support women interested in becoming active in party, electoral and other forms of politics” was debated by participants who represented various sectors across the country.