The way in which politics is practised in the Caribbean can be so negative that it prevents more women from getting involved.
Joan Underwood, the education officer for the United Progressive Party (UPP), made the assertion yesterday during an appearance on the Big Issues Programme, which focused on challenges women encounter when they express an interest in entering the political arena.
Underwood said a woman might be willing to enter public office. However, she has to consider what her children, husband and family will be exposed to.
“I remember having a conversation with the late Dame Eugenia Charles about that. And she told me, that if she was married with children, she would never have entered politics,” Underwood said.
She also pointed to societal factors regarding gender roles – how girls are taught to behave as opposed to boys.
“If you are watching children and a girl seems to be taking charge, people would say she is too bossy. But, if a boy is doing the exact thing, it would be said that he has leadership potential. And when a woman grows up hearing that, there is a real possibility that she would stay behind the scenes,” Underwood said.
The UPP education officer said another social issue is how both genders view the application process for a job. She explained that a male would attempt to sell himself to a potential employer whether or not he meets all the requirements, while women, on the other hand, would only apply if they qualify.
Underwood said if society truly wants to see both men and women in leadership then, “we would have to start moving away from those societal and other barriers to women’s full engagement.”
Meanwhile, Kamla Persad-Bissessar said that throughout the world it is harder for women to enter politics as there are several constraints which do not exclude abuse.
She said the problem is also compounded by a woman’s responsibilities as a wife and caregiver.
(More in today’s Daily Observer)