“America has spoken and the world is inspired…I am sure that we in the Caribbean will look forward with optimism to working with the new administration to confront a number of global issues from the awful pandemic to the climate crisis to the pursuit of racial justice.” Prime Minister Mia Mottley, 7th November, 2020.
Prime Minister Mottley expressed the sentiment of people all over the world – hope, inspiration, optimism – were consistently expressed. When he spoke, President Elect Biden did not disappoint – he promised to work “to make America respected around the world again and to unite us here at home.”
I joined the many people who were focused on the woman who, in being elected to serve as Vice President, achieved many firsts (first woman, first black person, first person of South East Asian descent) and shattered the glass ceiling, that was cracked by many women before her. Vice President Elect, Kamala Harris, wearing white to acknowledge suffragists, and musing on the trailblazing women said, “tonight, I reflect on their struggle, their determination and the strength of their vision – to see what can be, unburdened by what has been – I stand on their shoulders.”
Let’s use the energy and enthusiasm generated by the election of Vice President Elect, Kamala Harris, and the hope that our daughters and granddaughters can achieve their dreams, to focus on The Bahamas. How?
The Council on Foreign Relations has produced a Women’s Power Index. Its table, with 2020 data, gives The Bahamas a “political parity score” of 12. The Bahamas is the third lowest in “The Americas”, ahead of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, which scored 8, and Haiti, which scored 4. In The Bahamas, the sole woman in Cabinet comprises 7% of Cabinet and women comprise 22% of the National Legislature.
If we agree with the late Congressman John Lewis that “democracy is not a state. It is an act”, the time is right for us to act.
I call for four actions.
The first, is for the tabling in Parliament and passing of the, already drafted, legislation to confer on Bahamian women the right for their spouses and children, wherever they are born, to become citizens of The Bahamas.
The second, is for the tabling in Parliament and passing of an Equal Pay Act, which would guarantee that women receive the same pay as men for substantially the same work.
The third, is for the tabling and passing of legislation mandating equal numbers of men and women as board members of publicly listed companies.
The fourth, is the convening of a national discourse on whether there should be, in legislation, a quota system to mandate equality between men and women in membership of Parliament and Cabinet.
Incidentally, these four steps ought to be taken in fulfillment of The Bahamas’ obligations under various U.N. Treaties and to accomplish the U.N. Agenda 2030.
We share the emotion, including shedding tears, of those who celebrated the moment on 7th November, 2020. We celebrate the shattering of the American political glass ceiling. We are ecstatic that young girls can see themselves as leaders in the political and business spheres.
Let’s act now, to secure that vision for Bahamian girls, and boys. Our suffragettes and trailblazers would expect nothing less.