It is time to raise the level of political discourse in the island out of the mud.
This was the message to a group of women, some of whom will be contesting seats in the next general election, by President of the National Organisation of Women of Barbados, Marilyn Rice-Bowen at a workshop this morning.
And in fact, she advised them that the organisation would be following their progress on the respective platforms.
Rice-Bowen told the women at a partnered Caribbean Institute for Women in Leadership, UN Women and NOW forum on Transformational Leadership and Gender Justice that there was tremendous power in the women of Barbados that needed to be tapped.
The president noted that in the 2008 elections, of the 235,510 voters registered, 112,162 were males and 123,348 were females; and of the 149,633 who actually voted, 67,690 males and 81,940 females.
“We the females decide who will run the country. We are also therefore capable of occupying space at the decision-making level. We need to increase our numbers in Parliament,” she said.
The participants were either current or prospective leaders in political organisations, who demonstrated interests in becoming transformational leaders in their organisations or were trying to make a contribution to politics.
She added that research had shown that the number of women in Parliament mattered and the more there were, the more likely Parliament was to address issues affecting women or to change to gender dynamics in the chamber.
Rice-Bowen emphasised that NOW had many affiliates and was not an anti-man organisation, as some believed.
She said though: “When I think of empowering women for stronger political parties, the goal of more women in politics is not fewer men in politics, but a more equitable society for everyone.”
The NOW and Caribbean Organisation of Women head also advised women to leave the mud out of politics and stick to issues.
“You will find that when you can speak to women’s issues, your platforms will be richer. You don’t have to then go to the mud. You can leave the mud for those who can’t go any further.
“When people come out at night to political meetings they need to leave enlightened. So your responsibility is to raise the level of platform in upcoming general elections. I can tell you the National Organisation of Women … will be monitoring you. So we will have your report card and we will contact you. When you start to go too far down, we will be in touch with you because you have a responsibility to the people of Barbados and in particular, the women of this country.” (LB)