The Barbadian head of a regional women’s group has sent an emphatic message to the Barbados Labour Party (BLP) that women here won’t take Dr Maria Agard’s expulsion lightly.
Speaking to the media this morning at the Baobab Tower, Warrens, St Michael following the launch of this year’s 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-based Violence, president of the Caribbean Women’s Association (CARIWA) Marilyn Rice-Bowen did not hide her displeasure at the BLP’s decision on Sunday to expel the Christ Church West Member of Parliament.
She likened the action to the beheading of a woman and described it as extreme and unappealing to Barbadian women, especially prospective politicians.
And she warned they won’t go quietly and would respond when the time was right.
“The women have been silent, but the women will speak at the appropriate time, in the appropriate language that only aspirina politicians will understand. The women of this country will speak,” Rice-Bowen warned.
“This is 2015. We have fought over the past 20 years in signing the Beijing Platform For Action, signing other conventions because you are seeking to empower women. So at this stage when we are celebrating Bajan, is it now an appropriate time to behead a woman? It is an unfair [act] and it is an unjust act. There are women who are probably sitting there planning to enter politics. It is a retrograde step in this country.”
After 17 years of service, Dr Agard’s tenure with the BLP came to a dramatic and acrimonious end on Sunday night when the party’s National Council took the decision to expel her following a meeting called to discipline her.
BLP leader Mia Mottley outlined a number of “fundamental” charges against the Christ Church West MP including her failure to be a team player “and to play her part by attendance at the [BLP’s] annual conference and a series of nominations in the very parish where she is the only sitting Member of Parliament for the Party”.
Her expulsion has provoked much discussion, with supporters of both sides weighing in, including Mottley’s predecessor, former Prime Minister Owen Arthur, who labelled the action as nothing short of “despotism”.
Among the nine charges that were laid against Dr Agard was speaking to the media, something Rice-Bowen looked at with cynicism. Arthur also shredded Mottley over this charge.
Speaking to journalists on the steps of Parliament yesterday, Arthur revealed that Mottley did not attend any meetings of his parliamentary group between 2010 and 2013, adding that there was never any “urge to expel her”. He also pointed out that Mottley was free to express herself under his leadership.
“She came to this Parliament to a Budget reply, hand in hand with [Minister of Finance] Chris Sinckler and nobody thought that was reason to expel her. [Therefore] when I hear people being expelled for putting things in the media, there has to be full disclosure now,” the St Peter MP said.
Rice-Bowen, the former National Organization of Women president looked at the issue from a different perspective, saying she anticipated that other parliamentarians who speak publicly about the party’s internal affairs would be dragged before the council.
The outspoken feminist advised those who wish to contest in a safe seat to “wait their turn”. Christ Church West is considered as BLP safe seat.
The CARIWA boss also encouraged female parliamentarians to stand firm and not to be discouraged by the development.
“Don’t feel shattered and . . . don’t move because this move with Dr Agard may be an avalanche. No woman should have to move from any seat that she has. Anybody who wants a safe seat, therefore, has to wait their turn. Do not retire, do not resign, do not move. Women in this country must stand firm, stand tall and take representation to the people very seriously,” she said.