Minister of Labour Dr Esther Byer-Suckoo today made a fresh appeal to women to throw their hats into the political ring.
Addressing a panel discussion at United Nations House this morning, the ruling Democratic Labour Party (DLP) Senator and former representative for St George South said that while women had made significant strides in the workplace, politics was still largely unchartered territory for females.
Dr Byer-Suckoo, who is one of five female members of the Upper House, acknowledged that the same number of women currently sit in the Lower House of Parliament.
She further acknowledged that both the President of the Senate and the Deputy Speaker of the Lower House were women.
However, she was admittedly dissatisfied with the current gender imbalance in both Houses of Parliament.
“Unless we see more women in the actual election process, we’re not going to see more women in the Chamber,” she said, while acknowledging that the current reluctance may have to do with the perception of politics as “dirty” business.
In fact, she recalled that her own entry into the political arena back in 2008, when she captured the St George South seat for the DLP before losing it to Dwight Sutherland in 2013, was met with “chidings” by women who wanted to know, ‘What you want to do that for? It will spoil you, it will taint you, you will get dirty’.
“And so women, we run from that because that’s not how we were trained,” she told the audience, which included students and young businesswomen.
“We were trained to be a certain way and so on, and so we don’t want to get involved in the dirt, so to speak, of politics,” she said.
Dr Byer-Suckoo’s concerns have been shared by political observers throughout the Caribbean and the international community.
To date, only four of the 15 Caribbean Community (CARICOM) member countries have had female Prime Ministers, namely Dominica, Guyana, Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago.
Here in Barbados Opposition Leader Mia Mottley will be seeking to become the first female head of Government when Barbadians vote in the next general election, constitutionally due next year.
Byer-Suckoo said it was important that young women have role models in public office to encourage them to make similar contributions in the political arena.
“And this is one of my aims in politics, to try to model for our younger women, a woman . . . that could . . . blaze a trail for women in politics. You can be effective but you don’t have to become dirty,” she said.