The Ambassador Extraordinaire and Plenipotentiary, who was the first woman to sit in the Cabinet of Barbados, told scores of young women gathered at today’s Women Share Conference at the Sagicor Cave Hill School of Business and Management, that participatory democracy required a much larger number of women in most parliaments if gender equity was to be achieved.
“Women are half of the population of the world. They bring their own perspective to the quality of democracy and to the development process. I have to be very careful here. There is a distinction between women’s issues and women’s perspective.
“We are free to discuss all issues; they don’t have to be only women’s issues, because without our women’s point of view, whatever the subject matter is, the home would be impoverished. This is a matter bristling with the need for what I call, socio legal policy reform and cultural change. I felt that 40 years ago and I still feel it today,” Dame Billie Miller said.
The former Member of Parliament for The City also made the point that non-governmental Organisations (NGOs), played a critical role in society.
She recommended to those present that they should get involved in NGOs since there were great organisational, management and confidence-building skills to be learned.
“Be mindful though ladies, that NGOs and governments should try never to lose their trade mark independent networking distinction. It is not enough to be aware, you have to prepare yourself to be involved. By all knowledge and experience, I can tell you that non governmental organisations do crucial work.
“They are often better-placed than governments to do a more efficient and effective job precisely because they are the ones who are working at the barricades, they are the ones who are at the frontlines in their communities. This is a practical way in which participatory democracy can work; a community taking responsibility for itself,” she said.
The conference, which catered to young women, was organised by the Cave Hill School of Business and the High Commission of Canada.
It included a panel discussion where women leaders, including Canada High Commissioner Marie Legault and Dame Billie, among others, shared their individual stories about success and failure in pursuing their careers.
The successful leaders who have various professional statuses, encouraged the audience which included working women and students, to continuously work hard and strive for excellence despite whatever stumbling blocks they may face along life’s journey.
While sharing her story, the High Commissioner urged those gathered to always remember that there was nothing they could not do, once they had courage.
“Don’t let your doubts or your fears drive what you want to do or limit what you do. There will always be someone telling you that you can’t make that happen. Well, prove them wrong. Go and make it happen. Don’t let others doubts make you doubt yourself.
“You know what you are worth, just go and do it, it’s their problem to doubt about who you are because you are a woman. My advice to you is have dreams, and if your dreams don’t scare you, it is because they are not big enough. Work hard for those dreams” Legault said.
Meanwhile, Dame Billie, a woman of many firsts, recalled that it took 18 long years before she saw two other women join her on the benches in Parliament.
She said those two women were Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley and Ambassador to the United Nations Elizabeth Thompson.
However, Dame Billie recalled that before Mottley and Thompson joined her, she faced a lot of pressure as she addressed women’s issues in Parliament.
“Gender equality continues to be under severe threat, in many of the same, old and often different ways, everywhere in the world, both developed and developing. For those of us who have toiled in this vineyard, many times in the past, it is going to mean rolling up our sleeves and starting over again and again, as we have over the past many decades.
“The politics of it is well known to us. I had hoped that in a new century, a new millennium, that the health and rights of women and girls would have been enlarged. Now strategies are being designed to reverse the gains of the 20th century as we speak,” Dame Billie said. (AH)