The Commonwealth of The Bahamas is intently involved in the discussion on empowering women and girls in all aspects of personal and community development – at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting 2018. According to Minister of Social Services and Urban Development the Hon. Lanisha Rolle, The Bahamas has certainly made strides in these areas, although there is much more to be done. The Minister, and Mrs. Patricia Minnis, wife of Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis, attended three days of sessions at the Commonwealth Women’s Forum, which is held alongside the 2018 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting. This Forum provides the opportunity to focus on the Commonwealth’s progress toward gender equality, under the theme “An empowered future for women and girls.”
The Forum reflected on some of the global challenges still faced by women, as part of a wider commitment to “leave no one behind” in the Commonwealth journey to achieving gender equality by 2030. The first Commonwealth Women’s Forum (CWF) was held in Malta in the lead up to the November 2015 CHOGM as a response to a proposal from the 10th meeting of the Commonwealth Women’s Affairs Meeting of 2013. The programme included substantive plenary sessions and parallel workshops providing ministers and heads of women machinery the opportunity to focus on specific areas such as ‘Ending violence against women and girls’, ‘eliminating harmful practices/addressing barriers to empowerment’, and ‘diversity and women’s economic empowerment’. Discussions also centered on best practices for women in leadership, and peace and security. “The things discussed today were issues that keep women back in terms of their empowerment, in terms of their opportunities for growth and development, economic empowerment issues as well as the challenges for women in rural areas and the effects of climate change. These things are very important,” Mrs. Rolle said.
Also discussed were natural disasters and how women are being able to survive and thrive and assist in taking care of their families. “One of the hot topics on the agenda was Gender Parity and the importance of all Commonwealth countries understanding that women play an equal role in the growth and sustainable development of a country,” she said. “It was said that if women play an essential role, the country would do much better, especially if women are empowered equally.” The goal, she added, is to have women represented in a broad cross-section of societal development. “So we want to see women fairly represented in Parliament, we want to see women fairly represented in every aspect of leadership in the private and public sectors — and so it is just the coming together of common countries with common interests to discuss ways that we can set the agenda, [and] meet the goals.”
As for how The Bahamas is progressing, the Minister said although strides are being made there is much to be done. “We are moving forward but we are not there yet. There is much work to be done. There were 5 women elected to parliament during the last General Election. When there is about 60 percent of women who can vote and there is only 12 percent represented in parliament, it causes the issues of women not to be in the forefront as they should be but certainly we have the opportunity in coming here (CHOGM) to share our concerns from a small island nation,” she said. Mrs. Patricia Minnis, Minister Lanisha Rolle, PS Cora Colebrooke, Katherine Stewart-Marsh, Tamicka Thompson and Erica Ferreira, attended Day Three of the Commonwealth Women’s Forum — ‘Overcoming Barriers, Violence Against Women and Girls/Assessing Emerging Evidence: How Can We Reduce Global Rates of Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG) and Share Best Practices from the Commonwealth.’ The session had a particular focus on intimate partner violence, as the most widespread form of VAWG.