The Bahamas has been invited to serve as host of the Women’s Affairs Ministerial Meeting (WAMM), scheduled for the year 2022. The invite was based on the country’s leadership focus on women’s empowerment in-country and within the region. WAMM has been held every three years since 1985 and provides the opportunity for ministers, senior officials, civil society, private sector and partner agencies to explore and agree on workable strategies and solutions to gender disparities. The 2019 Conference was held September 19-20 in Nairobi, Kenya. Ministers reaffirmed the Commonwealth’s vision for ending inequalities, and development of the collective Commonwealth strategy for moving towards achieving gender equality goals during the decade 2020 to 2030.
Commonwealth Secretary General, the Rt. Hon. Baroness Patricia Scotland, said the invite, “I think, is a recognition of the commitment The Bahamas has made to this issue of women and women’s empowerment, but also the energy with which The Bahamas has led this issue, not just for yourselves, but also for the Caribbean region.” “And so I want to congratulate you for that nomination and I know that if you are able to take up that mantle in 2022, we will have a most wonderful meeting here in The Bahamas.” Baroness Scotland’s comments came during a High-Level Dialogue Monday morning at the headquarters of the Ministry of Social Services and Urban Development, during which time the Commonwealth Secretary General paid a Courtesy Call on Minister of Social Services and Urban Development, the Hon. Frankie A. Campbell, prior to the start of the High-Level Dialogue.
Also in attendance were: Minister of the Public Service and National Insurance, the Hon. Brensil Rolle, in addition to senior government officials including Mrs. Phedra Rahming, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Social Services and Urban Development; Mr. David Cates, Acting Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture; Mr. Montez Williams, Under Secretary, Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture, and Dr. Jacinta Higgs, Director, Department of Gender and Family Affairs, Ministry of Social Services and Urban Development, in addition to staff of both ministries. Minister Campbell informed the Commonwealth Secretary General that The Bahamas was “humbled” by the nomination.
“We have been discussing it in-house, prior to my taking the matter to Cabinet, and so at this point, we are unable to commit as a ministry except to say that we are excited at the thought; that we are humbled at the opportunity, and that we remain optimistic and that in the shortest possible time, we will respond so that the necessary preparations can be made. ”Minister Campbell assured Baroness Scotland that the Government of The Bahamas would continue on its journey towards the elimination of all forms of discrimination. He said the Cabinet of The Bahamas, was “acutely aware” of the Goals set to have 30 per cent and then subsequently 50 per cent of women represented in Parliament.
“I want to assure you that it is not for the lack of trying, but we continue — as I would have indicated at CEDAW (Committee for the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women) — on our journey towards the elimination of all forms of discrimination. “We have been having the dialogues necessary to ensure that women and girls are completely aware that the doors are open for them to participate at all levels and that steps will be made to facilitate their participation. That said, we continue with our workshops, we continue with our sensitizing to ensure that the partnerships that are necessary to forge the ultimate relationship and to achieve the ultimate goals will be beneficial.”
Minister Campbell said Minister Rolle’s (Brensil) presence was an indicator as to the government’s understanding of, and commitment to, achieving those objectives. “As part of our efforts, we have come to realize quickly that the whole business of gender mainstreaming does not rest only in our ministry, and we have done everything that we can to co-opt the Minister of Public Service,” Minister Campbell said.
“I see Minister Rolle as the nucleus of the public service because his connection to all of the public service will ensure that the message goes forward; will ensure that the data collection and analysis be done; will ensure that the quotas that we are working towards and all of the SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals, 2030), are advanced throughout the Government of The Bahamas which, in turn, will trickle down to the private sector and [so] do our part in the shortest possible time.”
Baroness Scotland applauded The Bahamas for its efforts.
“I also want to say that although it may be a little disappointing only to have one female cabinet minister, I am very warmed by the fact that when I look at your Civil Service, we have an appropriate high number of Permanent Secretaries and other senior officials who are able to make a 50-50 contribution and so I think that is perhaps an indicator of the benefits of having both women and men — you get the richness that comes from their conjoined activity and so I look forward to the day when you have 50-50 at the senior civil service level — women and men — because I think it has to be balanced,” Baroness Scotland added.