Her first exposure to the plight of women happened in the 1950s and this sparked her unrelenting fight for the empowerment of women in The Bahamas, regionally, and globally.
For her significant contributions to the advancement of gender equality and women’s empowerment, the Rt. Hon. Dame Janet Bostwick, 83, was honoured with the prestigious 13th CARICOM Triennial Award for Women.
The honour was bestowed on her at the Official Opening Ceremony of the 44th Regular Meeting of Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community, CARICOM, at Atlantis, Paradise Island, February 15, 2023.
The Hon. Philip Davis, Prime Minister and Minister of Finance of The Bahamas and Chair of CARICOM, presented a framed Citation and award to her before a packed Grand Ballroom.
Dame Janet, an attorney and champion for women’s causes, became the second Bahamian woman to receive such an honour. Marion Bethel, attorney, poet, essayist, filmmaker, human and gender rights activist, and writer was honoured in 2014.
In response to receiving The 13th CARICOM Triennial Award for Women, Dame Janet underscored the importance of women fighting for justice, equality and other areas such as the impact of climate change.
She said that the region is “so proud” that a woman, the Hon. Mia Mottley, Prime Minister of Barbados, is leading the charge for women against climate change.
“We do not have the luxury ladies of focusing our attention primarily on achieving gender equity or equality. With the real threat of climate change, we must fight now for our very lives, and the continued existence of our nations. Women, who are always the most vulnerable, should lead this fight.”
Dame Janet Gwennett Bostwick, DBE, née Musgrove, was born 30 October 1939 in Nassau, The Bahamas to Nick and Lois Musgrove.
An attorney at law, she is revered as a pioneer among women in The Bahamas and is well known, admired and respected for the many years she championed the cause for the empowerment and improvement of the status of women at home and in the region.
Dame Janet has the distinction of having achieved many “firsts” in her career. Most notably: first woman in The Bahamas to hold the post of Secretary General of The Bahamas Public Services Union; to prosecute in the courts; to be elected as President of The Bahamas Bar Association and Chairman of the Bar Council; first woman to serve as a Member of Parliament following her election to the House of Assembly in 1982; the first woman appointed Attorney General in The Bahamas and the region in November 1994; the first woman appointed Minister of Foreign Affairs in 1995. She was also the first woman to act in the post of Prime Minister.
Dame Janet’s activism on women’s issues spans from the mid-1960s, when she was an executive member of The Bahamas Public Services Union, through her entire political career. Over the many years, she represented The Bahamas at the Inter-American Commission of Women (CIM), Commission on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), chaired the Council for Foreign and Community Relations (COFCOR), as well as headed The Bahamas delegation at the Fourth World Women’s Conference in Beijing, China in September 1995.
Dame Janet shared that she was exposed to the plight of women while working at the Supreme Court in the 1950s, but was deeply sensitized to the extremities of violence against women when she attended an international conference in the early 1990s.
“It was then that I knew that I had to be a part of that group, which sought change and global recognition of men and women, as equal partners in every respect,“ Dame Janet said.
She continued: “I heard the cries of those women in 1957. And if you listen, you hear the cries of mothers now. They cry for food security. They need food for their children. They cry for cessation of violence, they cry for better education and for better and affordable health services. And yes, they cry for equal rights with their land.
Dame Janet urged all to be careful not to be distracted from the cause for the rights of women.
“It is a battle that is still too far from victory. And it is a battle, which in my humble opinion is not receiving the acknowledgment attention and action that is required to ensure that the injustice is eliminated. It is a battle that has been relegated to a position of lesser importance, and it’s been choked by the clamor of others.”
She added: “This is tragic. Every one of us who ever existed came into existence through woman. We cannot afford to give precedent to the rights of others if we do not so successfully address and eliminate the inequities that exist throughout our diaspora, and indeed throughout the world, in respect of the rights of us, women. I submit that for this, we need no redefinition of woman. There is much to be done.”
Dame Janet thanked all who were instrumental in nominating her for the award.
Since the introduction of the Triennial Award in 1983 several highly esteemed and outstanding women of the Caribbean have been bestowed the honour of the award for their dedication and determination in broadening the parameters of existence for women, and improving their economic, social, political, cultural and legal status.
Other Caribbean women awarded are: In 1984, Ms. Nesta Patrick of Trinidad and Tobago; 1987, the late, Her Excellency, Dame Nita Barrow of Barbados; 1990, Dr. Peggy Antrobus, national of Grenada and Citizen of St. Vincent and the Grenadines; 1993, Ms. Magda Pollard of Guyana; 1996, Dr. Lucille Mair of Jamaica; 1999, Professor Joycelin Massiah, national of Guyana and Citizen of Barbados; 2002, Professor Rhoda Reddock of Trinidad and Tobago; in 2005 Justice Desiree Bernard of Guyana; 2008, Professor Barbara Evelyn Bailey of Jamaica; 2011, Professor V. Eudine Barriteau of Barbados; 2014, Ms. Marion Bethel of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas; 2017, Ms. Shirley Pryce of Jamaica.
By LINDSAY THOMPSON/Bahamas Information Services
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