Margaret Thatcher England’s first female prime minister
stated that “if you want something said ask a man and if you want
something done ask a woman”.
I feel that this quote is so relevant to the success
of the political party that will be victorious because no matter what
your political affiliation is, if you are seeking to be victorious in
this election it’s going to take the support of the Bahamian Female
This was confirmed nationally on April 10th,
where it was reported that the Rt. Hon. Hubert Ingraham, stated that:
decide the outcome of the next general election”. The statistics
indicated that registered female voters outnumber the male registered
voters by 20,000 of which we all know is not surprising. When we take
an international perspective, we see that in the United States there
is also much political debate about the role that women will play in
its elections, and the echo remains the same:
Women will decide who wins the 2012 election.
With statistics and statements like these it clearly
indicates how significant, powerful and influential we are as women.
We have the power to make or break things, we determine who will win
or lose, consequently our individual decisions will corporately and
politically impact our nation.
However, if we as Bahamian women have so much power
and influence to make such determinations for our country, why are we
so underrepresented in the political arena and why have we yet to elect
a female prime Minister? Is this trend indicative of the notion
that Politics is a Man’s World and Women belong in their homes and
should remain in the private realm as opposed to the public realm.
Whilst we must acknowledge the significant strides
women have made in politics there is indeed a grave level of underrepresentation.
Under the current Government Administration there are only 5 female
Members of Parliament out of the 41. They are The Hon. Loretta
R. Butler Turner and the Hon. Verna Grant from the Free National Movement
(2) and from the Progressive Liberal Party there are (3) which include
the Hon. Glennys M.E. Hanna-Martin, the Hon. Cynthia Mother Pratt, and
the Hon. Melanie Griffin.
When we look at the female political candidates who
have had the courage to step forward to either enter or remain in the
political arena we see that there is hope for an increase in the representation
of women in politics. The Free National Movement has 9 Female
Candidates, The Progressive Liberal Party has 5 and the Democratic National
Alliance has 6 female candidates.
Having said that we see that women in the Bahamas
have ascended and advanced to high ranking official positions like that
of female presidents of the Court of Appeal, Governor General, Heads
of Senate, and as mentioned Members of Parliament, but the only time
we have seen any female rise anywhere near the position of Prime Minister
other than in the capacity of “Acting” was under the Progressive
Liberal Party Administration when the Hon. Cynthia Mother Pratt was
the Deputy Prime Minister.
Therefore, we must ask the question as to whether
or not there exists for Bahamian Women in Politics a glass ceiling as
we have yet to see equal representation in parliament or even near the
30% desired quota that is advanced and advocated around the world for
women representation in parliament.
When we take a look globally and even more closely
at our Caribbean sister nations we see that culturally there has been
an acceptance of female prime Ministers like the Hon. Portia Simpson-
Miller in Jamaica, the Hon. Kamla Persad-Bissessar in Trinidad and Tobago,
the Hon. Janet Jagan of Guyana, Dame Eugenia Charles now deceased who
served for 15 years and Margaret Thatcher the first female Prime Minister
of England who served for a period of 10 years.
From a biblical perspective, we see that women like
Deborah and Esther were instrumental in saving nations. For example,
when the Israelities were oppressed by Jabin the King of Canaan, Deborah
prevailed upon Barak the head captain of the army to face the Assyrian
General Sisera, the commander of Jabin’s Army in battle. With the
help of Barak and Jael, another woman, the Israelites achieved an unlikely
victory over Sisera’s force and there was peace in the land for 40
In a radio interview on Gems 105.9 on April
14th, on the weekly women’s radio show, Business, Money
& Women I asked two courageous female political candidates of their
opinion as to whether or not they felt there was a glass ceiling for
Bahamian Women in Politics and why they felt the Bahamas has yet to
elect a female Prime Minister? Both candidates shared similar opinions,
Mrs. Kelphene Cunningham, the DNA candidate for Garden Hills stated
that (paraphrased) “she did not think that there exists a glass ceiling
and that it’s all about timing and at the right time we as women would
achieve that major accomplishment. Mrs. Cleola Hamiliton
the PLP candidate for South Beach, stated that (paraphrased) “there
are no limits to what we can accomplish as women and that gender does
not play a significant role in what one achieves”.
I must say that I admire both of these women for offering themselves
for political service at such a crucial time like this, however does
this mean that perhaps in our next generation we would see the rise
of a female prime minister.?
According to the historical data we see that women
can handle power and that we can and will take charge where and when
we are needed. Women are indeed breaking down barriers around the world
and shattering the so called “glass ceiling”. Whilst there are
many mixed opinions about “the glass ceiling” notion I want you
to know that whilst it is real and wrong, we as women must be careful
not to create our own ceilings by placing virtual limits upon ourselves
to explain our lack of progress, disappointments and circumstances beyond
Whilst we need more powerful women represented in
parliament, it does not mean that we must take power away from men to
accomplish this. What we need to do is create and embrace our
We should note that in the past we have seen many
other Bahamian women break glass ceilings in their respective areas,
like that of the Hon. Janet Bostwick who was the first female Member
of Parliament elected, Attorney General of the Bahamas and the first
to act as deputy prime minister, Dame Ivy Dumont, First female Governor
General of the Bahamas, Italia Johnson, the first female Speaker of
the House, Dr. Doris Johnson, the first female president of the Senate
with Sharon Wilson as the second, Ruby Ann Cooper-Darling first woman
to register to vote.
We also see that as we study the lives of successful
women that women do have the power to break through barriers, ceilings,
or societal limitations that may arise. However, we as women must
work together to help each other succeed. When one of us succeeds
we all succeed.
For those of you who may have career, entrepreneurial
or political aspirations but perceive that there is a glass ceiling
that may prevent you from progressing, here are few things you can you
can do to achieve your goal to shatter the glass above your head.
1. Be courageous and strategic: Have a
plan for your career and for the climb up the political ladder, network
strategically with men and women, find a mentor and a coach. Have
a system and a support system
2. Be prepared to take risks: Remember, Queen
Esther in the Bible, she was automatically excluded because of her background
and where she came from, and she could have claimed a “glass ceiling
exemption”, yet she went from orphan to Queen by stepping out of her
traditional role to change the course of history.
3. Be prepared, have a strong sense of purpose, confidence
and patience: You must prepare yourself, educationally, financially,
spiritually and politically. Know what your purpose is and be
confident in knowing that whilst obstacles and trials may come you have
the power to overcome and break through barriers.
4. Remember successful people leave clues: You
should study the lives of successful women to see how did they breakthrough,
what set them apart and what skills or expertise they possessed.
As we prepare to go to the voting polls on May 7th,
it is important that we as women make sound decisions about the future
of this nation which will affect future generations. Remember
the power that is within us to merge together to make a difference and
that as we are the determining persons who will decide who wins the
election, we will also decide whether or not we will become personally
empowered to play a significant political role in our Government.
Finally, we must ask ourselves in which generation
will we follow suit and elect a female prime minister?. Is it
in my generation or my daughter’s generation.
MELISA HALL, LLB. LLM. MICA, is an Attorney, Advocate for Women
Empowerment & Business Coach who hosts a weekly radio show for Women
on Gems 105.9 on Saturdays at 6:00pm. To find out more information
you may contact her at 341-2204 or reach her via facebook, twitter or
email her at firstname.lastname@example.org