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Women Shine In A 'Man's World'

By JEFFARAH GIBSON Tribune Features Writer FORMER Norwegian Prime Minister, Gro Harlem Brundtland, attracted a great deal of attention in 1986, after electing eight women to cabinet, who, at the time, made up almost half of the government. "It is in the interests of society as a whole that women's values and women's sense of justice be integrated into political life," she said. This move as well as others around the world, including the Woman's Suffrage Movement in the Bahamas, opened the door for the active involvement of women in politics. Politics is usually a male dominated area, but Bahamian woman have made their strides to prove women are just as equipped as their male counterparts to get the job done. "I think when we look at women in politics you know they have inherent challenges. In that, it is still a very male dominated, male stereotypical role, that we have been participating in. So when you talk about competition or being effective, I think the first hurdle that women must overcome is that against the majority of their male counterparts," said Minister of State for Labour and Social Development Loretta Butler -Turner. "Women must prepare themselves with knowledge, understanding of subject matters, and the ability to speak up when one is defending or advocating for something against one's political opponent. I think it is very important that women in politics have strong convictions for what they are fighting for because without those convictions, obviously you will not have, in my estimation, the ability to effectively defend those things that you advocate," she told Tribune Woman. Aspiring politician, 24-year-old Samantha Cunningham said the only way women can have a say in the advancement of the country is by entering politics. "It is characterised as a male dominated arena and if we are to have a say or advance the interests of society, we must enter the political arena," said the COB student and politician in training. As candidates run against each other in various constituencies, Senator Allyson Maynard-Gibson said the competition should not be about gender. "Before entering politics I was heavily involved in advocacy for major change in laws affecting women and children and giving community service in many other ways. I have never seen community service, including politics, as competing against men. I believe that women and men must work together to build a better country and a better world," she said. "I am a part of a loving family that has for generations been dedicated to public service. My grandmother Meta Davis Cumberbatch has been called the mother of the arts in the Bahamas. (My grandmother) Georgiana K Symonette, was the secretary of the Women's Suffrage Movement. My mother, Zoe, Lady Maynard, served in WWII, was the first female juror in the Bahamas and was a trade unionist, among other community involvement. (These women) gave me living examples of being agents of positive change. I hope to be a similar example to my daughters, Zoe and Demetra. Also my husband Max, whose family also continues to be involved in public service, is a tower of strength," said Senator Maynard-Gibson said. Despite the challenges, being able to fight for the rights of all Bahamians is rewarding, Ms Butler-Turner explained. "I think it is a privilege and an honour to be able to serve on the front line and in the House of Parliament on behalf of the Bahamian people. You realise that while I may be a female, I think at the end of the day I am not only fighting for those issues that affect women. We are actually fighting for the issues that affect the nation as a whole. It is not a war of women against men, it is war of all Bahamians for Bahamians." If women are to make a difference, those with an interest in front-line politics must be encouraged and supported, said Missouri Sherman, advisor to the Ministry of National Security, while speaking at a Women's National Advisory Council meeting two weeks ago. "Women with political experience, particularly in parliament, must continue to mentor other women, particularly young women," she said. It is important to invest in leadership training, said Senator Maynard-Gibson, in order to continue generating an interest in politics amongst women. "This cause is non controversial. It transcends national, cultural, racial and other divides," she said.

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