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Five Women Take Up Post In Parliament

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Top: (L-R) Loretta Butler-Turner, Glenys Hanna-Martin, Melanie Griffin. Bottom: (L-R) Hope Strachan, Cleola Hamilton.

By ALESHA CADET

Tribune Features Reporter

On May 7, a total of 24 women offered themselves as candidates in the general election: Nine under the Free National Movement (FNM) banner, five with the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP), five with the Democratic National Alliance (DNA), and the remaining five running on third party tickets or as independents

When the votes were tallied and the results announced, only five women were left standing.

On May 23 the triumphant five will take up their seats when the new parliament meets for the first time: Glenys Hanna-Martin of Englerston, Hope Strachan of Sea Breeze, Melanie Griffin of Yamacraw, Cleola Hamilton of South Beach and Loretta Butler-Turner of Long Island, the only FNM.

The PLP women would not go on the record on the hot-button issues of the time: citizenship rights and spousal rape. Ms Hanna-Martin said those two issues while relevant to women, were "targeted political issues" and not reflective of the priority concerns. She said poverty, education, reproductive rights and support systems for single mothers are the "real issues affecting women everyday in this country".

"I would like to see where there is a sense of mutual respect in terms of the equal rights as human beings. I think that is where the real challenge lies and I think that is really what has to evolve as we move forward as a people," said Ms Hanna-Martin.

Three of the four PLP women were nodded for cabinet positions, including Ms Griffin as the Minister of Social Services, Ms Hanna-Martin as Minister of Transport and Aviation and Ms Strachan as Minister of State in the same ministry. Ms Hamilton was appointed parliamentary secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Immigration.

For Ms Strachan, her win is a continuation of a family legacy. Her grandmother Mary Naomie Ingraham was a leader of the women's suffrage movement, and it was her inspiration that drove Ms Strachan to pursue a career in politics.

Returning to her old cabinet post Ms Griffin plans to continue in her tradition of advocacy for child and family welfare. She identifies her most important accomplishments during her last stint in government as the enactment of three major pieces of legislation: The Residential Care Facilities Act 2004, the Child Protection Act, 2007 and the Domestic Violence (Protection Orders) Act, 2007.

As for Ms Hamilton, she took a stand in the 1990s when she was sensitised to the plight of nurses and could no longer turn a blind eye to the injustices and inequities that existed in the nursing profession. The Bahamas Nurses Union gave Ms Hamilton the platform for her political activism.

Although the FNM fielded the most female candidates, it was only successful at garnering one of those seats. During her stint in opposition, Ms Butler-Turner said the concerns of Long Island residents will be her top priority. Long Island is a new constituency, as Ms Butler-Turner left her former Montague constituency behind.

Even still, she said she will continue to speak for equal rights and better treatment of Bahamian women.

Ms Butler-Turner said her views on the spousal rape and citizenship issue have been clearly articulated and chronicled and she stands by her views.

Ms Butler-Turner said she trusts the new government will move with haste to address these important concerns. Should they do so, she said Bahamians can be assured of her full support.

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