IT’S not every day that you hear a message about how doing what one loves could lead to an ascension to one of the highest offices in the land.
But members of the public and the college community got that opportunity at a special forum held in commemoration of women.
Former Premier of Bermuda Dame Jennifer Smith spoke frankly about how her life has been impacted by the simple rule of staying true to one’s passion and explained how this could unlock opportunities for others.
Dame Jennifer addressed a National Women’s Week Forum at the College of the Bahamas held by the Ministry of Social Services and Community Development on “Women in Governance and Leadership”.
In a message designed to inspire those listening, as well as pay homage to iconic patriots, Dame Jennifer pointed to trailblazers like former Deputy Prime Minister Cynthia “Mother” Pratt and former Governor General Dame Ivy Dumont as examples of a women who allowed their passion to direct them in public life.
Mrs Pratt was the first female Deputy Prime Minister and Dame Ivy was the first woman to hold the office of Governor General.
“You, as Bahamians, have inherited a legacy from the women who helped to build this country, but I believe that if you just follow your passion that you can, in doing so, also make a positive difference for those who will come after you. You might end up like “Mother” Pratt, a former lecturer here at the College of the Bahamas, an athlete, a softball, basketball and netball player; a person whose conduct on the field was such that as a young person they called her ‘mother’, because she was always looking out for the other person. It was in following her passion that she ended up in politics,” she said.
Dame Jennifer, who was the youngest Bermudian woman to ever offer as a political candidate in a general election in 1972, told the audience that she did not plan on a career in politics, but wanted to be a renowned artist.
As fate would have it, however, she used her love for and knowledge of the cultural arts as a politician to help bring about positive changes. It was a lesson that she hoped would find fertile ground among the women to whom she was speaking.
“When, as an artist delegate to Carifesta In Jamaica, I found out that other countries had ministries of culture, other countries supported their artists… when I understood that there could be no political change without the cultural arts, without engaging the hearts and minds and souls of the voters, through music, through poetry, through drama, through painting or dance, then I understood that arts had a place to play in politics, then I felt that I had a place to play in politics,” she said.
Melanie Griffin, Minister of Social Services and Community Development, noted the importance of National Women’s Week and the milestones that women in the Bahamas have made.
The week was observed November 24 to 30 under the theme “Promoting Women in Leadership in a Developing Bahamas.”
Mrs Griffin said since women first voted in 1962 in the Bahamas, they have made “tremendous strides”. But there is more to be done in the area of governance and politics.
“While women have and continue to hold leading positions in a number of other areas, one in which we are lagging is that of governance, hence focused attention needs to be given to increase the participation of women in this area and this is a topic we are addressing this Women’s Week,” said Mrs Griffin.
During the week there was increased attention on the matter of violence against women.
Dr Eslyn Jones, vice president of student affairs at the College of the Bahamas, commended the Ministry of Social Services and Community Development for its collaboration with the Bureau of Women’s Affairs, the National Women’s Council and the Zonta Clubs of the Bahamas.
“There is very little recorded on violence against women in the Bahamas. This presents an opportunity for research at the college. As the leading tertiary institution, I believe it is our responsibility to take the lead in this initiative and I am sure our faculty and students will take on that challenge,” said Dr Jones.
Among the women who attended the forum were Glenys Hanna Martin, Minister of Transport and Aviation; Ann Marie Davis, wife of Deputy Prime Minister Philip Davis and Senator Cheryl Bazard.