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Local News 06 Apr, 2023 Follow News

Parliament-Women Luncheon-Speaker and Deputy Premier

Parliament-Women Luncheon-Plaque

Women Parliament - Programme and Flower

Mrs. Zena Merren-Chin (Clerk & Chief Officer), Ms. Wendy Lauer (former Clerk of the Legislative Assembly), Mrs. Berna Thompson-Cummins (MLA, 1992-1996), Hon. Mary Lawrence (Speaker, 2009-2013), Mrs. D

The Speaker of Parliament, Hon. Katherine Ebanks-Wilks, hosted the second Women of Parliament luncheon for past and present Members, Speakers, and Clerks on Thursday at the House of Parliament.

All current female Members of Parliament (MPs) along with five former parliamentarians were in attendance. The luncheon also served to cultivate positive non-partisan working relationships with the women across generations.

“As a female Speaker of Parliament, not the first and certainly not the last, I wanted to take time out of our busy schedules to show you appreciation and to have conversations with women who have paved the way before us,” said Hon. Katherine Ebanks-Wilks.

The Deputy Premier, Hon. Juliana O’Connor-Connolly, whose birthday was also celebrated, was honoured as A phenomenal Woman and Longest Serving Female Member of Parliament with the presentation of a crystal plaque. The current Clerk of the Parliament, Mrs Zena Merren-Chin, lauded Hon O’Connor-Connolly for the many roles that she has played including those in Parliament of Speaker, Premier, Deputy Premier, Minister, MP, JP, Lawyer, Teacher, Mother and Pastor.

In addition to the Speaker and the Deputy Premier, current women parliamentarians included the Hon. Sabrina Turner, Minister for Health and Home Affairs, Ms. Heather Bodden, Parliamentary Secretary, and Ms. Barbara Conolly, Member of the Opposition.

Past parliamentarians present were three former MLAs (referred to as MPs after December 2020), one former Speaker, and one former Clerk. The former Members included Hon. Mary Lawrence, who served as Speaker from 2009 – 2013; Mrs. Daphne Orrett, who served as an MLA for West Bay from 1984-1988 and who is the oldest surviving female former-parliamentarian; Mrs. Berna Thompson-Cummins who served for George Town from 1992-1996; and, Ms. Lucille Seymour who represented George Town from 2005-2009. Also in attendance was the former Clerk of the Legislature, Ms. Wendy Lauer, having served as Clerk from 2001-2009 and Deputy Clerk from 1981-2001.

“Set your goals, set your course, navigate it, trust in God and lean in with other women,” the Deputy Premier advised in her remarks to the group as she recounted her journey into a life of politics and the hurdles she overcame through faith and determination. “We say sisteren, and this isn’t a proper word, but just so we understand, how good it is to dwell in community with one another.”

Over the course of the luncheon, the women shared their thoughts on how to support future generations of female parliamentarians. “What we’ve shared at the table today,” said the Speaker, “is that we wish to start a committee with women who are in Parliament now and those who previously served, and find ways to encourage women who are interested in serving.”

The Deputy Premier and the Clerk thanked the former Clerk, Ms. Lauer, for “being the architect” of the Speaker’s Notes, a guiding document for Speakers and Clerks that Ms. Lauer established upon Hon. O’Connor-Connolly’s becoming the Speaker in 2001. “You have a wonderful memory,” Ms. Lauer responded.

Since women were eligible to be elected to serve in public office in 1959, there have been 13 women elected to the House, and five female Speakers.

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