The Equality and Balance of Women in Politics
By Lucille Seymour, BEM, JP
Since I was ten years old, I knew I wanted to be a politician. My mother and many Caymanian women have helped me serve my country as a Public servant in the Civil Service and in Parliament.
Until it becomes a full reality, my mission is to see that other eligible women who throw their hats in the ring are given the same and equal opportunity. I invite you also to join me to be the shoulder for them to stand on.
Thankfully the Honorable Edna Moyle and Mrs. Berna Cummings brought the motion in 1995 to establish the Ministry of Women Affairs. This was a Ministry that would set policies to empower women. I was given the distinct opportunity to be the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Women Affairs. At that time, the establishment for making CEDAW be part of the Cayman Islands was envisioned. The Convention on the elimination of discrimination of women is a document that helps significantly ensure women become equal to their male counterparts in all segments of society. I have been supporting women in politics in my country, the Cayman Islands, since then and, more importantly, when I started to campaign in 1999. I am still an advocate and will remain an advocate until equality is fully realized.
I HAVE BEEN EXPOSED TO DISPARAGING COMMENTS AND EVEN BEEN TOLD THAT MY ROLE SHOULD ONLY BE 'A HELPER IN THE COMMUNITY OR A SUNDAY SCHOOL TEACHER". IN OTHER WORDS, THE REAL POLITICS ARE FOR MALES, SO YOU DO THE THINGS WOMEN SHOULD DO "DOMESTICALLY."
What a strange coincidence. That same person is now running for the first time to get into politics. One day I will reveal his identity.
I genuinely support women's contributions in the Cayman Islands because of the era in which I was born. I also brought a motion in the Parliament to praise their contributions. I have excellent recall of the importance and significance women had in raising the country and their children during the South Well Years. Some men remaining at home worked in Civil Service, the young men were at school or helping their parents on the farm. Some did not become seamen because of other issues, but most of our menfolk went to sea. The country could be called matriarchal governed.
The question, therefore, is about who guided those left behind: the children, students, and others in the Cayman Islands. Furthermore, one must ask, who was in charge of character-building and guided us to do well, be industrious, and set the tone of a well-disciplined home? Those children are now in their sixties and seventies; we were taught to be ambitious, educated, entrepreneurial, and able to stand independently? The women labored as mothers, caregivers, teachers, farmers, and counselors to their children. My friends, this was a real miracle and an example of how women can run things.
I remember my mother, who worked at the hospital attending to seamen. She was also a farmer and organized to build homes and layout houses for her sons. She and other women learned the art of multitasking and made critical decisions concerning survival and raising good children. She was the banker and the decision-maker for organizing her husband and son's allotment. She even assisted her nephews with investment at home. She made decisions on what should happen with the children and how they should be trained up. She, as the Africans would say, was the "cacique" leader or el numero uno.
Women were the home's company director, a position guiding what happened to the allotments and their male counterparts' activities while they were at sea. They enriched their empowerment skills in the absence of their significant other, enabling them to take charge. This was a critical task accorded to them because of the lack of their male counterparts. In later years, one would see how this helped them go out into the world of work when the economic miracle looked feasible.
So today, we have to give them halos for a job well done. These were important, and they applied them without fault. So it begs the question: Why not be given political responsibilities and be more personal in the political process to help with politically steering our country?
It baffles my mind as a citizen of this country; we prefer to have skilled, well-educated, university-trained, more endowed females sit on the political sideline. At times we seem to be pushing some who are less qualified than them to run the country. Please understand my question. It doesn't mean to be disparaging. We have to consider grace and dignity if this is a good practice of an equal, balanced, and democratic Christian society. The online harm in social media also hurts women as those without backbones emaciate them anonymously.
Yes, we can always tout that our human rights are taken away. Still, is it okay to disenfranchise our women and stunt equality when we advertently or inadvertently deprived them of working with their male counterparts to help guide our country's governance by sitting in Parliament?
Folks, this is the 21st century. More females are attending universities and more financially solvent than any other century. Still, 50 years after the Sex Disqualification Act, we have only 11 women in Parliament. Shame on us for how we respond to women who are bravely stepping up and throwing their hats in the ring.
Look at the empowerment pathways of those 11 women who took the risk of becoming politicians. All of the women throwing their hats in the ring have been skilled and appropriately qualified. Some were self-employed, came from high-level employment positions, and held poignant positions or qualifications; women who have all made a significant mark in their country? These are great qualities of a politician.
We need balance in our political representation in our country's governance. It does not augur well for a country to not be fully conscious of equality. Yet, we speak of human rights and what we as Caymanians must get from our Government.
I appeal to Caymanians to look carefully at the balance of females and males in our Parliament and try hard to see that we can consciously ensure women have equal opportunities and training on our political boards and our Parliament in the future. We must now have the consciousness of equality and diversity.
Politics is about interests, and the job of the representatives is to resolve each appeal. Many of your constituents' issues are family-related. Women in the Cayman Islands must be allowed to serve in the Government to address these issues. Furthermore, the population must be represented equally.
Confucius said that "women hold up half the sky." This is balance, so in the Cayman Islands' political representation, women should and must sit as equals in our Parliament's hallowed halls, ensuring a remarkable life for all.
After retiring from Government, I had continued to speak out on this subject and wrote about it when I first campaigned in 1999 to become a legislator. Today it is still pertinent. I will timely, gracefully, and aptly bring it to our consciousness and our women in particular as Hillary Clinton said, when women vote for women, women win'.
Please understand the push for women in politics doesn't mean that we need to deny our male counterparts. No, our male counterparts have been given ample opportunity to become politicians since 1800. My quest is balance and equality, with males and females working equally and side-by-side to make a better Cayman.