The Organisation of American States (OAS) and the Government of Saint Lucia joined last week to commemorate International Women’s Day and highlight gender disparity in political participation and leadership in Saint Lucia.
The one-day exercise came ahead of the rest of the world observing this year’s International Women’s Day.
The session was also attended by local women interested in politics, governance and leadership at the highest level in policy decision-making, as well as past and present female parliamentarians from both sides of the political divide.
“This will expose them to some of the issues, strengthen them, empower them,” Senate President Alvina Reynolds said, adding: “We want to empower more of the young women of Saint Lucia to enter the political arena.”
According to the Senate President, “It is something that they are afraid of, but there is a need for that balance in the political landscape for decision-making at the highest level, and through sessions like this, we are trying to make that happen.”
Lilly Ching, resident representative of the General Secretariat of the OAS in Saint Lucia said, “Women’s political participation has significantly progressed over the last few decades.
“However, independent of the commitments adopted on women’s political rights, progress on their implementation has been uneven and slow.
“The World Economic Forum estimates that we will need another 132 years to close the gender gap”.
The Castries event was co-hosted by the OAS through its the Inter-American Commission of Women (CIM), which took place in the national parliament.
The three-hour event also marked the 95th anniversary of the CIM — of which Saint Lucia occupies one of the Vice-presidencies for the 2022-2025 period and which was established in 1928. (Saint Lucia joined CIM in 1979.)
It’s seen by Madam Ching Soto, as “a notable effort to make visible the under-representation of women in politics, encourage dialogue with political actors about the existing challenges and seeks a path towards equality in political representation and leadership positions.”
Former and current parliamentarians, ministers, civil society representatives, women, and youth also participated, she said, “with a view to creating pathways for the substantive representation of women in decision-making positions.”
OAS Secretary General, Luis Almagro, speaking before the event, recognized that, “Although politics in the Americas has progressed in the inclusion of women in senior decision-making positions, there is still a long way to go.”
He’s has been emphatic in expressing the institutional commitment of the General Secretariat and his staff to eliminating the gender biases and global injustice that still exist.
Examples of OAS action in this regard include: Creation (in 2022) of the High-Level Group to Promote the Implementation of the Recommendations of the Electoral Observation Missions on the Political Participation of Women and the recently-established Plan for Gender Parity in Decision-Making Positions of the OAS General Secretariat.
Almagro stressed that, “beyond a mere matter of justice, the benefit of parity and equality is for all of society, and not just for women.”
He said, “The demand that more women participate in decision-making must go hand in hand with men not only accepting the agenda for equality from a formal point of view, but also accepting the values that women bring to public life, to the extent that they contribute to the transformation of public affairs and place the challenge of equality at the forefront of decision-making.”
For her part, the Executive Secretary of CIM, Alejandra Mora Mora, said the event “…seeks to recognize women’s leaderships, and their representation, as a path towards strengthening democracy.”
She said it is “also a step towards equality and the OAS’ commitment to parity, as well as the CIM and Saint Lucia’s commitment to strengthening our joint work.”
“It addresses many of the recommendations made by the 2021 Electoral Observation Mission in terms of eliminating the barriers and creating enabling conditions for women’s full and equal participation in politics and decision-making,” she added.
Meanwhile, OAS Representative in Saint Lucia, Lily Ching Soto, has expressed her satisfaction at the realization of the joint event, which, she says, “reflects the spirit of collaboration that exists between the Organization and the State.”
She also recalled that “February 18 marked the Day of Women of the Americas and the 95th anniversary of the CIM, whose first goal was to extend the right to vote to women.”
The CIM, Ching Soto affirmed, “has played an essential role in the transformations that have occurred in the role of women in the Americas over last near century; and it has the validity and the strength necessary to continue to play this role in the transformations that are still pending and necessary to change both minds and realities.”
According to Madam Ching, this event was “an extraordinary effort” by the Saint Lucia Government and the OAS to address political participation of Saint Lucian women, “in the framework of International Women’s Day.”