Vaz will tomorrow join 16 other women in Parliament

With Balford Henry

Monday, April 15, 2019

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TOMORROW, April 16, marks the swearing in of the 17th woman in the current Parliament, Ann- Marie Vaz, and the second to sit with her husband at the same time in Gordon House.

Vaz defeated former Opposition Senator Damion Crawford by 319 votes (9,989 to 9,670) in the by-election held on April 4 to find a replacement for the late Dr Lynvale Bloomfield (People's National Party —PNP) who was murdered in February.

There are currently 16 women in Gordon House — five in the Senate and 11 in the House of Representatives — which means that only about 20 per cent of the parliamentarians are women. The global average is 24.1 per cent for Lower House seats won by women.

This is a sad reflection on a political system which is dominated by women activists, but seem unable to encourage the development of the vast number of these female activists into effective representatives at the parliamentary level.

The African nation of Rwanda has the best figures for women in parliament with and amazing 61.3 per cent, followed by Cuba, 53.2 per cent; Bolivia, 53.1 per cent; Mexico, 48.2 per cent; and Grenada, the only English-speaking Caribbean country in the top 12 with 46.7 per cent.

Incidentally, one of the few things that brought Democrats and Republicans together during US President Donald Trump's recent State of the Union address was his celebration of a record number of women in the US Congress. One hundred and two women (102) were elected to the House of Representatives in the 2018 mid-terms, taking 23.5 per cent of the 435 seats.

But, even this means that the United States still lags well behind much of the world when it comes to female representation — ranking just 75th on a list compiled by the Inter-Parliamentary Union.

Tomorrow, there is likely to be some celebration in the vicinity of Duke Street, where the Parliament is situated, as there is no doubt that Government supporters are going to want to welcome Vaz home after her victory in the recent by-election, considering the islandwide interest in the poll.

What is interesting though about the local Parliament is that both the Leader of Government Business and the Leader of Opposition Business — Senator Kamina Johnson Smith (Government) and Senator Donna Scott Mottley (Opposition) — are women.

Sectoral debate

The annual Sectoral Debate opens tomorrow with presentations from Minister of National Security Dr Horace Chang, and Opposition spokesman on Mining and Energy Phillip Paulwell.

The debate is expected to end by May 22.

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