BRADES – Hon. Speaker of the Legislature Shirley Osborne used the recent executive meetings of the Commonwealth Parliamentary
Association to highlight the need for more inclusion of gender and the British Overseas Territories.
Speaking upon her return from Sabah, Malaysia, where she participated in the Mid-Year Executive Committee Meeting from April 27 to May 3, 2015, she said Montserrat and the other British OTs were left out of the opening ceremony which was quite disheartening.
The new Speaker said during the planning and review meeting which Montserrat is on, she raised the issue requesting that for the Annual General Meeting in Pakistan later this year, the flags of all nations are included. Osborne said she refused to accept the explanation that it was because the islands were all still under British rule why they were not given individual mention. She was able to get the assurance that it would not occur again.
Montserrat is mid-way of a three-year term on the committee. Osborne said later this year she will be switched to the finance committee. Another matter that she raised during the sessions was the lack of topics relating to gender on the agenda for the Pakistan conference. Although told by colleagues that it was not a priority as women were not interested in being in politics in some societies, the speaker who is an advocate for women’s issues, persisted and was able to have the matter of women in parliament added to the list of discussions.
“The UN has set a mark of 33% of women in parliament and I would like if it were 50%. But we still have not reached that,” Osborne explained. She said violence, cultural norms and are playing a role in how women are perceived and whether they feel empowered to be in public office.
The speaker said while Montserrat is small and may not be economically powerful, “we matter, are capable and have our intelligence. If Montserrat does not participate as the other OTs we risk getting lost so we need to make the most of it now.”