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The Women Speak Up In Parliament

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House contribution by Ann-Marie Davis Spouse of the Leader of the Opposition Women in Parliament Mock Session House of Assembly 11th December 2020

Thank you Madame Speaker for recognizing me. I stand in this Honourable place as a proud recipient of the legacy of the Suffragettes, both local and international; and as I stand on their proverbial shoulders, I salute the transformational impact their social and political activism has had on The Bahamas. I thank the Speaker of the House of Assembly for his support and assistance in making this important event, though symbolic, possible. We are indeed inheritors of a glorious legacy of social justice, equality and freedom – hard fought rights that we must never take for granted, but to fight to preserve them even as we as women demand more rights and empowerment.

Madame Speaker, I support this resolution within the context of the private and uneventful conversation between Rufus Ingraham and his wife Mary in the wake of his electoral defeat in the 1949 General Elections. Mr. Ingraham opined that had women possessed the voting franchise in 1949, the outcome of the 1949 General Elections may have been very different. His wife agreed with him, acted on his opinion and advice and therein was the rudimentary and informal beginnings of the universal women’s suffrage movement. That movement not only led to the rights of women to vote in 1962, but led to political leadership. I pay tribute to that movement and the personalities that made this journey and these important advancements for women of all walks of life possible.

Yes, today, we stand on their giant and fearless shoulders as our fight continues and their noble legacy is kept alive. So today Madame Speaker, seventy-one years later, marks a continuation of that private conversation. But in a public forum with a formal format. In the spirit, initial intent, tone and tenor of the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and in particular Article 7, I encourage all political parties to constructively engage our women to participate more in electoral politics.

I publicly support and advocate for women to represent at least thirty percent of the country’s parliamentary representation in this place. Madame Speaker, On the part of the resolution which focuses on gender based violence, I register my endorsement of this resolution by recommending that our government institutionalizes programs and training workshops as early as at the primary school level to sensitize our boys (especially) about the evil of all forms of violence against and abuse of our girls and women. These forms of violence include physical, psychological and emotional abuses stemming from harsh words and deeds directed at females.

Such sensitivity training must be expanded to include the workplace and NGO’s. Let us commit ourselves to building a national culture of gender civility – of cherishing and nurturing our girls and women as a Bahamian way of life. As I bring my parliamentary contribution to a close together with my endorsement of this progressive and forward looking resolution before us today, I leave this parliament and indeed the country with the following quote from Michelle Obama, former first lady of the United States of America on the importance on gender equality in achieving sustained national development. Michelle Obama said: “No country can ever truly flourish if it stifles the potential of its women and deprives itself of the contribution of half of its citizens.” Thank you Madame Speaker. I endorse this Resolution.