Tusankine English [Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Secretariat, Guyana] reports on the latest recipient of CARICOM’s Triennial Award for Women, the Rt. Hon. Dame Janet Gwennett Bostwick. [Many thanks to Jerusa Ali for bringing this item to our attention.]
The Rt. Hon. Dame Janet Gwennett Bostwick emerged as the winner of the 2021 Award, out of 13 distinguished CARICOM women. Minister of Social Services and Urban Development of The Bahamas and Chair of the 40th Meeting of the Council for Human and Social Development (COHSOD-Gender), The Hon. Frankie Campbell, made the announcement during that meeting on Friday, 4 June.
The Conferral of the CARICOM Triennial Award for Women had its genesis in 1983, when Ministers of Women’s Affairs proposed the award to commemorate the 10th Anniversary of CARICOM. It was introduced the following year, and since then, CARICOM has recognised women’s contributions in the fields of Agriculture, Economics, Law, Politics, Gender and Development to Religion, Public Service and Trade Unionism.
The Award process includes the submission of nominations by both governments and non-governmental organisations to the CARICOM Secretary-General. A Regional Selection Committee comprising representatives of Member States on a rotation schedule recommends the Preferred Candidate and an Alternate.
COHSOD approves the Awardee, and the CARICOM Secretary-General personally notifies her. The recipient receives a 14-carat gold brooch/pendant with the CARICOM logo presented in a jewel box. She also receives a scroll with a citation of her distinguished contributions enclosed in a leather cylindrical holder. The previous recipient of the CARICOM Triennial Award was veteran advocate for Domestic workers rights, Ms. Shirley Pryce of Jamaica.
Ms. Ann-Marie Williams, Deputy Programme Manager for Gender within the Human and Social Develop Sub-programme of the CARICOM Secretariat, read a citation in honour of Dame Bostwick during the COHSOD Meeting.
The citation reads:
The Rt. Hon. Dame Janet Gwennett Bostwick, counsel and attorney, is known as a model politician and pioneer among women in The Bahamas. She is admired and respected as a champion for the empowerment of women, not only in her native Commonwealth of The Bahamas, but also in the region and beyond.
She has the distinction of having achieved several `firsts’ in her career. These include: first female Secretary General of The Bahamas Public Services Union; prosecutor; President of the Bar Association and Chairman of the Bar Council; Member of Parliament, following her election in 1982; Attorney General, Minister of Foreign Affairs and also the first female to act as Prime Minister of The Commonwealth of The Bahamas. She has also held the portfolios of Minister of Social Services, Housing and National Insurance, and Minister of Justice and Immigration. Throughout her tenure as a Cabinet Minister she has always held ministerial responsibility for women’s affairs.
Dame Janet’s activism on women’s issues is steeped. It started in the mid-1960s, and continued throughout her political career. As a trade unionist, she campaigned to improve the status of women primarily because of the inequities they faced. These range from the pay gap with men, non-existent maternity benefits to job insecurity at the time. Once admitted to the Bar, she became even more vocal. She advocated to audiences in churches, women’s groups and unions for more participation of men in the rearing of children, increased maintenance and for a resolution of issues associated with children born out of wedlock, including improved custody and the administration of justice for children and young persons, and for changes in legislation around sexual offences, domestic violence and matrimonial matters.
In pursuit of the quest for women’s rights, between 1992-1994, she led the Bahamian delegation at the OAS Inter-American Commission of Women and served on its Executive Committee. Since 1994, she has served on the Executive Committee of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women. In 1995, she served as a Regional Vice Chairperson of the Bureau of the United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing, China. At this Conference, she was head of the delegation of The Bahamas and The Bahamas was unanimously selected to coordinate the Caribbean Region. In this capacity, she presided at all CARICOM meetings.