CARIBBEAN WOMEN OF POWER

Here is a collection of profile stories which traces the history, experiences, challenges and successes of outstanding women from the Caribbean territories, as they navigate the traditionally male dominated arenas. 

“The collection brings together in one place, a distinguish group of women who have contributed in significant ways to the development of the Caribbean and the Americas. Who have pushed against the odds to achieve their goals and who have been quite extremely influential in the political landscape” 

The Honorable KAMLA PERSAD-BISSESSAR, SC., MP.

Kamla Persad-Bissessar SC, MP (born 22 April 1952 in Siparia) is the Prime Minister of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, the seventh person to hold this position. She was sworn in as Prime Minister on May 26, 2010 and is the country’s first female Prime Minister.

Persad-Bissessar is the political leader of the United National Congress and leads the People’s Partnership, a coalition of five parties, formed for the general election of 24 May 2010. She was the first woman to serve as Attorney General, acting Prime Minister, Leader of the Opposition of Trinidad and Tobago. She became Political Leader of the United National Congress and Opposition in 2010

The Prime Minister greets US. AG Eric Holder Jr. at the Diplomatic CenterSt Ann’s, Trinidad & Tobago

Kamla Persad-Bissessar’s ancestors originally hail from Bhelupur village of Buxar district, Bihar, India. Her ancestors migrated from Bihar to the Caribbean islands in the 19th century as Girmitiya labourers to Trinidad and Tobago.She graduated from Iere High School and went on to further her studies at the University of the West Indies, Norwood Technical College (England), and the Hugh Wooding Law School. Consequently, she was awarded a B.A. (Hons.), a Diploma in Education, a B.A. of Laws (Hons.) and a Legal Education Certificate. In 2006 she obtained an Executive Masters in Business Administration (EMBA) from the Arthur Lok Jack Graduate School of Business, Trinidad.

On completion of her studies, Mrs. Persad-Bissessar entered the teaching profession. While in England pursuing studies, she worked as a social worker with the Church of England Children’s Society of London. She taught at the St. Andrew High School in Kingston, Jamaica and at the Mona Campus in Jamaica. Later, she taught at the St. Augustine campus of the University of the West Indies in Trinidad. At the Jamaica College of Insurance she was also a Consultant Lecturer. Her next step was to lecture at a Tertiary Education institution. After lecturing for a total of six years, Mrs. Persad-Bissessar then became a full-time Attorney-at-Law.

Persad-Bissessar has served as Member of Parliament for the Siparia constituency since 1995. She served as Attorney General in 1995 untilRamesh Maharaj was able to disassociate himself from ongoing cases and again in 2001 after Maharaj left the party. When the United National Congress formed Government on December 22, 2000, she was sworn in as the Minister of Education.

On April 25, 2006 she received the support of the majority of Opposition MPs for the post of Leader of the Opposition. The position of Leader of the Opposition was declared vacant by President George Maxwell Richards after Basdeo Panday was convicted of failing to make an accurate declaration to the Integrity Commission concerning a bank account held in London.  His Appeal is pending. Persad-Bissessar was subsequently appointed Leader of the Opposition on April 26, 2006.

Persad-Bissessar is married to Dr. Gregory Bissessar and has one son.

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The Honorable, PORTIA LUCRETIA SIMPSON-MILLER, ON., MP.

The Most Honorable Portia Simpson Miller was sworn in as Prime Minister of Jamaica on January 5, 2012. Previously she had been Prime Minister from March 2006 to September 2007, after having served for 17 years as a Cabinet Minister with portfolio responsibility for Labour and Social Security, Tourism and Local Government, Community Development and Sport. She was conferred with the Order of the Nation in May 2006.

Mrs Simpson Miller has a distinguished record of service at the regional and international levels: she is a member of the Council of Women World Leaders (an international network of current and former women presidents and prime ministers whose mission is to mobilize on women’s issues); vice president of  the  Organization of American States’ High‐level Inter‐American Network on Decentralization, Local Government and Citizen Participation; Chairperson of the Caribbean Forum of Ministers responsible for decentralization,  local government, community development and citizen participation, and board member of the Commonwealth Local Government Forum.  She has also been a member of the Board of Trustees of CIFAL (an international training centre for governmental authorities) in Atlanta, Georgia.

In March 2007, Mrs. Simpson Miller was awarded the International Olympic Committee’s World Women and Sport Trophy for her outstanding dedication to women in Jamaican Sports – both athletes and administrators.

The leading architect of Jamaica’s Master Plan for Sustainable Tourism Development, Mrs Simpson Miller has been tireless in promoting and strengthening urban renewal and community development, leading to fundamental reforms in local government.

As Minister of Labour and Welfare, she presided over a significant expansion of Jamaica’s Overseas Work Programme and under her watch; the National Insurance Scheme was transformed into a major component of the government’s social protection system. She was also instrumental in establishing a Labour Chair in the University of the West Indies, Department of Government.

The Most Hon. Portia Simpson Miller has had a distinguished record of service at the regional and international level. She was Vice President of the Organization of American States’ High-Level Inter-American Network on Decentralization, Local Government and Citizen Participation (RIAD). She was also the Chairperson of the Caribbean Forum of Ministers responsible for Decentralization, Local Government, Community Development and Citizen Participation and is a Board Member of the Commonwealth Local Government Forum (CLGF) and CIFAL Atlanta. As Jamaican Prime Minister, she served as Chairman of the CARICOM Prime Ministerial Sub-committee on External Negotiations.

Simpson-Miller was first elected in 1976 to the Parliament of Jamaica, for the constituency of South West St. Andrew Parish, as a member of the People’s National Party. The PNP boycottedthe elections called in 1983. She was re-elected to the same seat in a later election, and served as Minister of Labour, Welfare and Sports from 1989 to 1993. She was Minister of Labour and Welfare from 1993 to 1995, Minister of Labour, Social Security and Sports from 1995 to February 2000, Minister of Tourism and Sports from February 2000 to October 2002, and Minister of Local Government and Sport since October 2002.

She was a vice president of the PNP from 1978 to 2006, when she became its president. In the PNP’s internal vote to elect P. J. Patterson’s successor, held on 26 February 2006, she received 1,775 votes, while her nearest rival, security minister Dr. Peter Phillips, took 1,538 votes. She garnered approximately 47% of the delegates’ vote, making her the first PNP president to be elected by less than half of eligible delegates. In July 2008, Simpson-Miller was challenged for the presidency of the PNP by Phillips. The election was held among the party’s delegates on 20 September. She was re-elected as the head of the PNP for her second consecutive year, defeating him by an even wider margin that that of the previous election.

She replaced outgoing Prime Minister Patterson on 30 March 2006, becoming the first female head of government of the nation and the third in the Anglophone Caribbean following Eugenia Charles of Dominica and Janet Jagan of Guyana. In appointing her first cabinet following her swearing-in, she also assumed the portfolio of defence minister.

Portia Simpson Miller pursued her education up to the secondary level in Jamaica, before reading for her Bachelor of Arts Degree in Public Administration at the Union Institute and University in the United States of America, which later awarded her an Honorary Doctorate. She completed the Executive Programme for Leaders in Development at the prestigious John Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University.

 Simpson-Miller is married to Errald Miller, formerly CEO of Cable & Wireless Jamaica Ltd. On 29 May 2006 she was vested with the JamaicanOrder of the Nation, giving her (and her husband) the style “The Most Honorable”

BARBARA MAKEDA BLAKE-HANNAH

Barbara Makeda Blake-Hannah is a Jamaican author, journalist, filmmaker, public speaker and managing director of Jamaica Media Productions. Mrs. Blake-Hannah was the first Rastafarian to sit in the Jamaican Parliament, appointed an Independent Opposition Senator in 1984-1988. She first made history in 1968, when she became the first Black TV journalist in Britain on THAMES-TV’s daily evening show, Today with Eamonn Andrews. She worked with BBC-TV, ATV-Birmingham and CHANNEL 4-TV.

Mrs. Blake-Hannah is one of Jamaica’s most respected cultural historians and authors. Her book Rastafari – The New Creation first published in 1982 is the first book about Rastafari written by a practicing member of the faith, now in its 6th edition. Her novel Joseph: A Rasta Reggae Fable is inspired by the life of Bob Marley. She was presented with a Gold Centenary Adowa Award by the Ethiopian Crown Council for her work on behalf of the global Rastafari community. Her book Home – The First School is a homeschooling guide book based on her own parenting experience.

Mrs. Blake-Hannah has spoken on Caribbean culture at several universities including NYU Graduate School of Cultural Anthropology; The University of Vienna, Austria; the University of the West Indies, Kingston and Guyana; the University of the Virgin Islands; Florida International University and she was a member of the Jamaican Delegation to the 2001 UN World Conference Against Racism.

She has served in the Office of 3 Jamaican Prime Ministers: Michael Manley, Edward Seaga and Bruce Golding. Her most recent assignment was as Advisor/Consultant to the Jamaican Minister of Information, Culture, Youth & Sports, during which she established the Jamaica Film Academy and initiated the first Reggae Film Festival.

She has made 8 films including the world-famous documentary Race, Rhetoric, Rastafari produced for CHANNEL 4-UK in 1982, and Kids Paradise a children’s TV drama that won an audience award at the 1994 Chicago Childrens’ Film Festival. Her latest documentary The Road through the Blue Mountains, is a spiritual journey through the most beautiful natural locales of Jamaica’ famous coffee region.

On a personal level, she is well-known in Jamaica as a pioneer of homeschooling, as her son Makonnen made international history in 1998 when he was appointed at age 13 years as the Government’s Youth Technology consultant. Her book Home – The First School: A Guide to Early Childhood Education’ was published in 2009. Growing Out her autobiography of her London years was published in August 2010.

The Hon. MIA AMOR MOTLEY, Q.C., MP.

Mia Amor Mottley, Q.C., M.P, Bachelor of Laws (born 1 October 1965) is a member of Parliament for the Constituency of St. Michael North East in Barbados.

 Mottley first served Barbadian politics as early as 1991, when she had lost an election race in St. Michael North East between herself and the late Leroy Brathwaite (a defeated of less than 200 votes). Between 1991 and 1994 she was one of two Opposition Senators in the Upper House where she was Shadow Minister of Culture and Community Development. During that time, she also served on numerous Parliamentary Joint Select Committees on areas ranging from Praedial Larceny and Domestic Violence.

In September 1994, Mottley became one of the youngest Barbadians ever to be assigned a ministerial portfolio at age 29, she was appointed to the Ministry of Education, Youth Affairs and Culture. During her tenure she co-authored the White Paper on Education titled “Each Child Matters” that draws the link between better education and job fulfillment.

She was elected General Secretary of the Barbados Labour Party two years later. In that same year and again the following year (1997) she served as Chairman of the Caricom Standing Committee of Ministers of Education.

Mottley was appointed Attorney General and Minister of Home Affairs in August 2001 and is the first female (in Barbados) to hold this position. She is also the youngest ever Queen’s Council in Barbados. In addition to being a Member of the Privy Council of Barbados, she was Leader of the House and a member of the National Security Council and the Barbados Defence Board. She is also credited with being the visionary behind the Education Sector Enhancement Programme, popularly known as Edutech, which aims to increase the number of young people contributing to the island’s sustainable social and economic development. This revolutionary program involves the widespread use of information and communication technologies to assist in improving the quality of the teaching/learning process.

In Youth Affairs, Mottley directed the establishment of the Youth Entrepreneurship Scheme and a National Youth Development Programme.

Two years later Mottley was to serve as Barbados’s second female Deputy Prime Minister and Chairman of the Social Council of Barbados and the Deputy Chairman of Barbados’ Economic Council. A position she held until 2008 and allowing her extended responsibilities including the chairmanship of a number of key Cabinet sub-committees, notably Telecommunications Reform and one oversight of the administrative and legislative initiatives to prepare Barbados for the advent of the Caribbean Single Market and Economy.

Under Prime Minister Owen Seymour Arthur’s (17 October 1949-) administration of the Barbados Labour Party (BLP) in February 2006, a government reshuffle ensured Mottley became Minister of Economic Affairs and Development, a post she also held until 2008, where her responsibilities put her in charge of key economic agencies.

Following the defeat in the election held on 15 January 2008 and Owen Arthur’s laying down the mantle as party leader, Mia Mottley was chosen as BLP party leader on 19 January 2008. She is the first woman to lead the party, as well as the country’s first female Opposition Leader. Mottley was sworn in as Opposition Leader on 7 February 2008; since her inauguration as Leader of the Opposition she has promised the people of Barbados that the Barbados Labour Party will be a strong and unified Opposition who will fight for the rights of all citizens in the country.

Ms. Mottley remind political leader until October 18, 2010

CLAUDETTE WERLEIGH

Claudette Werleigh (born 1946) was Prime Minister of Haïti from November 7, 1995 to February 7, 1996. She was Haiti’s first female Prime Minister.

She had previously been Minister of Foreign Affairs and of Religion in 1993 and 1995. Before that, she was the executive director of the Haitian embassy in Washington, D.C.

From literacy education in rural Haiti to her post as Haiti’s first female prime minister and on to secretary general of the Catholic peace movement Pax Christi International, Claudette Werleigh of Haiti has witnessed conflict and worked for peace in all corners of the world, with people from every corner of society. She is a peacemaker at every level.

The daughter of a prosperous business family, Werleigh was brought up on one side of Haiti’s social fabric, but she soon saw the realities of the other side. The structural violence embedded in the Haitian society had a profound effect on Werleigh, now known in her life’s work as a staunch advocate for keeping policies and practices firmly rooted in the needs and voices of the grassroots.

As a young adult focused on justice for those caught in Haiti’s disparate social structure, Werleigh was drawn to the field of education – specifically adult literacy – and started a school for adults and rural Haitian farmers. Community-owned and run throughout Haiti’s tumult of political violence, earthquakes and epidemics, the school has been open and running for 33 years. Under the dictatorship of Jean-Claude Duvalier, Werleigh served as secretary general of Caritas Haiti for 10 years, coordinating relief assistance, civic education and respect for human rights.

Werleigh’s entrée into a career in public administration and politics began in 1990 as part of a broad democratic consensus government. The 1991 coup d’etat that overthrew the first democratically elected government convinced her of the need to work not only for justice, but also for peace. ‘She served as executive director of the Washington Office on Haiti from 1992 to 1993 and minister of foreign and religious affairs in Haiti from 1993 to 1995, and then made history as Haiti’s first female prime minister in 1995, during the Aristide administration. While always connected to her home country, Werleigh’s path has also taken her outside of Haiti’s borders into issues of international peace and conflict – as the director of conflict transformation programs at the Life and Peace Institute in Sweden until 2007, and then with Pax Christi where she was secretary general until this year and now serves as a peace envoy.

Werleigh has worked with diverse communities in conflict and those transitioning out of war and violence around the world, deepening her understanding of the factors that trigger violent conflict. And the disparities she saw as a young girl in Haiti continue to transcend borders and inform her work. “The widening gap is not only between rich and poor nations but also between classes within a same single country,” she says of the chasm she’s spent her life working to bridge. Whether at home or in a new community, Werleigh is known for her commitment to keeping her ear tuned to the voices at the grassroots.

The Honorable, Senator, SANTIA J. O. BRADSHAW

Santia Bradshaw, the second child of Delisle and Shirley Bradshaw was born on 13th March, 1976, the same year her father won his seat. It goes without saying then that Santia has politics flowing through her veins and according to her she is “ready to work with the people”.

With a penchant for justice, Santia, a former Christ Church Foundation School student, went to the United Kingdom and trained as a barrister-at-law. In 2000, she returned to Barbados to begin her legal career in chambers with two of Barbados’ most distinguished Queen Counsel’s Patterson Cheltenham and Dr. Richard Chelthenham.

Santia has since developed a successful civil practice in personal injury law, mortgages, conveyances, company law and entertainment law. So passionate about being involved in the development of the legal fraternity in Barbados that between 2006 and 2008, she held the position of Honorary Secretary of the Barbados Bar Association.

This vibrant young woman is also an accomplished entrepreneur. With a blossoming interest in entertainment law and recognising a need for a more structured approach to the music industry, Santia started Pyramid Entertainment Management Inc. an artist representation and booking agency. Her company currently represents some of the leading entertainers and deejays in Barbados and across the region.

Always on the look out for new and exciting opportunities, Santia also operates a music content label, Pyramid Music Group, which produces music videos, licences and distributes music content additionally she will soon be launching a television series, Pyramid TV. Santia is the co-owner of Headline Publishing, a music publishing company which publishes the music of several leading Caribbean songwriters. She recently relaunched Braddie’s Bar, a family owned business and restaurant located in Dover Christ Church which offers a once a week opportunity for emerging talent to be showcased.

Santia has been heavily involved in the development of the cultural industries in an advisory capacity and has often been engaged by Government institutions to advise on culture and cultural policy.  She has organized and hosted several music seminars and workshops focused on artist development and the business of music including the Bridging the Music Seminar (2004) and the Barbados Music Seminar and Showcase (2007).

Resolute in her mission, Santia embraces her new role as constituency representative and balances public service with her life as an attorney and entrepreneur.

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The Honorable, YVETTE DIANE CLARKE

Yvette Diane Clarke (born November 21, 1964) is the U.S. Representative for New York’s 11th congressional district, serving since 2007.Representative Yvette D. Clarke is a Brooklyn native whose roots are firmly planted in her Jamaican heritage.  A product of the New York City Public School System, Rep. Clarke received a scholarship to Oberlin College and was a recipient of the prestigious APPAH/Sloan Fellowship in Public Policy and Policy Analysis.

Rep. Clarke was first elected to Congress in November 2006 and represents the 11th Congressional District which includes the communities of Brownsville, Crown Heights, East Flatbush, Flatbush, Windsor Terrace, Borough Park, Sunset Park, Carroll Gardens, Kensington, Park Slope, Prospect Heights,  Prospect-Lefferts Gardens and Prospect Park.
Prior to being elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, Rep. Clarke served on the New York City Council representing the 40th District in Brooklyn.  She succeeded her pioneering mother, former City Council Member Una S. T. Clarke, making them the first mother-daughter succession in the history of the Council.
As the Congressional Representative of the 11th district, she is committed to continuing the district’s legacy of excellence as set forth by the late Honorable Shirley Chisholm, the first African American woman and Caribbean American elected to Congress.  As an activist, a community organizer and now as a legislator, Rep. Clarke’s boldness, compassion and love for humanity has allowed her to become an effective leader and an outspoken advocate on numerous issues of great importance to her constituents.
 Flatbush Haitian Center 25th Anniversary Gala Awards Dinner
Currently in the 112th Congress, Rep. Clarke sits on the House Committee on Homeland Security and House Committee on Small Business.
In the 111th Congress, Rep. Clarke sat on several committees including the House Education and Labor Committee, the House Homeland Security Committee and the House Small Business Committee.
Just two years in office, Rep. Clarke was appointed Chairwoman of the Homeland Security Subcommittee on Emerging Threats, Cybersecurity and Science and Technology for the 111th Congress.  Under her leadership, this Committee will exercise its oversight jurisdiction on a variety of issues, including cybersecurity, biodefense, pandemic influenza preparedness, nuclear detection, mitigating radiological attacks, agro-terrorism, and research and development within the Department of Homeland Security.
Known in the community for speaking truth to power, she is often called the “authentic voice of Brooklyn.”  Rep. Clarke also plans on using this voice to make the needs of her community a priority within the 112th Congress as the newly appointed Secretary for the Congressional Black Caucus and the Senior Whip for the Democratic Caucus.  The Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, Inc., (CBCF) also recently welcomed Rep. Yvette D. Clarke of New York to its Board of Directors.
 An unwavering champion for her native Brooklyn, she has worked with non-profit organizations, local community groups and appropriators to secure millions of dollars in essential federal support for the district.  As a result, major institutions received funds, including the Brooklyn Academy of Music, the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, the Brooklyn Public Library, the Brooklyn Children’s Museum, the Prospect Park Alliance and the New York State Department of Transportation (DOT).
As a testament to what Representative Clarke has accomplished in her first term, she received an “A” rating from the Drum Major Institute, The MiddleClass.org, and 100% ratings by Peace Action, The Brady Campaign and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). She was also named After-School Hero by The After-School Corporation for her work on the House Education and Labor Committee.  In May 2009, Rep. Clarke was also presented with an honorary Doctorate Law Degree from St. Francis College.
Rep. Clarke currently resides in the neighborhood where she grew up, in the Flatbush section of Brooklyn.

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