Caribbean First Ladies Urged to Put Their Influence to Good Use for Their Countries

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Sheila Roseau

Antigua Observer — Several women of prominence are calling for the Caribbean’s first ladies and the spouses of heads of government to be allowed more prominent roles in the development of their countries and the advancement of various causes.

The call comes on the heels of the establishment of a Caribbean First Ladies/Spouses Network (CARIFLAN) to champion the “Every Caribbean Woman Every Caribbean Child” (ECWECC) initiative.

Sheila Roseau, the United Nations Population Fund’s (UNFPA) Deputy Regional Director for Latin America and the Caribbean, said, “It should be what they are comfortable with and what they believe in and what they want to champion.”

She added, “It’s not for us to give them something to focus on that they don’t want to focus on, but it’s for them to determine what their priorities are and what they would like to do.”

Speaking on OBSERVER Radio’s Big Issues yesterday, Roseau was joined by former ambassador and United Progressive Party (UPP) caretaker Joan Underwood, who said there was already a model from which the newly formed CARIFLAN can take examples.

“There is a grouping of African first ladies and they have tackled some extremely weighty issues from microfinance to food security. There is a benefit in extracting and adopting what has been done and suiting it for your own situation,” Underwood said.

She also argued that the issues that CARIFLAN has agreed to address — domestic violence, teenage pregnancy, cervical cancer, mother-to-child transmission of HIV/AIDS and trafficking in persons — are not “women’s issues.”

“These are national issues. These are human rights issues,” she said. “These are economic issues and they are extremely impactful issues and these spouses do have certain privileges and certain access that will allow them to be impactful.”

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