With the 2021 general elections now in the rear-view mirror, all eyes are on the composition of the new Parliament, which now has a key change – more women sitting in the driver’s seat as representatives.
Five female representatives, two more than that of last legislature, will be taking their seats in Parliament.
MPs Barbara Conolly and Juliana O’Connor-Connolly were re-elected, while former legislator Heather Bodden will return to the House as Savannah MP. Newcomers Katherine Ebanks-Wilks and Sabrina Turner seized control of the hotly contested seats of West Bay Central and Prospect.
Political analyst Livingston Smith, commenting on the increased female representatives, said it was a positive change for Cayman.
“That the female representation in Parliament has increased by two, is a very progressive aspect of the election. The more diverse the pool of persons in Parliament, the better the levels of representation and likely more nuanced and inclusive the policies that come from the legislature,” he told the Cayman Compass.
This shift comes against the backdrop of a smaller pool of female candidates in this general election race versus 2017.
Smith, in a previous analysis on the issue of female representation, told the Compass that it was concerning that only 10 of the 50 candidates in the 2021 elections were women.
However, he pointed out the low percentage of women in parliaments is a Caribbean and global issue.
“In the Caribbean, 22% of ministerial portfolios/cabinet positions in the Anglophone Caribbean are held by women and across the region women generally do not hold more than 30% of elected positions, except for Guyana which has a legislated quota [that] one-third of the number of political party nominees must be women,” he said.
In 1962, Bodden Town’s Mary Evelyn Wood became Cayman’s first female elected representative.
Even with the small pool of female candidates, women hold the key in elections as the larger voting bloc of the sexes.
According to the Elections Office, 54% of Cayman’s electorate is female and 46% is male.
Politicians, Smith argued, must support women who show the interest and determination to run for office. “It’s crucial,” he said.
“As for the barriers women face, political parties or whatever the political machinery used, have the scope to decrease barriers for women in campaigning, including funding, and support early exposure for women to political training and inclusion in networks,” he said.
He said women quotas should be used as a temporary measure.
“Globally, it is recognised that the most effective way to increase women’s representation is using quotas. This ‘temporary’ facility has been resoundingly successful in countries such as Italy, Sweden, India, and Guyana,” Smith said.
Celebrations from female MPs
Being a returning female representative was not lost on Bodden, as she emphatically declared “I am Savannah’s MP… female MP” after capturing the seat on Election Night.
She said she was overjoyed to win.
“But this is what happens when you are on the ground and you care for your people and you know your people. This is what I have done all my life… I have taken care of my people and this is the result tonight,” she said after being declared the winner.
She told the Compass in an interview on 14 April, that Savannah “is where my heart is, for my people and my community. Savannah, Newlands, you will not regret putting me here tonight.”
Ebanks-Wilks, a newcomer to the House, said she was very excited.
“This is a long journey,” she said. “It started last campaign, 2017. I was unsuccessful but stayed on the ground with the people and four years later, now it’s my turn. I am excited to get an opportunity to represent the people of West Bay Central.”
She said she was looking forward to what the next four years look like.
“What I envision for West Bay Central is being a close-knit community and breaking the divide that is there. Politics tend to separate people and I want to be a part of the change with that,” Ebanks-Wilks said.
She vowed to represent all of her constituents, which she said she would do “with the pride and dignity.”