The faces of women in Saint Lucia’s politics have always been refreshing and memorable in the male-dominated arena. The likes of Sarah Flood-Beaubrun, Tessa Mangal and Menissa Rambally have, in recent years, campaigned hard and represented the island on a global scale. But others, such as Heraldine Rock, the first victorious female politician in Saint Lucia, may be known by a younger generation only because of an engraved name on a waterfront government building.
Barbara Jacobs Small and Yasmin Solitahe Odlum sought to change the scope over the past two years. After forming a coincidental bond for the project, they conducted research, sourced funding and finally wrote an unprecedented piece of literature, named as a witty play on words: ‘Running in Heels’. The publication documents the contributions of prominent women in local politics from 1961 until the most recent general elections in 2016.
On Tuesday this week at the Governor General’s residence, female politicians, women who proved to be the backbone of many political runs, their families and other representatives gathered to celebrate the launch of this book.
During her introductory presentation at the pale-pink-themed book launch, Honourable Gale Rigobert, in her capacity as Minister for Gender Relations, shared her reflections on how she entered politics: “For many of us being celebrated here today, that dream was long implanted in our souls. I know that is my story.” She commended the two women on this new achievement of finally putting all female political heroes into one accessible source.
Yasmine Odlum, co-author and editor of ‘Running in Heels’ went through the interesting statistics of Saint Lucian women in politics over the decades: “Currently, under this government, an unprecedentd four women are serving in cabinet; 25% of this composition of the decision-making and policy-shaping level.” However, she added the note that Saint Lucia still falls under the global benchmark of 30% of a cabinet being female. But Odlum didn’t believe that we should stop there, she encouraged the politicians present to adopt a 40:60 ratio of women to men in cabinet.
The book launch of ‘Running in Heels’ was not only speeches; Miss Stacy Giddings performed in phenomenol fashion a poem entitled ‘This is for all the Girls’ which earned her a standing ovation. She was an added inspiration after Yasmin Odlum and other prominent women leaders spoke about the purpose of ‘Running in Heels’ which was to firstly record information, provide recognition for deserving women and to inspire young women to be bold enough to pursue political careers.
All the presently serving women in government are featured in ‘Running in Heels’ including Senator Fortuna Belrose, Minister for Culture and Local Government. At a press conference hosted on November 30, 2017 she admitted that she was “blown away” to be recognized in the book and by the statistics recorded in it. She said that the book will “only serve to inspire young women” to participate in politics although it did show interesting indication of “more women being at the base of the politics”. Concerning her fresh stint in the political environment she enthused, “It’s something I’m enjoying because it gives me the opportunity, really, to transform the lives of people.”
‘Running in Heels’ was brought to fruition with support from the Division of Gender Relations, the national commission of UNESCO and the Inter-American Commission of Women of the Organisation of American States. Proceeds from the publication’s sales will be directed to the local Women’s Centre, the only shelter in Saint Lucia for victims of domestic violence.