According to the United Workers Party publicity machine, the hottest ticket in town for the long weekend was Sunday’s (June 12) launching of their election candidate for Micoud North, Senator Gail Rigobert. The action will take place at Micoud multi-purpose grounds.
Several hours before her launching, Rigobert sat for a one-on-one with this reporter.
With obvious pride, she describes herself as “a daughter of the soil, with strong roots in Micoud North,” the primary one being her grandmother. She sites as the area’s more pressing problems, “unemployment, lack of recreational centers and single mothers in need of assistance.”
Said Rigobert: “Historically, Micoud North has been an active sporting community. It is no surprise that whenever I engage its young people the lack of sports facilities is a concern, second only to scarce employment opportunities. Quite correctly they feel they have a right to state-of-the-art sporting facilities. They are well aware that through sports they have a chance of bettering themselves as so many young people have outside Saint Lucia, among them Jamaica’s Usain Bolt, the Olympic track superstar who now has the world at this feet.”
“Lack of employment is their main complaint. Micoud North is no longer the primarily farming community it was, say, fifteen years ago. Increasingly young people have been moving toward careers as teachers, lawyers, bankers and so. The demographic of the society has changed. The level of activity in the agriculture sector has changed. It’s a situation not unique to St Lucia. There is a global commodity crisis and given that traditionally we have been farmers, we are feeling the brunt of it. One of the consequences is a massive migration out of the community.”
“There are too many single parents trying to make out on their own,” she said. “Parenting a child is a difficult task even with both parents involved. Imagine the burden for a single, unemployed mother. Many households are headed by women. It is unfortunate that so many are unemployed single mothers. There is obviously an urgent need to provide employment. They are all eager to work and must be provided with work opportunities.”
And how does she plan to improve Micoud North’s situation?
“It is important to understand that while our country is small, St Lucia has a lot of potential,” she said. “It’s something that cannot be overlooked. The fact that we are English speaking is such a great plus to attracting foreign investment. Our proximity to the United States should serve as an additional advantage. Because of our very involvement of the tourism sector, St Lucia has a very keen awareness of the outside world. We have a very good education system that an investor coming into St Lucia has a very basic infrastructure and has a readily available pool of human resources to be tapped into.”
Rigobert says she sees the potential in St Lucia and has a vision for the island. She said: “I would really like see us promote St Lucia in such a way that represents the holism. We must take advantage of all that St Lucia has to offer: physical resources, natural
resources and human resources.”
Female candidates, on either side of the political spectrum, have found it particularly difficult to tread this male-dominated turf. But the prospect hardly worries Rigobert: “One cannot deny women are treated differently from males in politics,” she said. “ I don’t know though how to qualify that difference. It could very well be that men are given easier rides. However my experience thus far has been encouraging. I will hate to think that I would be given a hard time because of my gender. I know politics is often described as a “dirty game,” that slander and mud are thrown about. But I hardly believe that is any reason for women to fear politics. If anything, we should be out there bringing about constructive change.”
She laughed as she said: “The slander has already begun,” but she is undeterred because, “my focus is working with the people of Micoud North to better their circumstances and to make whatever slight contribution I can to St Lucia.”
What gives Rigobert the edge over the other contenders for the Micoud North seat? She laughed her infectious laugh. “I always play to win regardless of my opposition. I think I bring enough to the table by way of intellect, exposure, personality, connection
with the people and my support base to be
reasonably confident of victory.”