The Rt. Hon. Dame Janet Gwennett Bostwick

Regional Award:
Triennial Awards for Women
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The Rt. Hon. Dame Janet Gwennett Bostwick

The Rt. Hon. Dame Janet Gwennett Bostwick, counsel and attorney, is known as a model politician and pioneer among women in The Bahamas. She is admired and respected as a champion for the empowerment of women, not only in her native Commonwealth of The Bahamas, but also in the region and beyond.

She has the distinction of having achieved several `firsts’ in her career. These include: first female Secretary General of The Bahamas Public Services Union; prosecutor; President of the Bar Association and Chairman of the Bar Council; Member of Parliament, following her election in 1982; Attorney General, Minister of Foreign Affairs and also the first female to act as Prime Minister of The Commonwealth of The Bahamas. She has also held the portfolios of Minister of Social Services, Housing and National Insurance, and Minister of Justice and Immigration. Throughout her tenure as a Cabinet Minister she has always held ministerial responsibility for women’s affairs.

Dame Janet’s activism on women’s issues is steeped. It started in the mid-1960s, and continued throughout her political career. As a trade unionist, she campaigned to improve the status of women primarily because of the inequities they faced. These range from the pay gap with men, non-existent maternity benefits to job insecurity at the time. Once admitted to the Bar, she became even more vocal. She advocated to audiences in churches, women’s groups and unions for more participation of men in the rearing of children, increased maintenance and for a resolution of issues associated with children born out of wedlock, including improved custody and the administration of justice for children and young persons, and for changes in legislation around sexual offences, domestic violence and matrimonial matters.

In pursuit of the quest for women’s rights, between 1992-1994, she led the Bahamian delegation at the OAS Inter-American Commission of Women and served on its Executive Committee. Since 1994, she has served on the Executive Committee of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women. In 1995, she served as a Regional Vice Chairperson of the Bureau of the United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing, China. At this Conference, she was head of the delegation of The Bahamas and The Bahamas was unanimously selected to coordinate the Caribbean Region. In this capacity, she presided at all CARICOM meetings.

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