“The race rises as its women rise.
They are the true standard of its elevation.” – Robert Love, Jamaica Advocate, 1895
Improvement in the status of women has been the focus of national and regional development initiatives in the Caribbean for several decades. The overriding goal is to redress inequities in the economic sphere, gender disparities in political power and decision-making and to accord women higher levels of social influence.
Some success has been recorded in securing the empowerment and equal participation of women in various spheres of society. Social, economic and legislative reform, aided by the strategic inclusion of the gender dimension at varying levels of developmental planning and policy making in the Region enables women to have greater control of their destiny and a more involved role in the process of development.
The course of the journey towards a better existence for women and their full and equal incorporation into the mainstream of society has been mapped through the landmark contributions of inspirational and distinguished Caribbean women. These women have made remarkable and lasting contributions in the arena of women’s development in diverse ways. The CARICOM Triennial Award for Women was introduced to recognize and honour such women of distinction in the Caribbean.
In 1983, CARICOM celebrated its 10th anniversary and during a meeting of Ministers of Women’s Affairs to commemorate this event, it was recognized that the 1973 Treaty of Chaguaramas addressed the need to examine the position of women in the Region. Evolving out of the deliberations at the meeting of Ministers was the recommendation to confer an Award to an outstanding CARICOM woman whose work had made a significant contribution to the socio-economic development of the Caribbean. In response, the CARICOM Secretariat introduced the CARICOM Triennial Award for Women
The scheme provides for:
(i) The submission of nominations of women by both Governments and Non-Governmental Organisations (NGO’s) to the Secretary-General of the Caribbean Community.
(ii) The setting up of a Regional Selection Committee comprising representatives of selected Member States in rotation
(iii) The determination of a winner, utilizing appropriate guidelines
(iv) The announcement of the Award to the Caribbean public by the Secretary-General on International Women’s Day and
(v) The presentation of the Award at the Meeting of Ministers with responsibility for the Integration of Women in Development.
Initially, the selection of awardees was determined by the expertise of the candidate which was of direct regional significance. Much weighting was accorded to the regional contribution of the nominees vis-à-vis their national or international contributions.
The basis for selecting recipients on account of regional contributions became a matter for consideration at a Meeting of CARICOM Ministers attending a Policy Roundtable on Gender and Development in October 2001. The Meeting reviewed the conferment of the Award and the selection criteria employed and recommended that alongside regional contributions, selection should allow for consideration of “regional impact of national level service.”
The work of women at the national level which impact positively on other countries is now considered along with their direct regional contributions. Less significance is accorded to academic qualifications in determining the women to be honoured.
CARICOM has agreed that the content to the Award be improved to include the CARICOM passport (for past and future recipients) to facilitate travel in the Region.
Since the introduction of the Triennial Award in 1983 several highly esteemed and outstanding women of the Caribbean have been bestowed the honour of the Award for their dedication and determination in broadening the parameters of existence for women and improving their economic, social, political, cultural and legal status.
In 1984, Ms. Nesta Patrick, national of Trinidad and Tobago; 1987, The late, Her Excellency, Dame Nita Barrow, national of Barbados; 1990, Dr. Peggy Antrobus, national of Grenada and Citizen of St. Vincent and the Grenadines; 1993, Ms. Magda Pollard, national of Guyana; 1996, Dr. Lucille Mair, national of Jamaica; 1999, Professor Joycelin Massiah, national of Guyana and Citizen of Barbados; 2002, Professor Rhoda Reddock, national of Trinidad and Tobago; in 2005 Justice Desiree Bernard, national of Guyana; 2008, Professor Barbara Evelyn Bailey, national of Jamaica; 2011, Professor V. Eudine Barriteau national of and Citizen of Barbados, Ms. Marion Bethel of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas (2014), Ms. Shirley Pryce of Jamaica (2017)