President of Barbados, The Most Honourable Dame Sandra Mason (left) and Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley (right) chatting with the woman of the moment Dame Maizie Barker-Welch during a reception at State House on Friday. (C. Pitt/BGIS)

Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley has described the honour bestowed on Dame Maizie Barker-Welch as an accomplishment that should please all Barbadians.

Dame Maizie was recognised by the Organization of American States Special Session of the Permanent Council on Thursday, under the theme: Best practices for Advancing Gender Equality and Preventing Sexual and Gender-Based Violence in the Americas.

The session, in recognition of this year’s International Women’s Day celebrations, honoured the legacy of Dame Maizie’s contribution to the Inter-American Commission of Women (CIM).

Speaking during a reception at State House on Friday, the Prime Minister said the honour is a moment that all Barbadians should be proud of.

“The reality is that there are 34 countries in the Organization of American States and that they have singled her out to confer this honour is something which should please us all as Barbadians. Dame Maizie has always reflected a level of grace and dignity in all that she has done and of course, courage. It required courage to go into the seat of Sir Grantley Adams as an opposing candidate and to win it,” Ms. Mottley stated.

She continued: “We believe that her example, in terms of fighting for the rights of women…we take a lot of that for granted now because of how many of us have been put into leadership positions but the battle for ordinary women in terms of their ability to have freedom of choice and being able to make decisions about their own lives, remains that which should guide us always and I believe that we are united in that common purpose…”

Ms. Mottley believes that the previous work done by Dame Maizie in “her leg of the relay” should be continued in this generation and others to come. She added that the nonagenarian’s contributions should be an example to all women.

Those on Dame Maizie’s guest list reflected fondly on her life of service as a fearless politician, school teacher, women’s advocate, a Soroptomist, wife and mother.

President The Most Honourable Dame Sandra Mason told the former parliamentarian’s specially invited guests that the OAS honour was well-deserved and wished her all the best.

There were speeches from several of her contemporaries with whom she interacted in various spheres of her life, as well as a glowing tribute from her pastor Vera Waithe about her love for God and the great respect for her by residents in the Clifton Hill, St. Thomas district, where she grew up.

Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley poses for a photography with honouree Dame Maizie Barker-Welch (second from right) and daughters Sonja Welch (left) and Yolande Phillips (second from left) during a reception at State House on Friday. (C. Pitt/BGIS)

Dame Maizie was touched by the outpouring of love from her dearest friends, adding that they all had a “special place in her heart”.

She said as the only female parliamentarian in 1986, who helped to empower women by introducing self-improvement programmes in St. Joseph, she was “happy to see that more women were now entering politics”.

Dame Maizie also spoke of her role in the CIM and stated: “I am very happy that one of the things that I helped to spearhead in the CIM was the landmark 1994 Convention. One of the best moves I did was to invite Ms. Shirley Bell from Barbados, the Senior Parliamentary Counsel at the time, to work along with me and the others who assisted with the drafting.”

“I am also happy to see that women were not only represented in politics, but women as CEOs and as head of businesses….  It is very wonderful,” she underlined.      

Dame Maizie was a former Vice President and President of the Barbados National Organisation of Women (NOW) founded in 1970, and was NOW’s representative in the Caribbean Womens’ Association (CARIWA) and Barbados’ representative at the first UN Conference for Women on Population Development in 1973.

She was also Barbados’ delegate to the Inter American Commission of Women from 1986 to 1994 (Vice President in 1986 and President from 1990-1992); President of the Business and Professional Women’s Club of Barbados, and Regional Coordinator for the English-speaking Caribbean and USA and Canada -attending its worldwide conferences.

Dame Maizie is a member of the Soroptimist International of Jamestown, the Barbados Horticultural Society and a past Chairman of the Royal Commonwealth Society, Barbados branch, from 2013 to 2015.

The CIM (Inter American Commission of Women) was established in 1928 as the first inter-governmental agency to ensure recognition and development of women’s human rights. The institution has 34 Principal Delegates –  one for each OAS Member State – and is the principal forum for debating and formulating policy on women’s rights and gender equality in the Americas.

julie.carrington@barbados.gov.bb

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