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Dear Editor: Time for a Madame President; CAFRA asks for qualified women to be considered

“[…] Five male Presidents later, the next President of Trinidad and Tobago should be a woman. Such an appointment would be a significant indicator of gender equality and an expression of the democratic value of inclusion.

“We should widen the scope of persons to be considered and Trinidad and Tobago has no dearth of qualified women.”

The following media statement expressing a regional group’s desire to see the Republic elect a female President was submitted to Wired868 by CAFRA T&T (Caribbean Association for Feminist Research and Action):

Photo: Sunity Maharaj is the managing director of the Lloyd Best Institute of the West Indies (LBIWI) and the former Trinidad Express editor-in-chief and TV6 news director.

As Trinidad and Tobago struggles with violence, crime, corruption, inequality and divisiveness, the next president must contribute to the building of togetherness, respect, security and equality for all.

The president should have an ethical vision and a profound understanding of the history of this country, of its contemporary political and socio-cultural dynamics.

The selection of the next president therefore should be informed by public discussion. And the public should be encouraged to think not only of the people to be nominated but the values which are to be advanced.

As head of state, the president personifies the face of Trinidad and Tobago and is a symbol of the values of decency, unity, diversity, respect, thoughtfulness and public spiritedness.

Names of distinguished persons have already been suggested. But five male presidents later, the next president of Trinidad and Tobago should be a woman. Such an appointment would be a significant indicator of gender equality and an expression of the democratic value of inclusion.

Photo: Rhoda Reddock is a professor, social scientist and former deputy principal of The UWI.

We should widen the scope of persons to be considered and Trinidad and Tobago has no dearth of qualified women. There are as many women as men fit and qualified. These can include:

  • Bridget Brereton, author and Professor Emerita of History, The UWI
  • Judith Jones, Justice of Appeal
  • Asha Kambon, researcher and public policy expert
  • Christine Kangaloo, attorney-at-law and President of the Senate
  • Sunity Maharaj, writer and former editor-in-chief of the Trinidad Express
  • Rhonda Maingot, founder, Living Waters Community
  • Dr Eastlyn McKenzie, educator, former Independent Senator
  • Maureen Rajnauth-Lee, judge, Caribbean Court of Justice
  • Rhoda Reddock, professor, social scientist and former deputy principal, The UWI
Photo: Bridget Brereton is an author and Professor Emerita of History, The UWI.
(Copyright Ansa McAL)

And no doubt, we can all add names to this list. So let us do just that.

The appointment of a woman will send a powerful signal to everyone, but particularly the youth, that leadership has a diverse face. Five presidents later, it would appear that the political parties of Trinidad and Tobago are considering only men. It is time for this thinking to end.

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190 comments

  1. But then and again who cares? The office of the President is only for window dressing. She has no major political decisions to make and her powers are very limited. It’s just a reward for meritorious service until.

  2. What a bullshit reason to elect a president. We have become so blinded by our focus that we have become what we strive against.

  3. Well, I understand that LGBQT People wanting one of their Own to be Nominated next time ! Folks, we reach !

  4. Weekes, JA is a brilliant lecturer. If her judgments in the Court of Appeal mirror her abilities as a lecturer, then she is a brilliant JA. IT would be a great loss to the public if she is made President. I think she makes more of a difference in the lives of people in her current capacity than as the President of TnT.

  5. Well the government just proposed Madam Justice Paula Mae Weekes.

    • The comments under the express article betray a lack of understanding even at the preschool level btw.

    • The Opposition Leader seemed to not be displeased though she has decided she needs some time. I think Madam Weekes is immensely over-qualified (considering the figurehead nature of the job) but nice to know the govt is considering her anyway and it’s about time they put forward a nominee that is not male – perhaps the Rowley detractors will find a way to make this decision into a negative but I applaud him for the selection and hope this woman gets to become the next POTT.

    • Well I was watching the press conference and the comments were really puerile for sure. It hurts my head too much to read comments on new articles. That’s why I stick to wired for a more mature discussion.

  6. Spot on Dwayne Peters. I have a very intelligent, highly qualified wife, three highly professionalized daughters, of which two are married to highly professionalized husbands. I have a highly qualified one, son, married to a highly qualifies wife, and I stress, performance, loyalty, honesty with extreme integrity, utmost trust, and the pursuit of “knowing what’s new, what’s next, and getting there first”. Let these bring you the opportunity, and “may the best man win” – shocks………., I mean, best man or woman, win.

  7. Spot on Dwayne Peters. I have a very intelligent, highly qualified wife, three highlt professionalized daughters, of which two are married to highly professionalized

  8. A female president?….then Trinidad eh go be talking to no other country led by a woman…ent??!!

  9. Two of those three are heavily politically linked. Not good choices.

  10. Sat Maharaj is the best no nonsense man for the job. If not let’s have an executive president like USA and other developed countries

  11. Change the constitution and give us a President with 2 terms.

  12. Though I will love to see a woman as president, choosing someone for any reason other than merit is counter-productive. I work in an environment where balancing and quotaing is the order of the day. People getting hired and promoted based on gender, race religion even geographic origin etc. Their qualifications, experience (merit based values) are a second consideration. Now we are starting to see how this attributing to the downfall and failure of many organizations

  13. But ain’t the leader, of the opposition, aiming to be President soon

  14. Sorry! Male or Female, really don’t care much, enough of this bloody equality…. Once they are seeling the future of the people of T&T, and not for greed!

  15. Did Gladys Gafoor decline the offer. She should be on the list

  16. It’s time TNT , move toward with out a president. Amend d constitution , get rid of d president as d head of state

  17. Yeh leh we put ah indian woman there , at least we would know we have someo ne who is loving ,cearing ,and have a lot of sense when making decisions

  18. What does gender has to do with nominating a President. What we need is someone with character, integrity and love and devotion to country and people

  19. We gave kamla a chance at holding high office and look how that turned out

  20. I am all for giving it to a woman , not because of her being woman but to some one who is strong on views and ideas,we already made a very bad choice of the first female Prime Minister so we need someone Notting like her , and the person doesn’t have to be a Lawyer or judge

  21. Really . Should it not be the best fit for the job exclusive of political patronage man or woman.

  22. We had a woman Pm and watch she did ? Other than peedown sheself and vomit down d car

  23. The list is belated for any other normally functioning system but T&T’s – so those who are condemning the suggestion as a last minute one are obviously wearing blinders when it comes to being realistic about how decisions are made in T&T. I think the article could have been more informative had their been any research into the selections made previously and making some objective points as to why women were excluded if they were excluded from consideration. To those who would conclude that to say it’s time for a woman just because she is a woman, I say, look at affirmative action and all it has been able to achieve for African Americans (though some would disagree) – we have not had one, so why not make a case for having one now – this does not mean that we put a woman who is unqualified – and having put the idea of qualification in the mix I dare say if the President is a toothless tiger then she need not be as well-versed in the law as some people think – she only needs to be able to read. But I suppose that is a bit of a cynical view. Let’s make sure she does not request a housing allowance and then not use it for housing …things like that.

  24. You know there is a thing called stature.
    And a reason for the colloquial of crapo, and putting any one in a tie (or dress)

    As I reflect on our selection record for all things leadership

  25. Thank you!!! Rose-Marie.

    I not going to undermine my comment by calling the women quenks

    But let someone tell me how they are qualified to lead, and apply the constitution,; and most of all, to give direction to the nation for constitutional reform.

    Or even that how their work legitimizes them to the post, abd when you do the latter, I will show all the ways in which there are gaps that exist from what they do and the presidency.

    Love what CoreyGilkes says: let’s examine people to posts now. No more free pass just cause an illiterate nonthinking population knows your name.

    And I never give suggestions without solutions.

    I offer to write and execute these exams

  26. They want a next woman be byass sss as the the speaker of the house of rep

  27. Whomever they decide to put please let him/her know the powers he/she has and the powers he/she doesn’t have

  28. I would like to nominate Dr. Eastlyn Mackenzie for ‘Madam President’.

  29. The way this country is going they could pick any woman and call the spouse the first man senseless

  30. Gender should not be a factor. The Presidency should be decided by the people, not an electoral college in order to prevent political biases.

  31. Agreed. Only add Maven Huggins to that list.

    • Crouch !!!
      You make me laugh. You make me love. Your support is unwavering.

      But the comment on the church thread I just wrote relates to this discussion

      How we should realize that in Trinidad, we have always selected leaders and leadership that/ who Constrain not Advance Development and Transformation.

      Sorry for the suggestion, but do I see any of those women as aspirational, inspirational, want to be in their league?

      Umh…

  32. My response to this is no different to when I wrote this rambling rant on the eve of KPB being elected Prime Minister in 2010. The issue of a woman anything is irrelevant as far as I am concerned if the system she presides over remains influenced by patriarchal or masculinist ideas of leadership, progress and development. We are looking down the barrel of a major economic meltdown not to mention issues arising from climate change and some of the cultural traditions from indigenous societies hold the key to getting through what may be lying ahead. We need to start examining them (though not in the same way the West is cleverly doing exactly that while at the same time destabilising the various regions)
    http://www.trinicenter.com/Gilkes/2010/0203.htm

    • The bigger lesson all over the world is that women are just and more patriarchal than the men, cause where these men come out from? A lab? An egg? (Women Mothers as the first teachers?)
      We have such monumental public female leader failures. The last of which is Aung San Sui Kyi
      And if you don’t know who she is, what her claim to fame was, what she ended up doing, and how she is a cosmic failure, Without looking it up, you my dear, are not fit nor equipped for this conversation.

      Which gets to my other point.
      We are a population totally ignorant to standards, requirements, knowledge and capacity to the roles we fill with the quenks; such is the result. Every time

  33. In our quest for equality, it is important that we do not reward party loyalists. A woman can bring to the position a whole new dynamic and interesting perspectives. What do we have to lose in appointing a woman? Nothing if she is carefully selected

  34. The office of the president should be dissolved.
    Reason being, why continue to pay someone maintain an office/family for ceremonial purposes. All that money can be better used towards education.
    A President with no political influence or power.

  35. Allyuh forget about gender equality, we want someone who is fit for the job and impartial and who can succeed their predecessors that’s all, don’t choose a woman just because allyuh want to show the world allyuh doing something different. And if it is a woman chosen just remember, to which much is given , much is expected, just remember the moment you fail they would want to crucify you so tread carefully and remember your fellow women who are to follow in your footsteps!

  36. It should be the most suitable person if it’s a woman fine but gender should not be a significant factor don’t put a female for female sake we did have the first female PM remember?

  37. I am trying to remember
    Glenda Morean?

  38. Why omit Gladys Gator is she not a lady

  39. Lasana. I have no doubt there are many suitable female candidates. But I don’t agree with selection based on gender. So all I say quietly is 2010 – 2015.

  40. We should just rid of this ridiculous post.. “the powers u think I have bull crap” only to realize the only power is to continue the drain on our resources

  41. So that’s how we decide on important matters now, based on gender?? We still remember the former P M that’s enough. What we need is the best person if it’s a female fine but stop that gender crap

  42. We need the best person who can independently discharge the duties in the office of the president to serve Trinidad and Tobago. The promotion of gender only is counter productive to our republic.

  43. My worry is our serious lack of imagination and level of insipid comfort with the status quo. Discussion of a woman President is met with resentment and talk of competence as though the gender pay gap does not exist and if you look at the Board rooms and all places where serious decisions are taken in our country, they’re occupied by men. Women are passed over and many still see women’s place in the home with memes that women need to know how to make roti to be able to marry… and apart from the fact that most graduating with degrees are women, theyre underemployed or receive less pay than men in most instances. The claim that competence matters falls flat on its face in a context of patriarchy and cultural hegemony of middle class men’s claim natural heir to leadership in the country. And where the Prime Minister is caught out on being misogynistic and sexist at every possible turn. CAFRA offers a serious list and topic for serious discussion. Most dismiss it with emotive talk of we had Kamla, and what? That is completely irrelevant if the system is set up for women to fail… I agree Kamla was a failure but the discourse here continues to perpetuate that same sexism of years gone by. Where have people been for the last 30 years? I can’t believe we just do not have imagination on what else is possible or how we can escape the limits that our institutions have set to ensure that our elite continue to ride roughshod over our democracy, and rights to articulate how we want to be governed and how governance should take place. We can do better than this. We need to be a lot better. The first step is critical thinking and informed discussion.

    • Funny enough, the media is one industry in T&T that had its fair share of women leaders.
      I worked under Sunity Maharaj, Kathy Ann Waterman and Omatie Lyder as editor in chiefs. Then I had editors like the late Deborah John among others. The late Therese Mills was Newsday’s spine for years and Judy Raymond has served at the helm of the Guardian and is now the big boss at Newsday.
      For me, it is odd that women aren’t given as much of a chance in other fields.

    • That’s awesome Lasana. I’m sure all of them had their fair share of challenges. I’m just very concerned about the facile and very poor level discussion that some on this thread insist on having and perpetrating. Its tiresome and really speaks to a serious absence of consciousness about issues women face and more than that those who are brave enough to occupy leadership roles in this place rife with contradiction and dysfunction.

    • Agreed. But we all have different experiences and they help shape our mindset too. So I just try to understand why people think the way they do first.
      There is another irony here btw. Gladys Gafoor is plenty woman I think. Lol.
      And let me add to that by saying I totally agree with her omission from this shortlist!

    • I listen, read and try to be empathetic but I don’t try to know how people’s minds work. That is too much… indeed we all do have experiences. But why should men have more opportunity to eff up the country more? One single experience of a woman leader is seen as enough and that precludes all others? That’s plain dotish. We can certainly judge people on their merits and trackrecords, but cannot pretend that we all equally face the same structural and institutional realities.

    • The level of reasoning here is like I’m reading a 1950s article about women.

    • I hear you Keston. But somehow despite the huge gender gap you speak of, wouldn’t it sound disingenuous to you to appoint a woman because you want to narrow the gap? Doesn’t that sound a bit like “Is we time now”?? I never liked that as a philosophy.

    • I could understand what you mean… and my intention is not to be disingenuous. It is to acknowledge the seriousness of this discussion. And to advance what I think are important and genuine reasons why we should not dismiss a woman President. The discussion has been poor and misinformed. Men are NOT the default gender to hold positions of high office. Sometimes we act as though they are even perhaps we don’t intend to and unwittingly give them the reins because we’re afraid to be bold and assertive about this. The discussion seems to be suggesting that. We need to recognise women as fully capable and high achieving members of our society. CAFRA has its mandate and I’m presuming they are fully clear and able to defend their position on why they are making this suggestion. We cannot pretend it’s all honky dorry. It’s also not tokenism to say explicitly we want a woman President if we recognise them as full human beings. What is the fear about that? I do not get it.

    • I personally don’t think there’s a fear. In fact I believe most people are impressed by the calibre of the women suggested. But I would shy away from an argument for a particular gender. It’s only because we’ve had presidents of many races that people not suggesting it’s time for an Indian president or African one or red one etc. It still sounds to me like “is we time now”. When Gafoor was suggested I was glad for the diversity in proposing a woman and a man. But of course after reading her history she turned out to be a poor choice.

    • “calibre of the women suggested”

      We don’t have a calibre here
      We only have cliques, pastures, terrain, pillars and towers.

      Being a big fish in a fishbowl Is Not aTestament eh

    • Suggesting a candidate based on gender is clearly different from choosing someone based on racial or ethnic category. If the logic is to conflate the two, I done. Happy New Year! Have a wonderful day!

    • Your contribution Keaton gives me a very salient aspect of “exam” for any candidate, male or female:

      How has their life work proven a sway against “insipid comfort with the status quo”

    • Keston K. Perry, I acknowledge that TnT, like many other places has a wage gap. But that, in this instance, is irrelevant when we speak of the Office of the President, because wage is fixed. So are the other wages for public office. Disparity comes in the private sector, mostly in non-unionised sectors. And we have to acknowledge the role of the ‘boys club’ in all of this.
      As for jobs themselves, from my experience in Trinidad, many women have been working in non-traditional sectors for a long time, but maybe the boys club is not ready/prepared to accepted such changes/challenges. Keeping in mind the history of women in the workplace locally-that is, it is still relatively recent compared to that of males, so women may not have had a chance to reach maximum earning potential. Added to that, women can utilise benefits such as maternity leave, parental leave etc. So they can be out of the workforce more. These are all issues to bear in mind in such discussions, it can’t be a general discussion of men v women.

    • The simple point was the disparities between genders justify it as a useful criteria. To pretend they do not exist is counterproductive as to say that ‘competence’ is all that matters for selection of a President when that is judged as a natural consideration when men are being touted for a job. That is the point not where you went.

    • It’s very difficult to converse with you as we seem to have different understandings of what equality looks like. While you’ seem to have accepted disparity and inequity as a natural process in the working experiences of men and women; that women are not working long enough to have the same salary. This is incorrect especially since working in the home often goes unaccounted for as legitimate “work”. Your comment is confusing. It seems to lack an underlying recognition of need for parity between men and women. As for the so-called claim of ‘added benefits’ that come with reproduction and child rearing, comparing things in that way is rather silly. For many, those are not benefits but entitlements which need to be considered on its own terms not in the sense that men receive ‘less benefits’. This is turning out to be a rather odd discussion.

    • Thus proving my point: Women don’t necessarily, and often Don’t come with an elevated, enlightened nor improved perspective from males. And just cause they name woman don’t mean I need any more misogyny , patriarchy , or quenks in dresses.

      Thank you all!

    • Well Keston you might think it illogical to conflate picking a woman president with picking a president based on race or religion etc but…

      http://newsday.co.tt/2018/01/06/pundit-happy-but-asks-why-no-hindu-head-of-state/

    • Well, logical people will not do it. Plus, Noor Hassanali was Muslim.

    • I know Noor was Muslim. That’s why is only Hindus complaining.

  44. How do we chose a President and what do they realy have to do and what sallary do they get???

  45. I am confused!!! totally!!!
    Shouldnt we be seeking to put who is BEST for the job????….man OR woman?
    We simply need to move away from this biassed way of thinking…its this same lopsided attitude that is keeping us in the race dungeon….
    Let us go for the BEST….

  46. I am willing to bet the next president will be yet another in a series of quenks.
    They might as well appoint an actual quenk and call that George!

  47. Anybody the government elect for President the opposition will have a problem with them woman or man just two months ago a young bright woman was made an ambassador and look how she was treated by the opposition and their supporters if a woman is elected President they would treat her worst

  48. Clearly this organization is misguided. As a professional woman I want a job based on my qualifications and experience not my gender. It is precisely this attitude that has the country in the mess it is in. A lot of square pegs in round holes.

  49. Take note that there have been acting female Presidents, 2 that I know of: Dr. Linda Babolal and currently President of Senate Christine Kangaloo. If there is a female President elected by Electoral College not a problem with me personally. My view is may the best person be placed as our President.

  50. Lots of eminent women mentioned in that list. I have a problem with the “it’s time for a woman president” though. I believe it’s time for a COMPETENT and RESPECTED president. We used to have them. I don’t have a problem with adding any of those women to the list of qualifiers. I just don’t want them to appoint a woman because she’s a woman. Although Tanty Kams left a bitter taste in plenty people mouth, she wasn’t voted for just for being a woman. Lol. We were just that desperate for change

  51. Should be ? Why do we want to down that road? Why shouldn’t it be put the same women in the ring, along with all others so deserving, based on merit ;not because of gender or ethnicity.

    We have seen what Affirmative Action in the US has produced or the failed to produce…. we want to go foward looking behind, instead of reflecting and learning from the past.

    Why can’t we do what is really required? And that is, revise the status and power of the office of the President, from being a “figurehead/rubbers tamp to one with genuine powers and standing.

  52. we just had a woman PM…look how that turned out

    just kidding…but seriously what next President in terms of race next?

  53. The Presidency is a colonial institution that further consolidates the rule of the class…Why do we need a President? Neo-colonialism nurtures itself on the belief that it is made in the image and likeness of the imperial elite..President/Chief Justice/Prime Minister/Archbishop/ Santa claus and imported fried chicken..Oh First lady too!

  54. I believe one of the criteria is the person must be experienced in Law, Max was the only one who differed , he is an educator,. Anyway, “powers I have/did not have” knew law,but what a disappointment. My issue is this discussion we are having right now should have been taking place in the public domain. CONSTRUCTIVE discussionss. No we waited on the government to drop their bombshell, That’s how they ALL do things to catch us off guard, they already had someone. They simply announced it and end of story. It’s the same thing over and over. I don’t know MR Nelson but his position on the Rolph Balgobin sexual harrassment case, told me he was handpicked and already in their pocket. Where is the civil society involvement, Just talk, talk.

  55. BTW, Vernal Damion Cadogan do we still have that bet on that the President would not be selected/appointed by the deadline?…. lol

  56. Like all yuh forget wah we geh for d first female Prime Minister!!!

  57. I believe the most qualified person should get the job; regardless of gender.

  58. That is rubbish get the best person for the job man or woman. That is true equality.

  59. I’m not in agreement with this idea it’s time for a woman. Getting something just because is a retrograde step.

  60. Pick a President on the basis of gender? Then what race? Followed by religion? And dietary preferences? Let’s go all the way then>>A chinese, a dougla, a First peoples? A good all fours player? And we wonder why we are sometimes seen as a laughing stock?.

  61. Lasana you tempting me to crack jokes, looking at the honourable minister would you have guessed he is the minister of sport without prior knowledge… I do take your point. I have had the honour of working with Drayton and she is class. Presidential material. There may be others of her calibre but I don’t know them. No issue with President being female, more concerned with the calibre

  62. Rossana not Helen Drayton. Maybe there are others like her however she is a Leader

  63. No offence to the ladies but unless it is not Helen Drayton. Forget that. I had my five years of Kams. Pass

  64. Keston that is a norm, but you want to tell me this was surprising news? People always talk about changing how things are done re governments appointment of HEADS of various institutions,to involve citizens,. Yet they only act when the government announce things 2-3 weeks. Really poor excuse. People living under a rock in this country? Hints of anew Pres was circling for some time now . Nothing was done.Anyway, Christmas done , party start, who really cares in T&T.? Sweet,t sweet Trinidad, oh how i love my country bad.

  65. Why bring up this issue within this short time period . we do the same ineffective things over and over, Why weren’t women groups lobbying for this prior to now?. Reactionary people. Get serious. I am certain I’m not the only person knew Mr Carmona was not making a 2nd term. Passivity is Trinis downfall. Where do you think changes has to come from? WE THE PEOPLE

  66. I could get behind Bridget Brereton. Nobody else is on the same planet as her when it comes to Trinidad & Tobago history. She could do a lot for cultural appreciation.

  67. This would be very counterintuitive under a Rowley Administration.

  68. I disagree. Sex should not be the deciding factor in this. Gimme a break!