London, 16th April 2018… Hon. Maria Browne, MP speaks at Commonwealth Women’s Forum
The Honourable Maria Browne, MP distinguished herself among a panel of esteemed women in politics in her first official conference as an elected Member of Parliament. Mrs. Browne was invited to speak at the Commonwealth Women’s Forum – an event organised by the Commonwealth Women’s Parliamentarians (CWP) group, that focuses on the inclusion of women in politics in the Commonwealth. The distinguished panel comprised of female parliamentarians from Sierra Leone, Canada, South Africa and Zambia and was chaired by Helen Clark, the former Prime Minister of New Zealand and UNDP Adminsitrator and patron. The session focused on the topic “Women’s political participation at all levels” in the Commonwealth and sought to consider practical strategies and actions to enable and support more women in positions where they can influence positive change in their communities.
Minister Browne spoke about the challenges she faced as a young woman seeking elected office in Antigua and Barbuda and what she thought could be done to achieve greater gender parity in representational politics. She said one the biggest challenges that she faced was that of her age and associated questions about her ability to manage the responsibilities of being in government if elected. She stated that age should not be a barrier to political engagement and credited support from other women as one of the ingredients of her success to date. She further stated that women sometimes struggle to receive the support systems necessary to effectively conduct their campaigns as the systems tend to be male dominated.
The Honourable Minister, responding to a question from the audience on policies to engage more women in elected politics, suggested that to get more women involved in politics girls should be exposed to this possibility from an early age. According to Minister Browne, “it is important that we teach girls from an early age about their full potential and expand on this as they get older. [We should] start campaigns for young girls and boys via technology, workshops, mentorship schemes to get them exposed to world affairs including the fact that women can be effective leaders’. She added, “It is important that we have strong support groups for our women, and that we need greater help to fund women’s campaigns in politics and encourage women towards leadership in every sector.”
Minister Browne noted that Antigua and Barbuda’s track record in empowering women in politics is commendable. The country currently has a majority of women in the Senate and can point to several women in high political and diplomatic offices. She also noted that she was one of two women currently serving in the Lower House of Parliament.
Minister Browne is the youngest female parliamentarian in the Commonwealth. She is also the youngest parliamentarian elected to the House of Representatives of Antigua and Barbuda where she holds the important portfolio of Minister of Housing, Lands and Urban Renewal.