On March 25, 2021, the U.S. Embassy to Barbados, the Eastern Caribbean, and the OECS convened 21 Eastern Caribbean and U.S. female leaders at a virtual conference to inspire and expand the networks of over 150 female conference participants from Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Dominica, Grenada, St. Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines. “She Inspires: Expanding the Network of the Next Generation of Women Leaders” celebrated the achievements and aspirations of Eastern Caribbean women during Women’s History Month. The dynamic program featured inspiring remarks and provided the opportunity for participants to engage in small groups with leaders in fields that women often face additional challenges on the basis of their gender: business, disabilities, journalism, politics, sports, and STEM.
U.S. Ambassador Linda Taglialatela opened the session saying, “Today we honor the many contributions that women have made to get us here, while ensuring that we do our part to enable and empower tomorrow’s female leaders. I am extremely proud of the many ways the U.S. Embassy has partnered with women in the region. Programs such as our Academy for Women Entrepreneurs and the Women in Politics Leadership Institute are just a few recent examples of our focus on expanding opportunities for women in the region. My goal for this morning is that you walk away with a clearer vision of what you want to achieve and how to achieve it.”
Lieutenant Rennae Francis of Dominica, the first Black female Squad Commander of the 46th Precinct in the New York Police Department, also addressed participants. “One of the biggest things we need to recognize is that when people have support, they are better able to do things that they may not have thought they were able to do. Guidance is huge in anyone’s development, especially for females when you don’t see or do see the under-representation of females in leadership positions.” One participant responded on the U.S. Embassy Bridgetown Instagram page, “Lieutenant Rennae Francis has inspired me a lot and I enjoyed listening to her experience. And being from Dominica myself I was moved by her story and how she didn’t make coming from a small country hold her back.”
“There is no one way to be a woman,” said Pro Vice Chancellor and first female Principal of the University of The West Indies Cave Hill, Professor of Gender and Public Policy V. Eudine Barriteau. She motivated participants through her career experience to be confident in their abilities and interests despite pressures within society to stay out of certain fields.
The UN Women Multi-Country Office Caribbean Representative Tonni Ann Brodber encouraged women to speak up and make room for themselves and other women in decision making realms. Despite women comprising less than a third of legislative seats in the Caribbean, she encouraged participants, “When it comes to issues of priorities of greatest concern to Caribbean people, they want to see more women in politics.” She continued, “Women’s places are wherever women choose to be.” Indicating the importance of networking events like “She Inspires,” Brodber stated, “Those moments when women in power make moments for women who are along the way, are transformational.”
The conference also featured breakout sessions for participants to engage and network in small groups with U.S. and Eastern Caribbean female leaders representing a tremendous wealth of experience and expertise. The United States is committed and honored to work with our partners throughout the world to expand opportunities for women and improve gender equity as central tenets of U.S. foreign policy.