The 50th Anniversary of Enfranchisement of Women in The Bahamas was held in the courtyard of the Government Complex in Dundas Town on November 26.
Moderator Kayla Wallace, who earned the title of Teacher of the Year 2012-2014 for the Abaco District, led in opening remarks and introduced all honourees and special guests.
Honoured during the ceremony were: Willamae Dawkins of Murphy Town; Astrid Stratton; Nadeen Beneby of Dundas Town; Millie McIntosh of Fox Town; Merle “Mother Merle’ Williams (deceased) of Dundas Town; Lee Pinder of Cherokee Sound; Alice Williams of Crossing Rocks; Naomi Lightbourne of Sandy Point; Lana Russell of Hope Town; Edith Weatherford of Man-O-War Cay; Donna Sands of Guana Cay; Estelle Cooper of Cooper’s Town; and Lillian Laing of Moore’s Island.
Nadeen Beneby also received plaques on behalf of the families of Jennie Roberts Smith and Effie Archer – women who were actively engaged in the fight for the equality of women.
After the singing of “Now Thank We All Our God,” Willamae Dawkins, an honouree from the Murphy Town community, put forth a prayer intended to summon the divine presence of God during the gathering.
The welcome was given by Jonnajah Boodle, a student of Forest Heights Academy.
As she spoke, Dr. Lenora Black, Education’s district superintendent, demonstrated the historical significance of the Women’s Suffrage Movement, which gave way to women gaining the right to vote.
“Women from all walks of life played a significant role in helping to advance the social, political and economic rights for Bahamians, and thereby they created a deeper understanding of freedom and a more democratic society,” Dr. Black expressed.
Meanwhile, facility managers from S.C. Bootle High School sang a jubilant selection before Senior Island Administrator Preston Cunningham addressed the audience. He saluted all women of this great movement in The Bahamas observing that although men are more prominent, it is the women who are leaders in many sectors.
Before ending his remarks, Administrator Cunningham read an anniversary message on behalf of MP for North Abaco – Renardo Curry – for the special occasion.
Wallace soon called on Maria Merlien of S. C. Bootle to read her winning essay. Earlier in the year, students were immersed in research related to the Women’s Suffrage Movement as part of a competition offered by the Women’s Suffrage Symposium Committee, and were asked to present their winning essays at the ceremony. Merlien also recited the poem – Phenomenal Woman by Maya Angelou – on behalf of the District Debate Team.
Next, Abaco Central High School Student Payton Stubbs introduced Rev. Cynthia “Mother” Pratt as the guest speaker, but before she came to the podium, Taanah Newbold delivered a captivating solo.
Before the ceremony, she had met with four 12th grade students to share some of her life experiences. Believing that she was serving a purpose and with the support of her late husband, Mother Pratt went from enforcing law and order as Parliament Whip to becoming deputy prime minister in her political career.
When Prime Minister, the Rt. Hon. Perry Christie, suffered a stroke, she went from being second in command to being in charge of the country as acting prime minister. She admitted that she knew nothing about politics, but she got before God and looked to Him for guidance.
“I expected God to deliver,” she recalled. Mother Pratt admonished all women to gain respect among their peers no matter what arena they are in. She also advised them to respect those around them, and to build character.
She added that it is important for this generation to know where we came from.
“The country is what it is today because of the efforts and perseverance of women.”
Technical officers from the Dept. of Education assisted with the distribution of plaques to the honourees. A number of women donned in splendid apparel and beautiful hats participated in the hat parade. The ceremony ended with the vote of thanks given by Leslie Rolle, senior education officer, and the singing of the national anthem followed by the pledge of allegiance.