Recently, the Regional Organization of Women in Leadership (ROWL) announced the 2022 inductees of the Women in Politics Leadership Institute Program (WIPLI), a program sponsored by the US Embassy, Bridgetown. This program provides training to promising leaders from Barbados and the OECS.
Notably, sisters Elleen Commodore and Daustina Commodore are among five Dominican women chosen for this auspicious program. Upon interview with Emonews, Elleen Commodore expressed that she applied to WIPLI since she is a recent graduate of another ROWL program called the Advancing and Inspiring Mentees program (AIM). “I was one of two Dominicans selected for that program which ended in May. It was such an enriching experience and it was through AIM that I learnt about the WIPLI program,” she said.
Commodore went on to add that she was encouraged by her facilitators to apply for WIPLI upon the opening of their application process. “I was very apprehensive because I’m not certain that I would want to be in the forefront of local and regional politics, but they assured us that there are other ways to be involved. So, I applied to WIPLI to see if I could learn how that would be possible – being an active member of politics without being on the main stage,” she added. She highlighted that upon being chosen as an inductee, she feared that she would have been unable to “keep up” or “fit in” with the cohort. “Thankfully, that feeling has changed,” she mentioned.
Conversely, Daustina Commodore had a different reason for applying to WIPLI, that being, the further development of her esteemed leadership qualities. “Seeing that I have always been told that I am a natural leader, I always seek to take advantage of any avenue to develop my leadership skills,” she stated. According to her, through WIPLI she would not only attain personal development but would become more of an asset to Dominica. Commodore re-echoed that she would like to be less of a passive bystander and more of an active citizen. It is therefore her hope that by undertaking this course, she will acquire the necessary tools to do so effectively.
It is noteworthy that both women identified the need to address the issue of women’s marginalization in politics locally, regionally and internationally. While they are of the belief that greater strides have been made for women’s involvement politically, they assert that more needs to be done. Despite the patent gender inequality, the Commodores maintain that the marginalization of women does not minimalize their efforts in politics in the region.
Accordingly, the Commodore sisters are optimistic that solutions to address this stereotype may develop with time. The important thing, they stressed, is that women should never be underestimated. Ellen Commodore quoted an ancient Chinese philosopher who stated that “there is no greater danger than underestimating your opponent”. According to her, this “danger” is what will continue to empower women in politics and will constantly give them the edge over their counterparts.
Similarly, Daustina Commodore made it clear that women should not be given ornamental positions. “Women’s perspective, creativity and dedication in leadership should be welcomed and respected. For example, the UN has recognized and continues to promote the inclusion of women in the peacekeeping and peacebuilding process. The perspective and contribution of women is often lauded,” she stated.
Although women have been made to fight for equal representation in politics, they believe that as of late, there is a substantial amount of women in the political sphere in Dominica. As per Ellen Commodore, “there is also a lot of potential and eagerness from young women who are trying to climb that ladder. However, in my opinion, I think that some of the women we see in Dominican politics are just there ‘in title’ or ‘in name’.”
“As a young woman in this society, it sometimes feels like they are just in place to meet the gender diversity quota and that’s it. I believe that this “passive presence” of some of our female political leaders adds to the reason why some issues that women face are not held with the same seriousness and urgency as other societal issues,” she voiced.
Likewise, Daustina Commodore shares that women and girls in Dominica can be better represented. She suggested that for this to be achieved, there needs to be more inclusion of women in the development of processes, policies and programs that will directly affect their lives. To put it simply, she voiced that there is a need for more acceptance of women in public life in Dominica and that it is through programs like WIPLI, that young women may gain a greater sense of confidence in the public and political arena.
Evidently, WIPLI stands out as one of the programs that would afford Dominican women the networking opportunity to create close connections with other like-minded young women in the Caribbean region. Therefore, the Commodores encourages fellow young women to be involved, be fearless, to embrace opportunities and to use their skills, passion and drive to fuel positive change, despite the odds.