Upgrading to First-Class: The Role and Contributions of Dominican Women in the Caribbean Reparations Movement.

by: - February 7, 2020
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Dr June Soomer

Every year, the University of the West Indies holds an event to remember Dame Mary Eugenia Charles, the Caribbean’s own iron lady who governed as the first and so far only female prime minister of Dominica and the first in the region.

She was also Dominica’s first female lawyer.

The 12th Dame Mary Eugenia Charles memorial lecture took place on Thursday evening at UWI Open Campus Dominica in collaboration with the Dominica Reparations Committee and the House of Nyabinghi.

The subject was Caribbean reparations.

Dr. June Soomer, Secretary General of the Association of Caribbean States, was the featured lecturer and she presented on the topic: Upgrading to First-Class: The Role and Contributions of Dominican Women in the Caribbean Reparations Movement.”

Dr. Soomer addressed the role and contributions of women in Dominica to the cause of freedom and the reparations movement, which is the fight for freedom, justice and the acknowledgement of the crimes committed against the African and indigenous people and its lingering, injustices.

She believes that the redress of the dehumanisation of African and indigenous women belongs at the heart of the movement in order to get justice and reparations for all.

She said in her presentation, “The fact is that she was a woman whose great-grandfather was a slave and she was able to achieve these things in a society that did not recognise women in that field.

“She was actually an isolated woman in that field; she had no role model before her and that’s the problem with being the first. Even if she never identified herself as a feminist (she never spoke on behalf of women specifically) nevertheless her accomplishments were undeniable.

“I think that by enabling this discourse on women and reparations, UWI Open Campus not only bolsters the rallying cry for reparatory justice but also provides a platform for profound intellectual discourse on the issue that still continues to be approached with trepidation.”

Dame Mary Eugenia Charles served as Dominica’s prime minister from 21 July 1980 until 14 June 1995.

Dame Mary Eugenia Charles died in September 2005 at age 86.

The lecture series is meant to reflect on the influence, ideas and life of Dame Eugenia Charles and link these with contemporary political, social and economic issues.