Muslimahs: Our Future Parliamentarians?
When Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib made history by becoming the first two Muslim women to be elected to congress in the United States, it sent waves across the Western world, reaching the Caribbean and inspiring countless Muslimahs who watched in awe as two Muslim women of colour took on a position of great influence. However, Muslim women are no strangers to politics, leadership and decision-making positions. For centuries, Muslim women across the world not only participated in society, but actively reformed it as scholars, jurists, rulers, benefactresses, warriors, businesswomen, and legal experts.
In this guest blog, Sister Khadijah Bakharia, reflects on her experience as a BAML sponsored Pink Parliamentarian, and how more Muslim women in positions of influence can help shape a Barbados that is better for us all.
Muslimahs: our future parliamentarians?
This question became real for me, when I was awarded the opportunity by the Barbados Association of Muslim Ladies (BAML) to join Pink Parliament, an initiative organized by the Barbados Youth Development Council (BYDC), Life in Leggings and the Women and Development Unit of the University of the West Indies (WAND). Pink Parliament inspires young women ages 14-19 to pursue a career in politics by equipping us with the tools to be bold effective advocates through professional training, mentorship and networking sessions with political leaders.
I must admit I joined a bit blindly, looking at it as another social space to make friends and gain some knowledge in advocacy. I was never interested in the politics of my island except for the hype around elections. Who doesn’t like to attend those meetings and listen to the banter between candidates? I never expected that the experience and opportunities presented to me as a Pink Parliamentarian would encourage me to change my career goals. It was absurd to think that in the space of a few short months, having given up most Sundays between November and March to attend the sessions, that I would look seriously at forming a career in advocacy and politics. These sessions enabled us to engage in thought-provoking discussions with like-minded young women, mentored by the remarkable Roshanna Trim. This rare and enlightening experience, where we engaged in serious discussions during sessions with female Members of Parliament, female Senators and other leaders who found the time to help shape our young minds and broaden our perspectives on our futures.
Pink Parliamentarians as we are now referred to, were taken seriously in visits to the Senate and Parliament. We were given an audience and time to engage Ministers as they sit and deliberate policies to govern our country in both The Lower House (Parliament) and the Upper House (Senate). We were recognised when representing ourselves privately or publicly at community spaces. The highlight of my experience was being invited to Parliament, watching the members discuss and debate policy bills, engaging with Ministers and meeting the Honorable Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley. These opportunities were well received by many of my peers.
As a young Muslim woman, one of seven who participated in the first cohort, I felt honored to be able to share my concerns regarding practicing my faith in this island, my home.
Opportunities such as these are important as we seek to have our voices heard and be given a seat at the policy making table. We often complain of the challenges we face which are unique to the female experience along with issues related to religion and ethnicity. To ensure positive change we have to make our presence felt. We have to choose to empower ourselves and represent on the issues that affect us all. I would encourage any girl who is interested in leadership, advocacy and politics or even just a motivational space to join Pink Parliament. As part of the organizing team for the next cohort, I look forward to welcoming my Muslim sisters to the programme and being part of your journey to becoming a Pink Parliamentarian.
*Muslimah- Muslim Woman
Writer: Khadijah Bakharia
Interested in submitting a guest blog? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Anonymous submissions also welcomed.
The application period for the Pink Parliament Programme closes on July 31st, 2020.
Through our Educate Girls Fund, BAML is offering 2 full scholarships to the programme for Muslim girls.