By Davion Smith, BVI News Staff
Considering that only four women comprise the overall 12 known political candidates vying for a Territorial At-Large seat, the females might already be entering the race with a handicap — having only a 33 percent chance of victory as opposed to their male counterparts who have a stronger 66 percent chance.
That said, At-Large candidates Sharie DeCastro and Shereen Flax-Charles of the Virgin Islands Party (VIP), Shaina Smith of the Progressive Virgin Islands Movement (PVIM), and Sandy Underhill of the National Democratic Party (NDP) might have some amount of work to do if they are to distinguish themselves from the other eight male At-Large contenders.
More importantly, however, the women might have to distinguish themselves from each other if at least one of them should stand a chance of earning one of the four At-Large seats at the end of the elections.
Based on their respective public addresses at recent political events, the women have shown some similarities but notable differences as well.
Flax-Charles the only At-Large candidate from sister island
The VIP’s Flax-Charles, for example, stands as the only At-Large candidate from a sister island. This may very well earn her strong support from the sister islands community who are being promised greater representation if she is elected.
Flax-Charles’ history as a businesswoman and her involvement in local tourism are experiences she is also bringing to improve the sector. Outside of those qualities, the political newcomer said she is also mindful of the BVI’s ‘vulnerable’ community such as children, the elderly, and persons with special needs.
“It is about time that someone speaks up for those who may not have a voice. In this community, I will be that voice … For too long we have made policies that affect everyone living here but we are not mindful of the elderly, our children, those persons with special needs, and the disabled. But, guess what, in a VIP administration you can be rest assured that these communities will be taken into consideration for every major piece of policy we propose,” said Flax-Charles who is widely known as an outspoken resident of Virgin Gorda.
Underhill the educator and lawyer
Underhill has been described by her political leader Myron Walwyn as the NDP’s “secret weapon”.
Her years of service as the principal of the territory’s largest secondary school could prove her to be an asset to the education ministerial portfolio if elected. And on the other hand, her law degree might make her an asset as a legislator in the House of Assembly.
She has promised to use her intimate knowledge as a former principal to address the challenges within the local education sector. One of her goals, if elected, is to facilitate greater training for educators and to make the sector better resourced in terms of staff and otherwise.
“We must also ensure that we improve the under-representation of males in teaching. This is a key concern … I will be your leader who is instrumental in developing a society in which women and men can enjoy equal opportunities but most importantly to establish a platform to empower and support our women creating opportunities for our single mothers by helping them to obtain the necessary skills in parenting, coping, and other critical areas.”
Shaina Smith the technocrat
The PVIM’s Smith — an engineer by education and a project manager by profession — is a technocrat who is promising practical solutions where national development is concerned.
Smith’s proposed solutions fall into two main categories. The first category covers local infrastructure and utilities while the second focuses on social services and development.
In the social services arena, family assistance programmes and initiatives to improve early childhood education are among the things Smith is aiming to improve.
“I will work with my team to see a system implemented where instead of imprisoning a parent for unpaid child support it will be deducted from their pay. This is a much better scenario,” Smith said.
“When elected, I will work to see the Trade Department and the National Business Bureau are resourced with the expertise and the funding to facilitate another shift where we enable young Virgin Islanders to become the next set of shareholders in the local economy,” she added.
The PVIM candidate also promised solutions for local infrastructure and utilities such as water and sewerage. She also said a five-year plan is what is needed to develop permanent roads across the BVI.
“The next important thing is a maintenance system where road crews are set up in each district by zones to maintain the roads daily and not just before elections,” she said.
deCastro the youth specialist
The VIP’s second female At-Large candidate, deCastro, appears to be building a considerable part of her campaign on the foundation of youth.
DeCastro — an entrepreneur, sitting member on the board of the territory’s Recovery & Development Agency, and a community activist — presented a territorial plan for areas such as health, sports tourism, among other things. But, throughout it all, the 28-year-old is promising to employ more targetted strategies to maintain youth involvement.
“For too many years we (local young persons) have been ‘talked at’ and not ‘talked to’. References are made about us and no-one has taken the time to use our experiences as a reference. The buck stops here and now. It’s not just about getting youths to listen. Its also about getting people in positions of authority to hear what the youth has to say.”
The quartet of female At-Large candidates has had some overlapping areas of interests such as female empowerment, education, family support, among other things.
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