We need a ‘First Lady’?

I have struggled with finding the difference between the role of the wife of the Prime Minister and the wife of the President.  My bias is that the wife of the President has an excellent opportunity to provide  a gentle kind of leadership in Trinidad and Tobago.  The wife of the Prime Minister may be too close to the cut and thrust of the politics.  This article captures my thoughts on the role of the wife of the President and was originally written for the Newsday.  It is being reproduced on my blog.  Here’s the link http://www.newsday.co.tt/businessday/0,182915.html.  The actual text as it appeared in the Newday follows:

CONGRATULATIONS to the newly appointed “First Lady” Mrs Reema Harrysingh-Carmona.

From where I sit, she has a unique opportunity to craft a different role for the “First Lady” of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago. If Trinidad and Tobago ever needed an example of a modern women with dignity, poise and finesse it is now and I am placing my hopes on this new “First Lady”.
In our 51-year-old Republic, it matters tremendously that our “First Lady” be a mirror for young women as they strive to express their authentic selves. It matters that she carry the role in such a manner that no one feels alienated. It will be hard work but Mrs Carmona has a fascinating opportunity to demonstrate leadership.
My vision is for a “First Lady” who can use the power of “her office” to further women’s issues but still retain her stature as the lady.
“A women’s think-tank” could be established. This would provide a wonderful opportunity to reflect the diversity of our society by harnessing the brain power of our women of substance. “Think tanks” promote discussion and provide suggestions for solving problems. Given the pivotal role played by women in society, the furtherance of issues critical to them directly impacts every aspect of society and consequently will redound to the general good.
The range of issues which could be championed by a “First Lady” is unending. Our society continues to cry out for role models and effective leaders.
The story of our new “First Lady” will unfold and she has an opportunity to craft the story line and implant the actors. My sense is that there is a large segment of the population just waiting to lap up each chapter of her story.
There is the continuing discussion about morals, values and the nurturing of our young people. This might just provide the opportunity for our “First Lady” to throw resources behind a project aimed at capturing the hearts and minds of the masses as we hammer out a set of common values which are Trinidadian. A limitation might be that there is a no line item in any budget to facilitate such an activity but that is really a matter of the bureaucracy.
Annually Carnival provides opportunity for a discussion of the role of women and the importance of how we dress and wine. On the surface, the discussion might appear to be trivial however it really speaks to the issue of the changing expectations and roles. Is there an opportunity here for a “First Lady” to encourage quality discourse and possibly sponsor research which could add value to this public debate?
Women continue to push the envelope in all spheres of life. Some even perceive that the glass ceilings are being broken.
If activities in our calypso tents in any way reflect our society then there are issues to be analysed. Looking at the calypso arena the question that comes to my mind is “why are women on stage trying to “out man” the men? And why are these situations given such prominence?
Couldn’t the office of the “First Lady” throw its weight behind a project aimed at exploring the underlying reasons for this and other emerging attitudes?
As T&T continues to mature, there are opportunities to fashion institutions in ways we find appropriate and functional. The whole question of the behaviour of office holders has to be analysed and defined. When an ordinary citizen overnight becomes a State official what are the things that must change in order for the office holder to carry the role with finesse.
To my mind the role of the “First Lady” in our society is not apparent neither is it prescribed. Nature abhors a vacuum and I trust that as the role of the “First Lady” emerges it will reflect the values and behaviours which the society will find acceptable.

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