This is how 3 Brit Bajan women feel about Barbados becoming a republic

As Barbados becomes a republic and prepares to introduce its first president, we spoke to three British women of Barbadian heritage about the significance of this move.

On the eve of Barbados’s 55th anniversary of independence from Britain, there’s a sense of change in the air for those in the country and Barbadians in other parts of the world.

The island is entering a new dawn as the country prepares to elect Dame Sandra Mason as Barbados’s first president and the removal of Queen Elizabeth II as head of state.

The move is significant for many reasons. Barbados is one of 16 countries where the Queen is head of state and with this now set to change as it becomes a republic, many see this as a breakaway from Britain’s colonial past and an opportunity for further development in the country.

“I am excited for Barbados and keen to see what’s next with regards to the country shedding the colonial ties,” says environmentalist Shaherah Jordan.

Jordan, who is of Barbadian descent, says she and her family’s perception of the monarchy has gone from “mildly intrigued to mostly indifferent” over the years and feels the Queen’s role as head of state hasn’t particularly benefitted the country overall.

“Family back home see the Queen’s ‘role’ as head of state as symbolic and a consequence of colonialism,” she says.

Like many other Caribbean countries, Barbados’s colonial history runs deep throughout the island. While it’s a place that has become synonymous with tropical cocktails and endless white-sand beaches that legions of sun-worshippers love to visit, this is a place where slave ships once docked and was a country built by enslaved Africans.

While slavery formally came to an end in 1834, the country remained a British colony and the Queen remained as head of state despite Barbados gaining independence in 1966.

This view of the country shedding its colonial past is something that was echoed by soon-to-be president Sandra Mason. Last year, Mason said the move signified that “time has come to fully leave our colonial past behind” – something Jordan agrees with but feels can only be achieved to an extent.

“I fully agree with this sentiment but I do not believe that the removal of the Queen as the head of state is the action that will ‘fully’ leave the colonial past behind,” she admits. “I do think it is a significant and important catalyst towards dismantling the colonial influence on Barbados though.”

“After speaking to family, they neither like nor dislike the fact that the Queen is head of state – it is simply the way it has always been,” says Gemma Bourne.

Bourne spent the majority of her summer holidays in Barbados growing up and has strong ties to the country.

“As much as I was born in England, I really do identify with being Bajan and have a real connection and love for the island.

“The fact that I know the island as I do is my favourite thing.It really does feel like a second home and I would love to spend more time there in one go as I grow older and potentially even retire there in the same way my grandmother did in the 90s.”

While Bourne’s last visit to the country was in 2019, she is keen to go back – especially with this significant change happening in the country which she says is “exciting”.

“New voices mean new ideas and I’m very intrigued to see where this change of governance takes Barbados,” she says. “My hopes are that with this move, comes the ​bolstering of the island from the inside out.That it harnesses the talents and contributions of its natives first, to ensure the sustainability, growth and continued success of the island and its people.”

For British-born AJ Morris, a junior planner at an advertising agency, she is excited to not only see the removal of the Queen as head of state but the ushering in of a new female president and the growth of more female world leaders.

“From what I know about Dame Sandra Mason, she will continue to do well for the country alongside Prime Minister Mia Mottley.” 

Mason’s extensive history has seen her serve as a magistrate of the Juvenile and Family Court for over 10 years, an ambassador to Venezuela, Chile, Brazil and Colombia and most recently serving as governor-general.

“Her credentials and past endeavours are quite telling of the person she is, and how she approaches her callings, so I think she’s going to be brilliant in her new position. I think she’ll stand as another role model,” says Morris.

From the removal of one leader to the introduction of another, this evolution is sure to be watched carefully by other Commonwealth countries, particularly in the Caribbean region.

On Sunday, Jamaican Prime Minister Andrew Holness announced that there will be a “comprehensive review” of Jamaica’s Constitution beginning in 2022, adding to the feeling that there could be a collective change among some countries in the Caribbean.

“I think what is happening in Barbados could inspire some other Caribbean countries to do the same,” says Morris.

“It definitely could, in the same way that the Scottish referendum sparked other parts of European nations to attempt something similar. However, they might wait and see how Barbados fares first, and consider how their respective governments might address any issues that crop up,” she says.

“Barbados isn’t the first country to take this step,” adds Jordan. “But whether other countries take this step remains to be seen.” 

Images: AJ Morris, Gemma Bourne, Shaherah Jordan

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