Written by Fayola Moore-Edwards
Images by Nimeka Drakes
Here are highlights from the work of two women in Grenada’s recent history who, as well as being dedicated mothers, contributed substantially to the development and education of our society and paved the way for women in leadership.
Cynthia Gairy, nee Clyne, was born in St. David in 1923. Coming out of school, she was very skilled in various areas, including music and sewing. She shared these skills with her immediate community and was even a piano teacher at one point. She did voluntary social work in her local village, as many knew they could rely on her for assistance. She later married Eric Gairy, who became the first prime minister of Grenada, and started a family. Despite not having a university degree and while raising her 2 girls, she had a successful career in government, becoming the first woman in Grenada to sit in the House of Representatives in 1961. After the election of 1967, Mrs Gairy became Minister of Social Affairs, which was responsible for education, health, labour and social welfare.
At the beginning of the Grenadian Revolution (1979), Mrs Gairy was the only member of Parliament who was not put into prison. This was because they could find nothing inappropriate in her background. She was known as a pillar of rectitude. She was passionate about culture, initiating the Lancers festival, a traditional dance festival, between the 60s and 70s. During her time in office, there were at least 65 cultural groups known throughout the island. Grenada boasted a team of 85 performers for the 1972 Carifesta with the youngest being a 6 year old boy and the oldest, an 83 year old violinist. She promoted the Homemakers Association (Grenada Branch) and was passionate about research into local produce and how it could be used in various ways. She would then develop opportunities to impart this newfound knowledge to the population, e.g. food festivals. When Ms Gairy died in 2018, many remembered her giving nature and love of people.
Jacqueline Creft was born in 1946. At the beginning of the Grenadian Revolution in 1979, she was the only woman among the original seven leaders of the People’s Revolutionary Government. During their time in office, she was the Minister of Education and campaigned for universal access to education, driven by an expressed belief that education was a right and not a privilege. Under her leadership, teachers were trained while in service through the NISTEP initiative. Most of the week, they taught in schools and at least once a week would attend teacher training centres around the island. To fill in their absence, community members would come in to teach local crafts, fishing, sewing, etc. Community based training centres for adult literacy and professional development were also initiated. These were of invaluable benefit to Grenada as it propelled many to succeed in their careers and improve their quality of life. As an example, some went on to be nurses or managers in their particular institutions.
Ms. Creft was also interested in sports and culture. One of her visions was to have a cultural centre where anyone could learn the local arts; e.g. steelpan. She was only in her thirties when she died but she certainly left an indelible mark on the education system. She is remembered as a straightforward, natural and simple woman. She is also remembered as a loving mum, who enjoyed spending time with her son and who happily went to all his school activities.
Special thanks to:
Mrs Gloria Payne-Banfield (Friend of Mrs Gairy)
Ms Peggy Nesfield (Friend of Ms Jacqueline Creft)