Short History of Women in Development

Women in development was formed in 1994 in preparation for its participation in the fourth World Conference of Women, which was held in Beijing, China in 1995, at the invitation of the United Nations. Many conferences were held with consultants from Barbados on issues affecting women, Mrs. Myrtle was elected. Two persons were selected to represent the Turks and Caicos Islands at the Beijing conference Hon Cheryl Tull and Miss Mahala Wynns. After their return, Women in Development began to lobby for an institution through which women’s issues would be formally addressed. Four years later in March 1999, Turks and Caicos Island government established the Women’s Desk under the Ministry of Education Youth and Sports with Mrs. Rita Gardiner as the first Coordinator of Women’s Affairs.

Mrs. Gardiner brought her usual zest and progressive thinking to the job and within months, she encouraged the formation of island branches of Women in Development in North Caicos, South Caicos, Middle Caicos and Providenciales. On September 13, 1999 The Advisory Council of Women in Development was formed and the meeting took place at the Mess Hall, South Base on Grand Turk. And on October 31st, 1999, the Women’s Desk was officially launched at the Darts Ball room in Grand Turk with a formal banquet. The guest speaker for this occasion was Dr. Glenda Simms- Executive Director of the Women’s in Kingston Jamaica.

One of the most successful combined efforts of the Women’s Desk and women in development was the production of a magazine “Honoring Women of Turks and Caicos Islands”. The magazines were sold for ten dollars each and have been circulated for years. Women in Development is also committed to the empowerment of women through education, and to this end the Women’s Desk and the Women in Development established “The Continuous Education Program” for teen-aged mothers. This was a pilot program for two years and took place at the Business College in Grand Turk. In June 2002 eighteen teen-aged mothers graduated from the program. The majority were able to be place in suitable jobs and some moved on to higher learning and others launched their own small businesses. For the want of further funding this program was temporarily put on hold. In 2005, with the opening of a Gender Affairs office in Providenicales on June 2004 with Miss Barbara Handfield. With funding the “The Continuous Education Program” was revitalized and schools were opened in Grand Turk at the Business College and in Providenciales in Five Cays adjacent to the Baptist Church, under the name “The New Beginning School”. The schools cater to teen-aged mothers and young women and men who did not finish their high school education. Apart from the wide variety of high school subjects, the schools also offer Cosmetology classes with fully equipped saloons, introduction to electricity classes with students from various government high schools participating, computer classes to the community, entrepreneurship classes and reading classes for adults.

In keeping with their commitment of combating violence in all forms and reaching out to women in need, Women in Development had set as its long term goal, the construction of a “Crisis Center” and after years of planning, that goal was finally realized with a ground breaking ceremony, held on International Women’s Day on March 8th, 2003. Women in Development along with the Domestic Violence held the ground breaking ceremony under the theme: “Communication In the Home is Best. Let Domestic Violence Rest”. With a donation from a charitable giver, the Women in Development raised other monies through fund raising drives. Land has been acquired and Women in Development is set to begin fund raising drives to erect the long awaited ‘Crisis Center”.

Women in Development and the Gender Affairs Department look forward to the communities in the Turks and Caicos Islands, continued support as we push forward to empower women and men in the Turks and Caicos Islands.