Dame Nita Bar­row (19161995)

Dame Nita Bar­row (19161995)
Dame Nita1

Dame Ruth Nita Bar­row was known by many as the big sis­ter of the Right Hon­or­able Sir Errol Wal­ton Bar­row. While her younger brother’s exploits are revered among peers and his con­tri­bu­tions to the Bar­ba­dian soci­ety are long last­ing, Dame Nita’s con­tri­bu­tions do not pale in com­par­i­son, for she too has been revered as one of the out­stand­ing Caribbean Lead­ers. Here, we take a look at her life, accom­plish­ments and her over­all con­tri­bu­tion to Bar­ba­dos and the Caribbean region.

Dame Nita Bar­row, the sec­ond of 5 chil­dren, was born in the parish of St. Lucy on Novem­ber 15th, 1916 to Angli­can Priest Rev­erend Regi­nald Grant Bar­row and Ruth Bar­row (née O’Neal sis­ter of another national hero of Bar­ba­dos, Dr. Charles Dun­can O’Neal). She received her sec­ondary school edu­ca­tion at the St. Michael Girls School and trained as a nurse and mid­wife at the Bar­ba­dos Gen­eral Hos­pi­tal and the Mid­wifery School in Port of Spain. She went on to fur­ther her stud­ies in nurs­ing at The Uni­ver­si­ties of Toronto and Edin­burgh and Colum­bia Uni­ver­sity, receiv­ing numer­ous fel­low­ships and schol­ar­ships along the way.

Unfor­tu­nately, dur­ing that era, nurs­ing was one of the few options avail­able to young women. How­ever, Dame Nita Bar­row had mas­sive aspi­ra­tions. She pro­gressed steadily from the field of nurs­ing to health care admin­is­tra­tion and from there, she devel­oped a career in Pub­lic Health and Health Edu­ca­tion; a career that cat­a­pulted her into the inter­na­tional spot­light. In 1954, she became the first West Indian Matron of the Uni­ver­sity Col­lege Hos­pi­tal (UCH) Jamaica, and two years later, she became the first Prin­ci­pal Nurs­ing Offi­cer of Jamaica. Her stel­lar work in the health care sec­tor con­tin­ued to be rec­og­nized when in 1964, she was appointed as Nurs­ing Advisor/​Health Con­sul­tant to the World Health Orga­ni­za­tion (WHO) (a posi­tion she held for 15 years) and to the Pan Amer­i­can Health Orga­ni­za­tion (PAHO) from 19671971. These appoint­ments pre­sented Dame Nita with an oppor­tu­nity to serve and make a dif­fer­ence in the region, as in her capac­ity as Nurs­ing Advi­sor, she was able to serve as prin­ci­pal advi­sor to 16 Caribbean gov­ern­ments. Within these ter­ri­to­ries, she was able to work to improve health care and edu­ca­tion through var­i­ous work­shops, sem­i­nars and conferences.

Dame BarrowDame Nita became seen as an author­ity on Pub­lic Health and Health Edu­ca­tion. In this capac­ity, she pub­lished sev­eral works on health care related issues. She headed a research project on nurs­ing edu­ca­tion in the Com­mon­wealth Caribbean that resulted in the upgrad­ing and re-​organization of the train­ing of nurses across the region and most notably, the intro­duc­tion of the Advanced Nurs­ing Edu­ca­tion Pro­gramme at the Uni­ver­sity of the West Indies Mona Cam­pus. As stated pre­vi­ously, she was born into the Angli­can faith, and her strong spir­i­tu­al­ity led her to have a deep con­cern for the wel­fare of all per­sons, which is why she pur­sued the pro­vi­sion of ade­quate health care so fer­vently. She also had a pas­sion for improv­ing the sta­tus of women and dis­ad­van­taged groups. Dame Nita Bar­row became Bar­ba­dos’ first female gov­er­nor gen­eral, a post she held from 1990 to 1995. She also has the dis­tinc­tion of being the first Caribbean woman to become a mem­ber of the Order of Caribbean Com­mu­nity in 1994. Dame Nita worked or resided in almost every Caribbean coun­try, and vis­ited more than 80 other coun­tries across the world.

Hon­ors and Achievements

The real­ity that lim­ited career choices for women existed dur­ing her time, makes Dame Nita’s achieve­ments more impres­sive. Her promi­nent rise from mid­wifery to var­i­ous lead­er­ship posi­tions locally, region­ally and inter­na­tion­ally is some­thing that should be cel­e­brated. Some of her hon­ors and achieve­ments include:

  • Recip­i­ent of the Caribbean Prize for Peace Through Strug­gle For Jus­tice in (1986)
  • Recip­i­ent of the CARI­COM Award for Women (1987)
  • Sec­ond recip­i­ent of the CARI­COM Tri­en­nial Award (1990)
  • Direc­tor of the Chris­t­ian Med­ical Com­mis­sion on the World Coun­cil of Churches
  • Pres­i­dent of the World YMCA (19751983)
  • Pres­i­dent of the Inter­na­tional Coun­cil for Adult Edu­ca­tion ( 19821990)
  • Direc­tor of the Global Forum for Women

Dame RuthAmbas­sador and Per­ma­nent Rep­re­sen­ta­tive of Bar­ba­dos to the UN (19861990)
Governor-​General of Bar­ba­dos from 19901995

Only woman named to the Com­mon­wealth Group of Emi­nent Per­sons sent to South Africa to nego­ti­ate the release of Nel­son Mandela

Knighted by Queen Eliz­a­beth II as Dame of St Andrew and Dame Grand Cross of the Order of St Michael and St George

Hon­orary Doc­tor of Laws, UWI and hon­orary doc­tor­ates from 12 other universities


Dame Nita Bar­row died in office on Decem­ber 19
th, 1995 at the age of 79, hav­ing left a legacy for all Caribbean per­sons espe­cially women to build on.

© Photo 1 taken from Cave​hilluwi​.edu
© Photo 2 taken from Worldy​wca​.org
© Photo 3 taken from Gsta​tic​.com
© Arti­cle of caribbe​an​dreams​magazine​.com

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