Meet Patricia Scotland, the first female Secretary-General of the Commonwealth of Nations

Baroness Patricia Scotland has been appointed as the 6th Secretary-General of the Commonwealth of Nations at the Commonwealth Heads Of Government Meeting (CHOGM).  The first female to attain this feat in the 66 year history of Commonwealth, Scotland will resume office on 1 April 2016 to replace Kamalesh Sharma of India, whose eight year tenure will come to an end in March 2016.

Scotland is a Dominican born lawyer raised in the United Kingdom. A citizen of both countries, she obtained her law degree from University College London and was called to the Dominican bar in 1978. She became the first black woman to be appointed a Queen’s Counsel in 1991 and in 1997, she was made the Baroness of Asthal, Oxfordshire. With an outstanding career, Baroness Scotland was appointed Attorney General of the United Kingdom by Gordon Brown who was the Prime Minister in 2007. With this appointment she became the first woman to hold the office since its inception in 1315.

Currently the president of Chatham House, (a non-profit, non-governmental organization in charge of analyzing and promoting the understanding of current affairs and major international issues), Scotland was nominated for the position of the Commonwealth Secretary General by Dominica, her country of birth. Although her candidature was opposed by Hugh Segal, a senator in Canada who is also a former special envoy to the Commonwealth, she still came out on top beating both Sir Roland Sanders and Mmasekgoa Masire-Mwamba.

The 60-year old Secretary-General elect has gender equality and LGBT rights as some of her top priorities. In terms of women rights all round the world, she admits there is “a lot of work to do. One in three women in our world suffer from domestic violence. It’s the greatest cause of morbidity between women and girls, forced marriage, female genital mutilation, child abduction… these issues affect all of us.”

In campaigning for the LGBT community, she reportedly said that “What we have to accept is that this [decriminalizing homosexuality] is something that will depend on consensus. We do not have the right or opportunity to force states, but we can start a really good conversation to work with them so they understand the economic issues in relations to human rights and make the change. The one thing I have to do is to build consensus and trust and I can hope it will [be on the next CHOGM agenda].”

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