“The choice of my public life has been to be a lawyer, an advocate, as well as to be a representative of the people.” Her fierce, determined advocacy for the Caribbean at COP 26 made Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley far more than a champion of the region; it cemented her place in the global consciousness as a forward-thinking leader and change maker, and no doubt contributed to TIME Magazine's decision to include her in its list of The 100 Most Influential People of 2022.
The magazine tweeted:
“@miaamormottley is an embodiment of our conscience, reminding us all to treat our planet and therefore one another with love, dignity, and care,” writes Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala (@NOIweala) #TIME100 https://t.co/HuMRgPMnZr pic.twitter.com/DsNieGB1Qt
— TIME (@TIME) May 23, 2022
The rationale for Mottley's inclusion on the list was penned by Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, director-general of the World Trade Organization, herself an environmental sustainability advocate.
In her profile video, Mottley explained her position on the climate issue very succinctly:
The climate crisis — and I don't say ‘change’ — is real. And the time for climate justice is also upon us, because if we're going to do the things that are necessary for us to adapt to this new reality, it takes time and it takes money. […] We're at 1.2 [degrees Celsius] already and look at what 1.2 is doing for us. […]
We have a saying in Barbados: ‘One one blow does kill old cow,’ which is simply to say, ‘One blow at a time, one step at a time.’
In other words, crises happen incrementally. Like most Small Island Developing States (SIDS) that are in the frontline of climate change impacts, the Caribbean has been dealing with the starkest effects of global heating, in the form of everything from more devastating hurricanes, to coral bleaching and coastal erosion, which are getting worse from year to year.
Mottley's stewardship of the environment is not the only thing she's been lauded for, however. As prime minister, she has spearheaded other progressive initiatives, including starting the process to abolish the secondary school entrance exam, long regarded as a thorn in the side of equitable education in the region; declaring her intent for Barbados to recognise same-sex unions; and delivering on her promise of making Barbados a republic. Telling TIME Magazine that her country and the wider region “have been the victims of imperial ambitions for too long,” she wanted to let “that little Barbadian boy, that little Barbadian girl, believe that they could aspire to the the head of state in their own country.”
In the same vein, her administration also coordinated the removal of a statue of British naval commander Horatio Nelson from the country's National Heroes Square, because of his role in the transatlantic slave trade: “Sometimes we need to put things away,” she explained in her video, “contextualise them and move again. And that's all we're doing, without acrimony, without great emotion, but we believe that we must do this as an act of self-love.”
Against the backdrop of increased instances of crime, Mottley has also spoken out against Barbadian musicians who “glorify gun violence,” explaining that their songs do not reflect the values of Barbadians, or what the country stands for.
Her deep-rooted sense of social justice, her pride in her Caribbean heritage, and her clear vision for the excellence her country can offer the world despite its size, are all vital ingredients of the Motley brand of governance. She considers herself a representative of the electorate rather than a politician:
I believe that I'm here to represent [their] interests […] And there are so many who are voiceless and they're so many who are incapable of action, but if those of us who have the capacity can make that difference in their lives, then the world would be a better place.
Judging from the response to the TIME Magazine honour on social media, many seem to believe that Mottley can — and actually has been — making the world better, in a myriad of ways:
An international/worldwide cause is associated with Mia Motltley and as such this recognition by Time Magazine is fitting! If at no other time, she did introduce herself and her cause to the world in a big way when she spoke at that Glasgow Climate Conference last year!
— 𝑀𝐿𝑎𝑟𝑟𝑖𝑠𝑡𝑜𝑛 🇯🇲 (@MLarristonNow) May 23, 2022
Twitter user Greg Christie felt that the Mottley administration's efforts at transparency and good governance were also worth applauding:
On the pivotal issue of corruption – a scourge that can stymie a country’s socio-economic development and growth more than any other affliction – PM Mottley has led Barbados to becoming the least corrupt country in the English-Speaking Caribbean – for 2 years in a row!
— Greg Christie (@Greg0706) May 23, 2022
Regional netizen Gerald La Touche added:
There are some who stand tall and stand out no matter where they are from… Prime Minister Mia Mottley of Barbados is one such person.
By Okonjo-Iweala @NOIweala Director-general World Trade Organization. #TIME100#Barbados #CARICOM #WTO @miaamormottleyhttps://t.co/aJAFBkYK4G
— Gerald J. La Touche JP., MA., MIEx., FRSA. (@OneCaribbean) May 23, 2022
One young Barbadian could hardly believe it:
A Barbadian PM on the Time 100 list? Things I thought I would never see
— Crop Over Ambassaduh (@lukeyism) May 23, 2022
Trishana McGowan was thrilled that Mottley followed in the footsteps of former Jamaican prime minister Portia Simpson Miller, who made TIME Magazine's Most Influential list in 2012:
The Hon Portia Simpson-Miller and now Mia Mottley, Issa big ting, Issa big moment!
I love that Mia says it and her actions match, she's assertive and forward thinking with her leadership.
— Trishana McGowan (@CelenaSports) May 23, 2022
Her compatriot jaH C felt that the TIME Magazine honour was “a fitting recognition for an astute thought leader,” while another Jamaican couldn't help but compare the two countries:
Deh pon a medz the other day…Barbados economy on point; dollar stable; lots a people vaxxed; Republic status shot a road; they've remained in the Commonwealth ….and me don't see dem a run down Sec-Gen position…
….Makes you wonder about #JamaicaPriorities https://t.co/lAhjjEIcPZ
— LawSessions (The Original)🇯🇲🇬🇧 (@JenniferHousen) May 23, 2022
Jamaican senator Kamina Johnson Smith, who is contesting the position of Commonwealth Secretary General the above tweet refers to, sent her congratulations to Mottley:
Huge Congrats @miaamormottley !! What a wonderful accolade for us #CaribbeanWomen to celebrate!! pic.twitter.com/Irze8DfTB4
— Hon. Kamina J Smith (@kaminajsmith) May 23, 2022
Naturally, Mia Mottley's signature shawl — an accessory iconic enough to have its own Twitter account — had to weigh in:
Exciting news, but can we take a second to acknowledge this premium shawl? @miaamormottley 🇧🇧✨ pic.twitter.com/zpU6KQz5ha
— Mia Mottley’s Shawl (@miamottleyshawl) May 23, 2022
As Okonjo-Iweala so aptly put it in her profile of Mottley, “Bold, fearless, and possessing a great intellect and wit, the Prime Minister is a brilliant politician who knows how to shake things up,” so much so that she can add a new title to her ever-growing list of accomplishments: one of the world's most influential leaders. While Barbadians and regional citizens already knew that, TIME has made it official.