When Pearl Williams embarked on law studies at Cave Hill Campus in 2005, she had a burning desire – to use her training and knowledge to serve fellow Caribs in Dominica.
Now, five years later, having attained her coveted law degree, she speaks earnestly about her desire to change the way Carib people are perceived and discriminated against in her homeland.
“I felt that if I did law I could one day have a say in the legislation where my people are concerned, work along with and represent my people, and make a difference,” said the first Dominican Carib to be called to the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States’ (OECS) Bar.
“We don’t have enough legislation to protect the interests and rights of Carib people… . We sign international conventions on the rights of indigenous people but when it comes to being incorporated into the laws in the Caribbean, I don’t think our governments ensure that these laws are passed to protect the rights of Carib people.”
Having created history on October 6 with her admission to practise law in the OECS, Williams is ready to share her legal expertise with the Carib community and has pledged to do pro bono work within Carib territories whenever she can.
No doubt this is a decision that fills her father and former Carib Chief, Charles Williams, with pride, particularly as it was he who inspired his daughter’s ultimate career choice.
“I grew up seeing my father always politically involved… . He was always asking for something for the Carib people, always making recommendations to different government institutions and always asking for assistance for Caribs,” explained the new attorney.
“As a result of seeing my
father speaking about the
interests of the people, I got
very interested in the area
of human rights where my
people are concerned.”
Despite this zeal to represent her community, the harsh realities of life forced Williams to put her legal ambitions on hold. Pearl was unable to secure a loan to pursue her studies because she lacked the necessary collateral.
Land in the Carib
territories in Dominica
is communally owned;
this prevents members
of the indigenous clan
from using property
as collateral to secure
loans for education and
business ventures because
they do not possess individual
titles to the plots on which they
“We can’t go to the bank like everybody else in Dominica to get a loan to send children to school in the Carib territory,” lamented the 30-something-year-old, highlighting one of the greatest economic challenges facing Caribs.
So, with few financial resources at her disposal to pursue further studies, Williams found a part-time job as an airline agent after leaving school, eventually becoming a LIAT flight attendant. However, the opportunity to follow her real calling took off in 2005 when she was awarded one of the inaugural Sir Arthur Lewis Indigenous Scholarships and enrolled at The University of the West Indies’ campus in Barbados.
“I didn’t encounter financial obstacles thanks to The University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus. I was afforded an extremely good scholarship to cover my expenses while I was in Barbados. I budgeted well enough and I was able to pursue my goal in Barbados to get my LLB,” she elaborated.
However, pursuing her dream posed other issues as it meant the undergraduate had to spend at least three years away from home and family, including her eight-year-old son, Jervaughn.