Trinidad and Tobago
Minister of Planning and Development, Member of Parliament for Arima
Pennelope Beckles – affectionately known as Penny – is a Trinidad and Tobago diplomat, politician, and attorney-at-law. Her legal and political careers are characterised by her advocacy for developing legislation, policies, and programmes that improve the quality of life for all people. Beckles has gained a reputation for her empathetic style, which can be attributed to her humble beginnings in Borde Narve, a rural village in the southern part of Trinidad. Her activism is a remnant of the values taught by her deceased parents Lionel Beckles, a prominent trade unionist, and her mother, the latter having been an active member of the community councils in their neighbourhood.
Beckles matriculated at the esteemed University of the West Indies (UWI), St. Augustine, and Cave Hill campuses, obtaining a Bachelor of Laws degree, with honours. In 1988, she began practicing law and later entered politics at the local government level, as a member of the People’s National Movement (PNM) party, serving as a councillor.
In 1995, she was appointed a Senator for the PNM, the party then in the Opposition. In 2000, she became an elected member of the House of Representatives when she won her seat as Member of Parliament for Arima, a seat she has won each of the three times she has contested.
Pennelope Beckles has held various ministerial portfolios in the Government of Trinidad and Tobago: Social Development (2001), Culture and Tourism (2002), Public Utilities and the Environment (2003), Housing and Urban Development (2020), and currently, she functions as Minister of Planning and Development (2022).
In 2016, Beckles began her diplomatic service, as the Permanent Representative to the United Nations (UN) for Trinidad and Tobago. In 2019, she was named Co-Chair President of the Executive Board of UN Women. Additionally, she served as Vice President of the 74th Session of the General Assembly. At the UN, Beckles advocated for global sustainable development with an emphasis on policies and investments that helped to build sustainable and resilient communities, foster international partnerships, enhance youth development, and realise gender equality, particularly for the people of Trinidad and Tobago.