Fifty women, who have made significant contributions to the national development of the country over the years, were on March 8th honoured during a function to commemorate International Women's Day 2012 at the Wyndham Kingston hotel.
The honourees, who have done substantial work in their respective fields, include Dr. Olive Lewin for her outstanding work in folk music; Dr. Carolyn Cooper for exceptional contribution in culture; Mrs. Norma Brown-Bell for her work in the field of media; and Ambassador Madge Barrett for outstanding contribution in the foreign service.
Executive Director of the Bureau of Women’s Affairs, Faith Webster, said that while there are thousands of women in Jamaica doing their part and contributing significantly to the development of the society, all could not have been recognised at the event.
“We could never ever find all, or have all of them here today, so the awardees here today are just a representation of women to not just symbolically acknowledge their worth, but also to mark our 50th year of Independence and the noteworthy achievements of our women in the society,” she said.
Mrs. Webster said Jamaican women have made significant strides in various fields in almost 50 years since Independence and continue to make headway towards gaining equality through their increased participation in all sectors of society.
“We now see women being hired as managers in prominent local companies and as senior executives in the field of banking and finance and other non-traditional areas that used to be primarily reserved for men. This proves that women have overcome many of the hurdles and negative stereotypes that led to the belief that they were incapable of being successful leaders and business owners,” she said.
She said the Bureau of Women’s Affairs was particularly pleased to note the highest ever turn out of women presenting themselves as participants in representational politics, which culminated in Prime Minister, the Most Hon. Portia Simpson Miller being elected leader of the nation.
“Even though we celebrate these significant achievements in business and the political area, we recognise that there is still much work to be done before women are full and equitable participants in Jamaica’s social, cultural, and economic development,” Mrs. Webster pointed out, citing recent data from the Statistical Institute of Jamaica (STATIN) which shows that women also continue have an unemployment rate of almost twice that of men and are also relegated to low-paying sectors of the labour market.
She further noted that despite the gains made in the last 50 years, women still face critical challenges such as rape and domestic violence, which continue to affect them in their private lives. The Executive Director noted that the Government of Jamaica continues to implement measures that will empower and improve the lives of Jamaican women and girls, which include policies, programmes and legislation.
“It is hoped that (these) initiatives will encourage women to take greater control of their economic situation and make responsible financial decisions. This is in conjunction with the recent approval of the National Policy for Gender Equality by Parliament,” she added.
State Minister for Industry, Investment and Commerce, Hon. Sharon Ffolkes-Abrahams, who was representing the Prime Minister at the event, also acknowledged the significant achievements Jamaican women have made over the years and more women to get involved in the country’s political process.
Jamaica joins fellow United Nations member nations to commemorate the 101th observation of International Women's Day 2012. The Day recognises the struggles of women against all forms of discrimination and exploitation, and focuses on the need for equality, for national liberation, democracy, peace and progress.
The theme for the local celebration was ‘Supporting Women’s Economic and Political Empowerment’.
By Alecia Smith-Edwards, JIS Reporter