JIS News

Madam Chair, Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen.I would like to express at the outset my sincere pleasure at being invited to participate in this very important occasion when we recognize and celebrate the work and worth of so many who have given dedicated and sterling service to the young women of Jamaica over these past thirty years.
Yes, today, we come to share with the Women’s Centre of Jamaica Foundation in saluting the men and women who have over the years provided the kind of sustenance that is the very foundation of the programme of the Centre. In doing so, I want to point out that today we are recognizing from the directors and managers to the caregivers, feeders, watchmen, clerks, secretaries, counselors, everyone who have in any small or large way made a difference to the lives of young mothers in crisis.
Madam Chair, as I reflect upon this great task, some cherished words come to my mind, and I quote:
Teach us true respect for allStir response to duty’s callStrengthen us the weak to cherishGive us vision lest we perish
Madam Chair, these excellent and inspiring words will be immediately recognized and appreciated by all of us gathered here today. They are taken from the second verse of our National Anthem and request of God the Father an apportioning of some very significant qualities: respect for all, response to duty, cherishing of the weak, and possession of vision, all necessary requirements for the interventions in the lives to which all of us here are fully committed.
Yes, the words carry a special message for those of us who give service in fields of the kind we feature today: that of giving support and solace to young teenage mothers in need and in crisis.
These, Madam Chair, ladies and gentlemen, are persons who often times have scarcely known respect. They represent a group of, in most cases, oppressed or distressed young women who have been historically weakened by abuse, malice, discrimination and loneliness. These are persons for whom one “mistake, or one experience of abuse has led to a life of despair and despondency.
Madam Chair, as we look back thirty years, we recall the pain and anxiety, depression and discomfort suffered by adolescent mothers. For many it often meant losing families as in many instances they were excluded from their families who saw them as a source of disgrace. For others, it meant loss of income and employment as employers abandoned these young mothers in the name of reputation and image.
Others, still, Madam Chair, had to drop out of school. They were not allowed to continue their education and, as such, were forced to add to their self inflicted misery the pain of expulsion and the consequences it brought. All in all, it was a time of remorse and pain for these adolescent mothers.
I am sure that those who offered themselves, most times in a selfless and complete manner, to serve in this area, have realized very early, the nature and depth of the sacrifice they are called upon to make. Most important in this service was the need to give life back to those teenage mothers. It is my firm belief that the lines I quoted from the National Anthem ably summarizes the approaches needed to be taken and, have been taken, to ensure that these young women in crisis find restoration and hope in the future.
Teach us true respect for all..
And so we begin with the first line of the quote: Teach us true respect for all.
From the early beginnings and moreso now, those who work in the Women’s Centre of Jamaica Foundation have always had to demonstrate the highest levels of respect for all who pass beyond the doors of the various institutions. It had to be the fundamental practice and mission of all concerned to promote respect for all these young women
This is one of the reasons why I join in saluting all my long service awardees today. Many of you have spent the better part of a lifetime imparting knowledge and respect to these young persons and for this I say a big thank you.
Madam Chair, we know our society, don’t we? Yes, we know the stigma and discrimination that was always the immediate and consequential reaction to the issue. Yet, in spite of all that, through it all, you provided a shoulder to rest on and a heart to share their despair.
Stir response to duty’s call..
Madam Chair, I would like to place on the table that for most of the persons being honoured today for the service they have provided to adolescent mothers, the work they have been engaged in is part of a serious mission and purpose. To many of you sitting here today, it was duty’s call. You looked up and stared in the eyes of these young girls and your mission was assured.
Madam Chair, there are many of us who would rather pass on the other side. We are not prepared to answer the call to duty in the lives of this special group. We know how much it will take and we are not prepared to find that time, talent, money.
Yet, there are those for whom life’s worth can only be measured in the response we make to the call to serve and help the poor. For these persons, this was a duty that they took on themselves, and the years of service they offered were made satisfying because of that.
Today as we salute you all who have responded to this very demanding call.
Strengthen us the weak to cherish.Madam Chair, it is universally acknowledged that one of the qualities of a good society is measured in the society’s treatment of its weak. Today, our focus is on those teenage girls who have been weakened by the mistakes they made.
All of us here, from the various Ministries, agencies, international and local partners, are conscious of the debilitating effects of teenage pregnancy on families, communities and the nation as a whole. These adolescent mothers have come to re-discover lost mothers in many of you. Some have found sisters and brothers, cousins, uncles and aunts, as all of you have found someone to cherish.
The task ahead of us is clear. Ours is the responsibility to develop programmes for these young mothers that can assist in their rehabilitation. For years, our mission has been to intervene in the lives of our teenage mothers, especially in providing new opportunities for continuing education. I salute those whose focus and ardent attention have made inroads in the school system that has allowed on many occasions the girls to return and complete their education.
Give us vision lest we perish.Madam Chair, Jamaica Land We Love is a country of myriad problems and challenges. We are a post-slavery and post-colonial society in which the many years of distrust and negative engagement still persist. We are still searching for solutions to old problems even as we strive to chart a new path of prosperity and mutual co-existence.
We have been able to chart a course to reasonable and sometimes phenomenal success and high standards. We have seen our innovations and creations meet international standards for global acclaim. This has boosted our self confidence and enabled us to excel in many areas of national endeavor.
We have achieved this because of our immense determination despite great struggles.
We have sought to equip ourselves with the measures accepted at international levels and ensured that all our products meet these standards. Even as we speak, we boast the two fastest men and some of the fastest women on earth
Finally, Madam Chair, allow me once again to salute these wonderful persons who have served to remove the stigma historically attached to these adolescent mothers. I want to thank you all on behalf of those young mothers who have now begun to see hope in their future [lives].
As we salute these awardees tonight, I want to again express to them my sincerest gratitude for service so well provided. May God bless you all at this time and may you find yourselves with the heart to continue the love you have displayed over the years, so that the weak will be strong and their dark night will be transformed into glorious daylight.

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