JIS News

The Bureau of Women’s Affairs in the Ministry of Information, Culture, Youth and Sports (MICYS), will be strengthening its capacity to execute its mandate of empowering Jamaican women.
“We want to look at institutional strengthening in terms of capacity building, even for my staff at the Bureau,” says newly appointed Executive Director of the Bureau, Faith Webster, in an interview with JIS News.
“We will be looking at staff development and training, [as well as] the recruiting of staff in areas of need, to ensure that the Bureau will be more equipped to effectively deliver the programmes and initiatives that we have on our strategic objectives,” the Executive Director adds.
This thrust of institutional strengthening by the Bureau will have a collaborative element, as the Bureau will look to strengthen some of its partners, as well as organisations that have similar objectives regarding the empowerment of women.
“We will be looking at how we can strengthen other institutions that work with us, particularly the women’s Non Governmental Organizations (NGOs), such as the Jamaica Household Workers Association, the Jamaica Rural Network of Women, the Association of Women’s Organisations in Jamaica and others”, Mrs. Webster explains, while noting that the Bureau will continue to collaborate with these organisations, in areas where they have the same goals and objectives in terms of empowering women.
Overall a huge task and very demanding plans, but the recently appointed Executive Director is undaunted and welcomes the opportunity to lead the Bureau and make a contribution to its continued growth and development.
“I feel quite humble but happy to know that I can make this contribution to Jamaica, at this time, at this level and specifically to the promotion of women’s empowerment and gender equality,” Mrs. Webster states.
“I know it will be a lot of work but to be in a position like this is rather exciting, looking forward to see how I can bring about some change in this area”, she adds.
An 11- year veteran of the Bureau, Mrs. Webster has a wealth of experience and training in issues affecting women, as well as gender development. Under her leadership, the Bureau will have a great chance of achieving its strategic objectives in an environment of efficiency and accountability.
“I have been at the Bureau for a little over 11 years and so I have been exposed to the various facets of women’s and gender issues. I know that this experience along with my academic training and qualification in management, development and gender studies, have significantly prepared me to take up this responsibility,” the Executive Director confidently says.
“I know that with the wisdom and guidance of God, the support of my family, friends, the Minister, my staff, the women NGOs and other agencies, we will be able to carry out the programmes of the Bureau with the utmost integrity and professionalism,” she further asserts.
This is very important to Mrs. Webster, and she said although women have made huge strides, there is still a lot of work to be done especially in the areas of discrimination and gender stereotypes.
“The work of the Bureau is very important and we cannot stress that enough. One of the main reasons why it is important is because we want to ensure that the needs of our women are met at every level. We also want to ensure that the status of our women in society are raised so that they can be active and equal participants in the society and to ensure that they are not discriminated at all in any way,” the Executive Director emphasizes.
“We seek to address the systemic discrimination that women face and we want to ensure too, that we address serious gender stereotypes and norms, which so often hold back the development of our women and girls and the development of our society overall,” she affirms.
Other pressing issues for the Bureau include sexual abuse and violence, and society’s obsession with sex and sexuality and its damaging effects on the youth, especially young girls.
“I want to speak to the issue of sexual violence and the undue emphasis on sexuality in our society today. Issues of incest, carnal abuse and rape coupled with the HIV/AIDS situation is really a major challenge,” Mrs. Webster explains, while noting that the challenge is exacerbated by the misuse of communication technologies.
“With the proliferation of information technologies, the internet, the cable networks and even the use of the cell phones with cameras to shoot blue movies and even to contribute to the whole issue of sexual harassment, this type of a sexual violence has become more challenging for us, even though we have been educating the public and sensitising them to it,” she bemoans.
The Bureau will take an interpersonal approach to this problem through dialogue and seminars to help young girls develop their self-esteem and confidence.
“We are seeking to speak to young girls about this because they lack self-esteem. [They have] feelings of inadequacy, they figure they can’t make the grade and they are not good enough to achieve, which drives them into early and sometimes abusive relationships,” Mrs. Webster laments.
“We have programmes on the ground within the Bureau and we have a schools’ education programme, which addresses issues such as these, the whole issue of sexuality, sexual and reproductive health, HIV/AIDS, self-esteem,” she further points out.
Overall, Mrs. Webster is encouraging young girls to value themselves and invest in their academic and emotional development.
“I want these young girls to value and protect themselves, utilize all the opportunities that they have, finalize their education and aim for the highest, not second best,” she states, while issuing an appeal to perpetrators of sexual violence and abuse against females.
“To the men, who sexually abuse women whether they are at the highest or the lowest levels of society or the dons in the communities, desist from sexually abusing and exploiting our young girls and please allow them to grow up and have a decent childhood,” she passionately appeals.
This passion for women’s issues that drives Mrs. Webster, had its genesis in her childhood days when she observed the activities of her mother, who she describes as a gender proponent. “I have been influenced a lot by my mother. Growing up as a youngster in the home, she was, I would say, an advocate for women’s issues without me even recognising then, that was what the whole issue was about,” she informs.
“But I saw her in the home working with women, women who were not literate, encouraging them to go back to school, to learn to read and write, to learn a skill. In retrospect, I think that is where my interest was sparked,” the Executive Director adds.
Her vision for Jamaican women is one of empowerment and financial independence. “My vision is to see more of our women become empowered in all areas, specifically too, to be economically independent, because when they are not, it leads to so many other problems,” she says.
The Executive Director is also calling on the nation to free itself from social decay and return to a society based on morals.
“One of the things that I really want to get out to the public is, I would like to see a serious, serious return to morals in the society, to values and attitudes. It has been so eroded over the past and it is something I believe we really need to fight and campaign for,” Mrs. Webster asserts.