• Feature
    Members of the Jamaica Defence Force’s (JDF) Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART) who travelled to The Bahamas to provide recovery and humanitarian support in the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian earlier this year.
    Photo: Michael Sloley

    Story Highlights

    • Government bodies are being encouraged to establish Gender Focal Points (GFPs) to ensure equal opportunities of men and women in their organisations.
    • The Bureau of Gender Affairs (BGA), a division of the Ministry of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport, is spearheading GFP training sessions at various ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs).
    • This is in keeping with the Government’s National Policy for Gender Equality (NPGE) 2011, which is geared towards achieving equal treatment of women and men. This, through equal visibility, equality of opportunity, equal access to resources, and equal participation in all areas of public and private life.

    Government bodies are being encouraged to establish Gender Focal Points (GFPs) to ensure equal opportunities of men and women in their organisations.

    The Bureau of Gender Affairs (BGA), a division of the Ministry of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport, is spearheading GFP training sessions at various ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs).

    This is in keeping with the Government’s National Policy for Gender Equality (NPGE) 2011, which is geared towards achieving equal treatment of women and men. This, through equal visibility, equality of opportunity, equal access to resources, and equal participation in all areas of public and private life.

    Acting Director for the BGA’s Community Liaison Branch, Abby-Gale Clarke, says quarterly meetings are being held with new and existing GFPs in the public sector.

    Noting that there are up to 35 persons acting as in-house gender experts at MDAs, Ms. Clarke emphasises that “we want everyone on board”.

    She tells JIS News that the plan is to ensure gender-mainstreaming in all national policies, programmes and projects, as outlined in the NPGE.

    According to the BGA Director, gender mainstreaming is “a strategy for making women and men’s concerns and experiences an integral part of the design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of policies and programmes in all political economic and societal spheres, so that both genders benefit equally”.

    Ms. Clarke advises that training sessions are held with new GFPs once every quarter.

    “At the fourth training, they produce an action plan which stipulates what it is that they are going to mainstream and how it is they are going to mainstream gender within that specific ministry, department and agency,” she says.

    Additionally, she says participants learn about their responsibilities, gender-based violence and how to remove gender inequalities in organisations.

    “We teach them how to create their action plans, how to incorporate them into their organisations and how to get buy-in from their colleagues and senior management; so we help them to get to that stage,” Ms. Clarke further informs.

    She tells JIS News that the Bureau often assists GFPs to implement their plans, while stressing that there must be buy-in by persons who are making policies and reviewing legislation, who”[must] know the importance to mainstream gender”.

    The Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) is one of the many entities with GFPs, having recently benefited from a three-day workshop held at the Caribbean Military Academy at JDF headquarters, Up Park Camp, Kingston. A total of 24 officers from every division participated in the event.

    “We are fully aware that the integration of a gender perspective into a military operation is a force multiplier and it is inevitable for mission success. So based on that, we found it necessary to have this workshop,” JDF Gender Advisor, Lieutenant Commander Judy-Ann Neil, tells JIS News.

    She says the workshop aimed to highlight the importance of a gender perspective in the JDF’s recruitment, training, administrative tasking and operations.

    Some of the topics for discussion included ‘Men and Masculinity’, ‘Sexual Harassment in the Workplace’, ‘Internet Partner Violence’, ‘What is Gender?’, and Vision 2030 Jamaica and the SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals)’.

    Commander Neil says the participants had to draft a GFP action plan, in keeping with the National Policy for Gender Equality, adding that “the workshop was so successful that the intent is for it to be held every year”.

    “We have to commit to doing all the activities on the action plan on a yearly basis to get the full value of this workshop… . We have to ensure that the message being sent is that the JDF is an organisation that values both genders,” she further says.

    Commander Neil notes that some persons believe that because the JDF is a military organisation it is “male-oriented”.

    She points out, however, that the organisation is guided by a Gender Optimisation Policy, a strategy based on the structure of the JDF, to mainstream gender in the Force.

    “We have a gender optimisation policy and the training of our warrant officers as gender focal points complements this policy… because this policy is our policy that seeks to give all service members equal access to opportunity, resources and training to improve the operational effectiveness of the Force,” she points out.

    The Commander has high praise for the JDF’s Chief of Defence Staff, Lieutenant General Rocky Meade, who she says was instrumental in developing the Policy “to ensure that every service member has equal access to training and opportunities that advance [them] in the JDF”.

    Commander Neil, who joined the JDF in 1998, notes that the training of recruits was “gender-segregated”.

    “So I would train with a female intake and there was also a male intake and we had separate accommodations and separate facilities. Since Lieutenant General Rocky Meade was appointed as Chief of Defence Staff, we have seen a change in this policy,” she said.

    “I am proud to say now we have mixed-gender barrack rooms in our training facilities, and female recruits are trained alongside the male recruits. They are required to do everything that the male recruit does in their basic infantry training and they also share barrack rooms,” she adds, stating that male and female bathrooms were provided.

    Commander Neil says prior to 2009, approximately five per cent of the JDF’s members were women compared to 14 per cent today.

    She attributes the increase to policies implemented by General Meade, whom she describes as “the military-gender champion”.

    “Since 2017, some 20 per cent of all the recruit intakes were allocated to females. In the past, women were only recruited as needed or every three years,” she further informs.

    Commander Neil says females are now serving in every JDF unit as well as in non-traditional and combatant roles.

    She points out that in 2018, the Force appointed its first female Regimental Sergeant Major, the most senior member of the Enlisted Corps in a battalion.

    “So we are definitely shattering that glass ceiling and blazing a path to say that every member of the JDF has equal opportunity for advancement and for promotion,” Commander Neil says.