KINGSTON – The Government is currently exploring the adoption of a quota system to increase women's level of representation in the Senate, to at least 30 per cent.
The proposal is included in the National Policy for Gender Equality, which was recently adopted by the Cabinet, and would be expected to extend to women’s representation in the House of Representatives, as well.
Minister of Youth, Sports and Culture, Hon Olivia Grange, made the announcement in a speech read by Executive Director of the Bureau of Women’s Affairs (BWA), Faith Webster, at Wednesday's (March 30) Women’s Convention 2011, at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel, New Kingston.
She said it is also intended to ensure that women are equipped with the requisite skills, through training and the creation of an enabling environment, to participate fully and confidently, not only at the political level but also in the socio-cultural and economic spheres of the society.
“Indeed, such training, sensitisation and mentorship programmes will pave the way for an increase in the percentage of women who can occupy positions of leadership at the highest levels of power and decision-making, including participation on boards and commissions,” the Minister said.
Miss Grange pointed to the timeliness of the Women’s Convention,in relation to the recently approved National Policy for Gender Equality, which aims at improving the participation of women in all sectors of the society, and facilitating greater coordination and sustainability in the gender mainstreaming process.
She said she was confident that the forum will add to the momentum to influence women in leadership, in keeping with Article Seven of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW).
She stated that this underscores the need to ensure women’s participation in political and public life. Similarly, the Beijing Declaration and the Platform for Action offer a springboard for women’s participation in decision-making, while having access to power.
“These are all fundamental to the achievement of equality, development and peace,” she said.
Being held under the theme, ‘Women’s Leadership Wellspring for Transformation”, the convention was organised by the Women’s Resource and Outreach Centre Limited (WROC), in association with the United Nations Democracy Fund and UN Women Caribbean.
It represents a culmination of almost two years of training and empowerment activities, geared at identifying women for leadership positions on public and private sector boards and commissions, as well as school boards and other community organisations.
The training and empowerment activities were carried out under WROC’s "Strengthening Women’s Leadership in Jamaica" project, funded by the UN Democracy Fund, supported by the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA).
Consensus will also be sought on a policy position paper, with specific ideas on how to advance women’s leadership. The position paper calls for quotas to be implemented regarding gender participation/distribution. WROC is recommending that no board should have less than 40 per cent of either sex. The convention aims to build consensus around this recommendation.
A database of approximately 110 women, trained and equipped to sit on boards and commissions, was formally launched at convention. It is made up of women from diverse backgrounds, including finance, health, telecommunications, business, agriculture, community development, emergency services, education and the church.
By ALECIA SMITH, JIS Reporter