Chief Executive Officer of the Public Sector Transformation Unit, Patricia Sinclair McCalla, says Jamaica has produced exemplary women in representational politics over the years despite the challenges they have faced.
Some of the challenges she alluded to include: lack of resources to support the female candidate; the social construct of the society; environmental issues and reproductive responsibilities.
In pointing out some of the women who have been successful in Jamaican politics over the years, Ms. McCalla noted that those include: Madam Rose Leon, Mavis Gilmore and Portia Simpson Miller.
She was speaking at the 11th Rose Leon Memorial Lecture on March 5 at the Petroleum Corporation of Jamaica auditorium in Kingston, under the topic ‘Women’s Rights and Gender Equality in Representational Politics in Jamaica-How far have we come?’
She said that increasing women’s decision in politics however cannot be a numbers game. “It has to be treated with, in terms of the value, ‘what women bring to representational politics? What women bring to the Cabinet, to the Senate and the Parliament…Jamaica must recognize that for us to realize our Vision 2030, there has to be a paradigm shift. The realization of this vision requires careful analysis of our past performance in the social, economic and political spheres,” she stated.
Over the years, she said, “there have been modest improvements towards gender priority in Jamaica’s system of governance but more work needs to be done, coaching and mentorship of future female politicians must be an integral part of the process”.
Mrs. McCalla referred to the National Policy for Gender Equality, which she pointed out, “indicates a recognition that the old paradigm will not suffice for advancing this country”.
The National Policy for Gender Equality is aimed at gender mainstreaming in national development, thereby enabling men and women to contribute equally to the country’s growth, while having equitable access to the protection and privileges of Jamaican citizenship.
The objectives of the policy include, among other things: to reduce all forms of gender discrimination and promote greater gender equality and social justice; and provide a framework for national development through the promotion of gender equality and women’s empowerment.
The policy, she said, will ensure that women are equipped with the requisite skills to assume positions of leadership and to institute special measures to increase women’s level of representation in decision making to 30 per cent in local and central government.
“The existence of the policy framework is a major step in advancing gender equality generally and more specifically in promoting the inclusion of women at the decision making level. However the actual execution of the policy is the major challenge confronting implementers,” she said, adding that women must be advocates in ensuring that the implementation of the policy is taken seriously.
She noted that women now comprise only 12 per cent of the 63 seats in parliament.
“It will be interesting to see what the upcoming local government elections will reveal regarding the number of female candidates, as there has always been greater female participation at the local government level, compared to the national level,” she said.
The Rose Leon Memorial Lecture pays tribute to a woman described as “an icon for generations to come” and a role model for women entering in politics. Madam Rose Leon, as she was known, was the first female Minister of Government to be selected for executive duties in the Jamaican Parliament by each of the two major political parties. She was the first Jamaican woman to hold the position of Chair of a political party, and also served as an international Lay Magistrate.
Madam Rose Leon was born Rose Agatha Huie in 1911. She is remembered as an outstanding entrepreneur and business innovator, a sterling leader with unmatched integrity and a strong believer in gender equality. She was also a philanthropist and a champion for the under-privileged. She died under tragic circumstances in 1999.
The lecture was hosted by the Jamaica Women’s Political Caucus (JWPC) and its Rose Leon Memorial Trust.
The Jamaica Women’s Political Caucus was established in 1992 to promote the advancement of women in politics. It is a non-partisan organization which brings together and trains women of all political persuasions and works for better gender equity and improved national development.
By Chris Patterson, JIS Reporter