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  • Minister with responsibility for Information, Senator the Hon. Sandrea Falconer, has called on the private sector to push to get more women involved in political representation and leadership in Jamaica.
  • She noted that women have been “woefully under-represented” in politics over the years, pointing out that currently, they account for only eight of the current 63 Members of Parliament, representing 12.7 per cent.
  • She said private sector stakeholders must lobby for changes “to ensure that women are not just active at the grassroots level…but that they get support to rise to very senior positions in party hierarchies.”

Minister with responsibility for Information, Senator the Hon. Sandrea Falconer, has called on the private sector to push to get more women involved in political representation and leadership in Jamaica.

She noted that women have been “woefully under-represented” in politics over the years, pointing out that currently, they account for only eight of the current 63 Members of Parliament, representing 12.7 per cent.

She said private sector stakeholders must lobby for changes “to ensure that women are not just active at the grassroots level…but that they get support to rise to very senior positions in party hierarchies.”

“The private sector gives quite a bit to political parties in financial support. You can make a difference if you ensure that our female candidates get the same level of support you give to the males. You can also demand that our political parties have programmes to develop female candidates and leaders,” she stated.

The Minister was speaking at Tuesday’s (September 23) Private Sector Organization of Jamaica (PSOJ) President’s Forum Breakfast at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel, New Kingston, on the theme: ‘Women on Boards’.

Senator Falconer, who also has responsibility for Gender Affairs, said data from the Electoral Office of Jamaica (EoJ) shows that of the 835 persons elected to Parliament over the 70 years since the first national elections were held in 1944, only 67, or eight per cent, have been females. She also pointed out that the highest percentage representation by women was 15 per cent recorded in the 1997 elections.

The Minister noted, however, that “for the first time,” women comprise 20 per cent of the current Cabinet, while 28.6 per cent comprise the Senate’s membership.

“In Jamaica, under-representation is not the result of discriminatory laws or any lack of capacity on the part of our women…yet they are seriously under-represented in politics. Despite (women’s) progress in some areas, it is clear that when it comes to political representation and leadership, our women continue to be on the margins,” she argued.

Referring to suggestions for a quota system to be introduced, the Minister said while she supports the measure for appointments to the Senate and Boards of Government entities, “I do not support a quota system when it comes to representational politics.”

“Representatives of the people must be chosen by the people. Our people must be free to make up their minds on who will be their representatives. The responsibility of a Member of Parliament or Councillor is a serious matter, and we must ensure that those who are chosen as representatives of the people are truly committed to the service of the people and not just tokens in order to fill a quota,” she contended.

Senator Falconer said that in coming up with “comprehensive solutions,” political parties must be consulted, pointing out that “they are critical, as they recruit, select, and promote candidates.”

She also acknowledged the challenges women have experienced in securing campaign financing, but said that this could be addressed through the proposed provision of state financing. A Bill is currently before Parliament to amend the Representation of the People Act to facilitate this measure.

“If women don’t have to depend on connections and goodwill to raise funds, but have public financing, which serves to level the playing field or, at least, provide some medium of fairness, then that will be to our advantage,” the Minister stated.

While noting that gender equality will not be achieved “overnight”, Senator Falconer is of the view that “if we prepare our women and give them the opportunity and support, both in the private and public sectors, not long from now, we can change our political and corporate landscapes into more level playing fields where women are accepted as equals.”

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