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Minister of State in the Ministry of Industry, Investment and Commerce, Hon. Sharon Ffolkes Abrahams, says that government has been strengthening existing and emerging micro financing institutions to help in the eradication of poverty, especially among female headed households.

“There are no visible barriers to women’s access to the financial sector.  Women have access to all types of financing and many financial entities provide services designed to reach women directly,” the State Minister said.

Mrs. Ffolkes Abrahams was addressing during a panel discussion on the topic “Support for Women in Entrepreneurship”, at the International Conference on Business, Hospitality and Tourism Management on Friday, October 12 at the Hilton Rose Hall Resort and Spa in Montego Bay.   The three-day conference (Oct. 10 – 12) was hosted by the University of Technology (UTech) in association with the University of Delaware, USA under the theme, “Resilience, Rethinking, Rebounding”.

The State Minister noted that statistics show that women tend to be more consistent at loan repayment. “This is true particularly of women in agriculture where a large percentage of agricultural and credit loans are increasingly being given precisely due to their good track record of repayment and as such male farmers are often asked to carry out joint membership with females in their households,” Mrs. Ffolkes-Abrahams said.

Mrs. Ffolkes-Abrahams said further that the recent Statistical Institute of Jamaica (STATIN), report showed an incremental 2.2 percent increase in females, 25 years and over, who are being employed in the labour force, particularly in the services industry such as in wholesale and retail trades, transport, business, community, social and personal services.

“While the data does not reflect labour force participation by geographic region, in general, women’s participation in non-traditional jobs have also expanded, resulting in more diverse employment and increased levels of income, particularly, in the male-dominated goods producing industry such as construction and installation, agriculture, forestry and fishing (0.14 per cent),” the State Minister noted.

She further added that: “the agricultural sector increased its female labour force by 92 per cent and of this increase, 30 per cent are farmers. The Ministry of Labour and Social Security also reported an expansion in its overseas employment programme for which 71 women ages 21 to 40 departed for employment opportunities in Fisheries.”

She noted that there were numerous opportunities for further increases in female employment being presented by the current reform of the education system to effectively prepare the workforce to meet national objectives.

“Government has mandated the Bureau of Women’s Affairs to establish more gender focal points within other line ministries to ensure that gender perspective is central to all policy responses, particularly during an economic and financial crisis.  The government is taking a holistic approach, guided by human rights and human well-being.  The response has been people-centred and focused on employment, sustainability and gender equality.  The policy response is aimed to enhance productivity, in particular in agriculture, right now a critical sector for women,” the State Minister for Industry, Investment and Commerce said.

She said that successive political administrations have sought to advance the cause of women in national development, noting that the Bureau of Women’s Affairs has facilitated the reform and development of major women/gender related policy documents to address the treatment of women in national development. 

“The newly developed National Gender Policy also recommends strategies for the promotion of sustainable and productive entrepreneurial activities to generate income among disadvantaged women and women living in poverty,” the Minister of State said.