UNDP Asks ‘Where are the Women?’ in Jamaican Political Leadership

Mar 8, 2016

Three of Jamaica's newly appointed female political decision makers (left to right) Attorney General Marlene Mahaloo-Forte, Minister of Culture, Gender Affairs, Entertainment and Sport, Olivia Grange and Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Kamina Johnson Smith, join UNDP's Deputy Resident Representative, Elsie Laurence-Chonoune, in launching the UNDP publication "Where are the Women? Jamaica Case Study' on International Women's Day at the Main Library, UWI. Photo Credit: UNDP Jamaica

Women’s political participation was the focus of UNDP Jamaica and UN Women for International Women’s Day 2016. Both UN agencies joined forces with the University of the West Indies’ (UWI) Institute of Gender and Development Studies-Mona Unit- to share the findings of recent research on this topic and to launch the UNDP publication “Where are the Women - A Study of Women, Politics, Parliaments and Equality in the CARICOM Countries-Jamaica Case Study.

The event, which was held at the Multifunctional Room of the UWI Main Library on 8 March, was attended by over 100 stakeholders who participated in a discussion about the research on women and politics in the island. UNDP provided copies of their publication and shared information on the contents of the report, while UN Women presented preliminary findings of their own research on Sustainable Development and Perceptions of Women in Leadership in the Caribbean.

In delivering remarks at the launch, newly appointed Minister of Culture, Gender Affairs, Entertainment and Sport, Olivia Grange, commended the UNDP for the research done in this area. She described the launch of the report as timely and told the women gathered at the event that “although we've made strides, we have a long way to go.” The Minister said she would ensure the dissemination of the report in her Ministry and the halls of Government.

The event was also attended by Jamaica’s new Attorney General Marlene Mahaloo-Forte and new Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Kamina Johnson-Smith, as well as by other women in political leadership and from civil society groups, academia, government agencies and local and international development partners. There were also a number of media representatives in attendance.

In her remarks, UNDP Deputy Resident Representative, Elsie Laurence-Chounoune, noted that although women are visible in a number of sectors in Jamaica, and although Jamaica has had a female Prime Minister, women are still underrepresented in political leadership and decision making. She shared some of the research findings which revealed that over the past 25 years only 12.5% of elected members of the House of Representative (MPs) were women. She said that the research also indicated that up to the time of the research in 2013, none of the 14 committees of the House of Representatives was chaired by a woman and that less than a quarter of all mayors in Jamaica were women.

“These are some reasons the publication asks “Where are the Women?” Dr. Chounoune told the audience. “UNDP asks this question because for us, as an organization, gender is a cross cutting issue. We promote gender equality and the empowerment of women as an essential part of our mandate and development approach.”

Eugenia Piza Lopez, Regional Team Leader, Gender, at the UNDP’s Bureau for Policy and Programme Support in Panama also made a detailed presentation via skype on the research findings. Her presentation highlighted serious gaps in women’s participation in politics at the highest levels in Jamaica and presented recommendations for action.

The event ended with a lively panel discussion featuring representatives from UN Women, academia, civil society groups and Jamaica’s Bureau of Women’s Affairs, who shared their views on women’s participation in politics and decision making.

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