Women welcome appointment to executive

BY JEDIAEL CARTER Observer staff reporter carterj@jamaicaobserver.com

Tuesday, March 08, 2016

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ON the eve of International Women’s Day, celebrated yesterday, five women were appointed by Prime Minister Andrew Holness to be members of his Executive at the swearing-in ceremony at King’s House Monday afternoon.

They are: Senator Kamina Johnson Smith (foreign affairs and foreign trade); Olivia ‘Babsy’ Grange (entertainment, culture, sports and gender affairs); Shahine Robinson (labour and social security); Fayval Williams (state minister for finance and the public service); and Marlene Malahoo Forte, the new attorney general.

The new female leaders in politics, while acknowledging the awesome tasks bestowed on them, expressed gratitude to PM Holness for the confidence placed in them.

Robinson told the
Jamaica Observer she was grateful for the position and would do her best to carry out her tasks.

"I thank the prime minister for having chosen me and I know that it’s not an easy road, but I am up to the task and I intend to do my very best there to serve the people of Jamaica," she said.

Though verse in tourism and banking, having worked in the industries before entering politics, Robinson added that she will speedily acquaint herself with the new role and start her work.

In the previous Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) Government, Robinson served briefly as Minister of Transport and Works between November 2011 and January 2012.

Her colleague Kamina Johnson Smith, who was shadow minister for education and youth, said that despite the change, she believes it is a dream come true and is committed to working assiduously.

"Well its fantastic; my first degree was in French and international relations and my dream initially was to be a diplomat [but] decided though that I would study the law and have a profession because it was considered to be a more stable and grounded path for me," the newly installed minister said when asked what she thought of the change.

"So it’s one of those strange ways the universe works so if God determines a particular path for you, even if you step off it or somebody takes you off it, it’s right there and so I’m feeling very excited, very thankful and very blessed to have this opportunity," she continued.

Johnson Smith will continue to serve in the Senate and said she was happy to be one of the women in leadership.

Asked what she thought of being appointed on the eve of the worldwide day for women, she said it was an honour and encouraged women to celebrate the day.

"I hope and want to wish all the women of Jamaica to enjoy and celebrate your womanhood and sisterhood in the spirit of International Women’s Day," she said.

"Be conscious of striking down that myth that we have to be our colleagues worst enemies. Build your sisters, build your friends, build women consciously and we will see how far we rise," she continued.

Attorney General Marlene Malahoo Forte, a former resident magistrate and state minister in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, said there is much to be celebrated of the women in politics.

"We the women must ensure that we do what is necessary with the unique perspective that we bring, to open the doors for other women and not just think that because we are there all is good and well," she noted.

"We have to ensure that women are dealt with in the way they should and we have to ensure that the unique perspective we bring are felt, heard and taken seriously," she continued.

Malahoo Forte, having left her job as resident magistrate, has served as senator since 2009.

She, too, said she was aware that the task all appointees have will be great but will work to do as best as she can to fulfil her duties.

"We have a heavy legislative agenda. I’ll be working very closely with the minister of justice (Delroy Chuck) and of course there is the solicitor general who is the civil service head of the Attorney General’s Chambers. It’s a lot of work, a whole lot of work that is ahead of us," she said.

Malahoo Forte was elected in the February 25 election as Member of Parliament for West Central St James. When asked how she will manage both roles she said: I will have to work with my team, balance the function of office and try to do my best."

Meanwhile, Minister of Entertainment, Sports, Culture and Gender affairs Oliva ‘Babsy’ Grange has hit the ground running in her area of expertise.

Grange, a veteran parliamentarian and MP for the St Catherine Central constituency, said she will be working to address gender issues especially developing awareness for issues affecting men and not just women. She noted that she will work to create a balance in the presentation of a gender policy, rather than concentrating mainly on women.

She said she intends to broaden the scope of the Bureau of Women’s affairs to assist men as well.

"One of the first things I will do is to ensure that the bureau goes back to being the Bureau of Gender Affairs and that we replace or at least put back the desk that was established for males," she said, speaking of the Bureau of Women’s Affairs which was changed after the JLP Administration demitted office in 2012.

"We think that we can’t just address the issue of women but we have to look at the issues affecting genders, both men and women, and certainly our young men," the minister continued.

Asked what she thought of her appointment before International Women’s Day she said "it’s timely" and outlined she will be participating in multiple events to commemorate the celebrations throughout the day.

The previous Portia Simpson Miller-led administration had four women, including the then prime minister, serving in the Cabinet. The current Cabinet includes 18 ministers and four ministers of state. This new Government is smaller than the previous, which had 20 ministers and eight state ministers.


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