Jamaican women have found their footing, says departing Nigerian ambassador

Jamaican women have found their footing, says departing Nigerian ambassador

Monday, October 19, 2020

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AFTER living and working in Jamaica for the past three years, Nigerian high commissioner to Jamaica, ambassador Janet Olisa, is pleased to have been able to witness first-hand the strides Jamaican women have been making towards gender parity.

“The women in Jamaica have found their footing, that's for sure. There's no aspect or area in the country that you don't find women, and very strong,” the ambassador said to All Woman ahead of her October 9 departure from the country. “So, the women are really pacesetters. They have shown that they are capable, and they are being taken seriously. That we have in common. And if you look at it from different angles, there is an aspect where Jamaica has gone way above us in terms of gender equality and gender parity.”

The ambassador commented on the increasing number of Jamaican women in leadership positions, which is something she admires greatly about the country.

“The population of women in high places, vis--vis your population, I would say Jamaica is higher in that regard,” she lauded. “I know we are 200 million plus and you are only 2.8 million, but if you look at the ratio in certain positions, Jamaica is certainly higher.

“The good thing is that both Nigerian and Jamaican women are highly educated. Education is key,” she reasoned. “I guess our parents saw things that happened back in their own days and said, 'OK, a girl child must be catered for', so there is a lot of emphasis in both countries on the girl child, to make sure that the girl child gets educated.”

Having done a lot of mentorship work with young women during her three-year mission, including working with adolescent mothers at the Women's Centre of Jamaica Foundation, Ambassador Olisa was also very impressed by our interventions and response to teenage pregnancy.

“I like the programme that Jamaican Government has, whereby young mothers are taken in and are helped, and are protected from the environments that actually created the situations for them,” she said. “In Jamaica, you say, 'Ok fine, you've had a child at a young age, but your life hasn't ended. Pick it up and move on, and see how you can make use of what you have'. That is something I would take back to Nigeria, because we have a different type of [intervention]. We depend a lot on the family and the community, so this is something that I know I will discuss with my counterparts in the ministry of women's affairs. I'll say this is what I saw in Jamaica and it works.”

As she returns home to take up a new post in Nigeria, and a new ambassador is dispatched to Jamaica, Olisa maintains that it is not goodbye, as she will return to the rock.

“Jamaica definitely has become a second home. I need to go home and sign in that I have completed my tour, but definitely I will be coming back to Jamaica on visits. I have friends that have become family here.”

Of the many Jamaican things that she stuffed into her suitcase to take back to Nigeria, what she will treasure the most is the Jamaican spirit… and spirits.

“I will not forget my rum that I have come to get a taste for,” she laughed, “But especially the warmth of the people. Right from day one I was at home. Until I actually open my mouth and talk, most people don't even realise that I am not Jamaican. And even when I do speak, they get fascinated with the accent, and a whole different dialogue will emanate front there. The Rastafarians will say, 'Oh. African queen, respect' and the non-Rastas will ask questions about Nigeria, but it's always a very good interaction.”

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