As a woman in Jamaica...

As a woman in Jamaica...

Friday, November 27, 2020

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Dear Editor,

As a woman in Jamaica, I don't always feel safe.

As the university director of the Institute for Gender & Development Studies Regional Coordinating Office (IGDS-RCO), it is my job to help women and girls to feel safe. It is a job that sometimes leaves me feeling helpless as I recognise the incidence of gender-based violence (GBV) in my country.

On November 25, we celebrated International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, but rather than eliminating violence against women, in Jamaica, GBV has been on the increase, and the novel coronavirus pandemic has only made it worse.

While there are some who will object to such a pronouncement, GBV violence is firmly rooted in misogyny — the hatred of women. Unfortunately, I live in a society which condones such hatred.

Since I was 13 years old, rounded and beginning to take shape as a woman, I have been subject to sexual harassment. I don't know one woman in Jamaica who hasn't.

Since I was 13, I have been afraid of walking on the streets because men and boys of all ages and classes have felt they have a right to dissect my body, say vile things, and make me feel ashamed in my own body.

Sexual harassment, on its own, is disrespectful and demeaning, but worse are the people who would say women like it because it is acceptance of who we are.

Sexual harassment doesn't make women feel good. It doesn't make me feel good. No gated community, or grilled window, or security tracking system can protect women who live in a society that accepts and condones violence against its females.

As a woman, I want to feel that I can take a walk anywhere, at any time, without being attacked or raped. I want to feel that I could speak out for what I believe in and the community will not come down on me. I would like to think that if I go to a lending society they will not dismiss me simply because I am a woman. I want to know that as a woman in Jamaica, I am honoured in the same way that we honour men, the rich, and the privileged.

I am asking you to imagine a different Jamaica, an equitable Jamaica, where women and girls are not violated and, ultimately, a Jamaica where all our people are free from violence.

As a woman, and the mother of three young adults, including two women, I am appealing to all Jamaicans to join me in ending gender-based violence and allowing women and girls to live productive lives free from violence of all kinds.

The IGDS-RCO has a number of programmes planned over the next 16 days until December 10 and I want to invite you to be part of the programmes. Join us in commemorating IDEVAW, not just for these 16 days, but to use these 16 days to kick-start creating a violence-free Jamaica.

Opal Palmer Adisa

University Director

Institute of Gender & Development Studies

Regional Coordinating Office

The University of the West Indies

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