3 women's organisations celebrate milestones
THE battle for women's empowerment has been fought by many individuals and agencies and among them are the Bureau of Women's Affairs (BWA), the Women's Resource and Outreach Centre (WROC) and the Institute for Gender and Development Studies (IGDS), who will all be observing their anniversaries on International Women's Day, March 8.
The BWA will be celebrating 40 years of service to the community as a Government agency charged with the responsibility of addressing issues confronting women and since recently, men as well. The organisation was started at a time when patriarchy and sexism created issues such as gender-based violence, sexual harassment and high unemployment rates among women. While these issues still exist within the society, the bureau has created a number of programmes geared at minimising these challenges facing women through research and policy development, public education, training, project planning and monitoring.
The BWA has transitioned from a women's desk in 1974 to a bureau seeking to fulfil its mandate under its vision statement, which is to create, "a society in which women and men have equal access to socially valued goods and are able to contribute to national development".
Enabling women to accomplish their full potential has also been one of the core functions of WROC which celebrates 31 years on March 8. The organisation does this primarily by providing women with sustainable livelihoods, skills-building and education, as well as by providing health care services for families living in communities in and around its Beechwood Avenue headquarters.
"We are humbled at the fact that we have lasted for 31 years and that we have been able to provide these services to the communities. We are humbled that we are a leader in the women's organisations," said WROC's executive director, Dorothy Whyte.
She said they directly assist between 500 to 600 women each year, in addition to their families who benefit from the organisation's homework centre, senior citizens club, family medical clinic and youth development programmes. However, she noted that the organisation is challenged by lack of funding which has curtailed some of its activities over the years and have to therefore find creative ways to generate money.
The IGDS, which will be celebrating 20 years this year, has its own unique challenges as well. However, senior lecturer and head of the Mona unit Dr Leith Dunn said there are also several things to be proud about.
"We are very proud of having produced a bachelor's programme, a master's and a PhD programme and having graduated students from all of those. We have an expanding bachelor's programme where students are building capacity to provide services to mainstream gender or integrate gender perspective and development policies and programmes. We are also proud of the research that has been done, that is helping to contribute to national and regional development and we are particularly pleased with the outreach we are doing, working with our planning institute, our UN agencies, as well as doing public awareness, so that people would be more aware of why it is important to consider males and females of different ages and background as we look at development," she said.
The IGDS has transitioned from a women's studies group to a centre and then to a unit before it became an institute. Currently there are three units which operate from Mona in Jamaica, Cave Hill in Barbados and St Augustine in Trinidad. All these units are managed by a regional co-ordinating unit which is based at Mona.
Dr Dunn believe the units have been instrumental in preparing students to take on career opportunities in the United Nations, the Commonwealth, Government ministries and departments as well as in the private sector.