Henry calls for more women in farm work programme


Henry calls for more women in farm work programme

Saturday, July 11, 2020

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LESTER Michael Henry, the newly appointed minister of labour and social security, is calling for more women to get involved in the Seasonal Agriculture Workers Programme (SAWP) between Jamaica and Canada.

He made the call on Wednesday during a courtesy call at his office by the Canadian High Commission to Jamaica Laurie Peters.

According to Minister Henry, while there has been a steady, minimal increase over the last five years, the time has come to intensify this effort and significantly increase the numbers.

He suggested that, in light of COVID-19 and the previous challenges faced by overseas employers, it would be a positive move to have the Canadian Government give some incentives to the employers to provide safe, secure and female-friendly bunkering facilities, a release from the ministry said yesterday.

The minister said in 1989 five women were sent to a tobacco farm; the number of women grew to 133 in 2008 and by the 2019-2020 financial year, the number increased to 606 under the SAWP, which he noted is still lower than their male counterparts.

In the meantime, Peters said she is in agreement with Henry's proposal but she also wants to keep as her priorities the cementing of the bilateral agreements between the two countries and promoting the implementation of other worker programmes by the Canadian Government, including the Skills to Access the Green Economy (SAGE). She said this programme is administered in Canada through colleges and other institutions and resembles the Jamaican version of vocational schools. Focusing on sustainable agriculture, the programme will be a partnership between two institutions in Canada and two in Jamaica, one of them being the HEART/Trust NSTA.

Since the start of the year, 6,000 workers left Jamaica on the farm work programme, 75 per cent of whom are returning workers who have spent 20-30 years in the programme and another 20-25 per cent who are new recruits, the release said. There was a record increase in the number of young people to the programme, the release added.

SAWP began in 1966, under a bilateral agreement between Jamaica and Canada for the supply of agricultural workers to utilise their skills in the planting and harvesting of fruits and vegetables.

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