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Women, youth, and education top agenda of young senator

BY SHARLENE HENDRICKS
Staff reporter
hendrickss@jamaicaobserver.com

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

AS she takes her place as one of the youngest Jamaicans ever to be appointed to the Senate, Opposition Senator Gabriela Morris has put youth and education as well as issues affecting women at the top of her agenda.

Morris, 23, was appointed yesterday at the opening of the new session of Parliament and swearing-in ceremony for members of the Senate and the House of Representatives. The venue was the Jamaica Conference Centre in downtown Kingston, as the Parliament building was not large enough to accommodate participants obliged to observe physical distancing protocols in place to curb the spread of COVID-19.

Speaking with the Jamaica Observer yesterday after her appointment, Morris shared her elation and eagerness to contribute to the work that goes on in the Senate.

“I am indeed ecstatic about this appointment. I believe that it's a step in the right direction for youth and for Jamaica on a whole. I think it's a response to the national call for youth involvement in politics. And so, young people on the ground are ecstatic about this move. I feel [as if] I'm on the right side of history; I'm a part of making history,” said the communications specialist who is a former vice-president of the University of West Indies (UWI) Guild of Students.

“I look forward to championing issues, especially for women. Issues facing women is definitely something I want to lend my voice to, also issues affecting youth. I believe that, at a time such as this, it's pertinent for young people to lend their voice to the conversation. Education, for example, is a big thing among young people. And so, I want to join in and share my voice on that,” Morris added.

The young senator was among a record number of women appointed yesterday, both to the Upper and Lower Houses of Parliament, a historic moment in Jamaica's political history.

In her closing remarks during the first meeting of the Senate yesterday, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade Kamina Johnson Smith noted that the increased number of women represents an important milestone.

“It would be remiss of me if, at this first occasion when we all sit together, I did not make note of the fact that we have today 38 per cent of the Senate comprised of women. It is indeed a point for acknowledgement even as we strive for more.

“The fact is that it is the largest percentage that we have ever achieved even as we celebrate in that other place (House of Representatives) a record high number of women who will also take their place,” said Johnson Smith.

“I ask us to take a moment to celebrate the accomplishments of the women here. Many have gone before us and have fought for equality, empowerment and an upward ladder on which we all can climb,” she added.

Business development consultant Janice Allen was the second newly appointed Opposition senator nominated alongside her colleague Morris. She congratulated the People's National Party's Dr Peter Phillips on keeping his commitment made—during the leadership debate leading up to the recently concluded general election —to having equal representation of women on his side of the aisle in the Upper House.

“It's good to be named among this group of women. The Opposition leader did commit to having 50 per cent women nominated to the senate and he has lived up to that, and I am very grateful to be one of the four appointed.

“It shows that we are really moving with the times and doing what is right in terms of equality and ensuring that representation at every level is what it should be,” said Senator Allen.

This being her first time in the Senate, Allen said her focus going into the new parliamentary year will be to alleviate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the tourism and business process outsourcing sectors, particularly in western Jamaica. She also intends to focus on small and medium-sized enterprises.

“And of course, rural development is also of interest to me. Hopefully I can contribute to that sort of development... I look forward to the challenge,” said Allen.