Common causes, North and South

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Common causes, North and South

Jean Lowrie-Chin

Monday, November 25, 2019

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It was quite a week with an energetic Press Association of Jamaica (PAJ) Journalism Week, the history-making address by children to Parliament's Lower House, and the celebration of Digicel Foundation's 15th anniversary.

'Open Minds' was the theme for International Women's Forum (IWF) Conference in Toronto earlier this month: 1,100 members, thought leaders, and experts gathered to explore such themes as the promise and risk of artificial intelligence; the global refugee crisis; women in politics; and, yes, transitioning sexual identity. One of my favourite sessions was 'In Good Hands: Women Politicians', addressed by Canada's first woman prime minister, Kim Campbell. “There is a double-standard [for women in politics],” she noted. “If you are not the prototypical person, you are not forgiven for anything. If people see you as an exception you will be held to a different standard. You have to establish your right to be there and your right to make mistakes.”

Lo and behold, I returned to Jamaica to see a newspaper editorial describing one of our brightest politicians, Foreign Affairs Minister Senator Kamina Johnson-Smith as “thin-skinned”, simply because she had noted suggestions from a previous editorial and were not inclined to follow them.

The Jamaica Women's Political Caucus, of which I am a member, has been holding seminars for women of different political persuasions, guiding and mentoring them. We have not been very active in recent years, and such incidents must motivate us to recharge our programme.

At the IWF conference we were gifted with an excellent book by Stephanie MacKendrick, In Good Hands: Remarkable Female Politicians from Around the World Who Showed Up, Spoke Out and Made Change. It features Campbell, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, among others, and includes a playbook which gives practical advice to aspiring women leaders.

“Tell women not to disdain power,” urges Campbell. “It is the currency for getting things done.”

 

Is the news too negative?

We had a stimulating discussion at the PAJ's Journalism Week Forum last Monday. We enjoyed the compliments paid to Jamaica's top-10 status in global press freedom from Canadian and British high commissioners Laurie J Peters and Asif Ahmad, respectively. However, Jamaica has her trials. National Integrity Action head Professor Trevor Munroe reminded us that, generally, trust and confidence are down, with 78 per cent believing that corruption is a serious problem. This is the dilemma for the media.

While veteran journalist Franklin McKnight believes that the ugly underbelly of our country is not fully acknowledged in the press, newspaper columnist Jaevion Nelson believes that the news is too negative, resulting in younger Jamaicans tuning out. “This could lead to ignorance and apathy,” he warned.

Director of Tourism Donovan White called for balance, but said he was not advocating censorship. He shared that Jamaica had one of the highest rates of return visitors (42 per cent) and that tourism was the largest employer. He said, with the industry earning $3.6 billion and providing employment for 25 per cent of Jamaicans, there were “opportunities to tell really great stories in our news”. Gleaner editor Kaymar Jordan reflected that media should dig deeper for truth, especially in the face of “fake news and doctored videos”.

 

Outstanding media veterans

Last Wednesday the PAJ honoured four remarkable media veterans: Jamaica Information Service (JIS) Deputy CEO Enthrose Campbell, Jamaica Observer Senior Reporter Balford Henry, photographer Headley “Dellmar” Samuels, and IRIE FM broadcaster Elise Kelly. The citations reflected careers characterised by excellence, dedication, and journalistic tenacity.

The PAJ also took the opportunity to honour two shining stars of the media: Former JIS CEO and public relations guru Carmen Tipling and the late Franklyn “Chappy” St Juste, whose son François represented the family.

As the word spread of the six honorees, social media carried tributes from individuals they had taught, mentored, encouraged, and even disciplined. Such is the calibre of our Jamaican media stalwarts.

I have great memories of “Chappy” St Juste. I can hear Wycliffe Bennett's booming voice addressing him in discussions on the staging of events at Carifesta 76, and later I was lucky to be in his stage management class in my postgrad days. What a fine legacy.

 

Our children cry out

Jamaica Observer Senior Staff Reporter Kimone Francis delivered excellent coverage of the session in which Parliament was addressed by four children who shared the feelings of 300 children from three parishes who had been engaged in town hall sessions organised by UNICEF focusing on violence against children.

“ 'A lot of children in Jamaica are dealing with a lot of pain.' Those were the words of 10-year-old Keino King, who yesterday, along with seven-year-old Ngozi Wright, her twin brother Tafari, and 18-year-old Shaneille Hall, addressed the nation's Parliament in an unprecedented session on violence against children ahead of today's observation of the 30th anniversary of the United Nations Convention of the Rights of the Child (UNCRC).

“ 'Our fear is based on the heartbreaking reality [that] many of us are being bullied. Many of us are being beaten. Many of us are being sexually and emotionally abused, and we are being murdered. This violence started in the days of slavery and to this day it continues. So I ask you, what are you doing to help break the cycle?' Keino asked.

“ 'I don't want to live in a Jamaica where the children are so hurt by violence that they grow up to hurt themselves or to hurt other people. Do you?'...”

Young Shaneille Hall told the House what she had to endure. Orphaned at the age of three, sexually abused by her grandfather until she was 10, a teen mom by 15, homeless at 16, she has battled more than most people.

Read the full report: http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/we-re-in-pain-and-fearful-children-tell-legislators_180192?profile=1373

 

Big boost

Member of Parliament Juliet Holness congratulated the finalists and prizewinners in the Digicel Foundation's 15th anniversary competition, urging them to become change agents in their communities. The 15 awardees, including farmers, micro businesses, and start-ups in every parish, each received two million dollars and expressed their joy at being able to expand their projects and provide employment.

Over its 15 years of existence the foundation, on the directive of patron Denis O'Brien, has funded projects for special needs, education, and entrepreneurship to the tune of over US$36 million.

 

lowriechin@aim.com

www.lowrie-chin.blogspot.com


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