Grange wants more power for women
MINISTER of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport Olivia Grange says women will not be truly empowered if they are unable to occupy leadership and decision-making roles in public and political life.
The minister, who was giving one of two keynote addresses from government ministers at a United Nations-sponsored function highlighting ‘Advancing Caribbean Development through Women’s Empowerment’, at Spanish Court Hotel, New Kingston, earlier this month, said data show women still remain under-represented at all levels of decision-making worldwide.
She said that as of September 15 this year there are only 26 countries where women serve as heads of state and/or government. She noted, however, that the National Policy For Gender Equality (NPGE) has set a target for 30 per cent of decision-making positions to be occupied by women, “which is either close to being met, has already been met, or has been surpassed in different areas”.
“For instance, in 2002 Jamaica achieved 29 per cent of women in political representation, and 41 per cent of appointments to 312 public sector boards approved by Cabinet,” Grange pointed out.
She recalled that to further bolster women representation, on December 13, 2022 the House of Representatives had approved a motion for the establishment of a caucus of women parliamentarians, from both chambers (of Parliament) and all parties.
She said that the bi-cameral caucus will create a sustainable medium for women to unite so as to strengthen solidarity, representation and leadership in politics, as well as among the general public. Additionally, she said the caucus can be used to provide essential information and training for women parliamentarians, and to mainstream gender in parliamentary institutions and procedures. It was renamed the Caucus of Women Parliamentarians (CWP) in June this year.
However, she insisted that despite these “significant strides” in realising women’s empowerment and achieving sustainable development locally, she remains cognisant that more work needs to be done. She said to this end, there is a need for more gender-responsive budgeting, a key challenge that the society, as well as the whole region, continues to face.
The minister also stated that in order to more appropriately respond to the differing needs of not only women and girls, but all citizens as a whole, public budgets should integrate commitments towards achieving gender equality.
“This is necessary not only to adequately address the differing needs of citizens, but to also assist in avoid[ing] the further exacerbation of existing gender inequalities,” Grange said.
She noted one local initiative geared towards the realisation of a gender-sensitive pubic budget is the National Study on Economic Costs of Violence Against Women and Girls (ECOVAWG) in Jamaica.
ECOVAWG was launched in March 2023 under the EU-UN Spotlight Programme, a partnership with her ministry. The study was commissioned by UN Women and highlights the importance of ending violence against women and girls, with the support of legislation as well as plans and programmes.
“I hope, more than anything else, that Jamaica’s achievements to date will serve as a collective reminder that we need to continue to promote and enact gender-sensitive legislation, policies, programmes, projects and other initiatives to provide essential services in all states throughout the region and beyond,” she concluded.
Minister without portfolio in the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation (MEGJB), Senator Matthew Samuda, the second public speaker at the event, focused on the problems facing the population, especially women, in a period of intense heat and cold weather.
He also noted a number of projects being looked at or approved by the ministry which, he said, could contribute to assisting Jamaican women to survive the unbalanced weather and water shortages over the next couple of months.
In addition to the UN, the event was supported by the Atlantic Council, Spotlight Initiative, and UN Women. Other speakers included Aniceto Rodriquez Ruez, head of cooperation, Delegation of the EU to Jamaica; Toni-Ann Brodber, representative of UN Women Multi-Country Office (Caribbean); Kayla Grant, sector specialist, Inter-American Development Bank (IDB); and Wazim Mowla, associate director, Caribbean Initiative, Latin America.