2019's top 12Monday, December 30, 2019
EVERY year Jamaican women, through their stellar achievements in different disciplines, outdo their performance the year before, and 2019 was no different. Countless women pursued excellence relentlessly, raising the bar even higher for us to clear in 2020.
While celebrating the hard work and accomplishments of all our local women in 2019, All Woman salutes these 12 women — one for each month of the year — who blazed the trail for us to follow in 2019.
'Mommy Rocket' has had a phenomenal year, and served as a reminder to not only athletes but all women that discipline and hard work can bring even our most doubted dreams into reality. After taking a break from the track to have her son two years ago, Fraser-Pryce challenged the widely held notion that an athlete cannot return to top form after pregnancy. She claimed not only her fourth world championship gold medal in the 100 metres in Doha this year, but she helped the women's 4×100 team secure another gold medal for Jamaica at the championships. And she isn't done yet. After being honoured as the Best Female Athlete of 2019 at the Panam Sports Awards, the athlete plans to take on both the women's 100m and 200m at next year's Olympics in Tokyo.
When 23-year-old Toni-Ann Singh was crowned Miss World earlier this month, she inspired a wave of national pride in Jamaicans, especially women, that had not been felt since Lisa Hanna took the title in 1993. The young woman chose the Women's Centre of Jamaica Foundation's Programme for Adolescent Mothers as her Beauty with a Purpose project, and is using the Miss World platform to garner support for the teenage mothers and represent Jamaica on the global stage.
Jamaican Poet Laureate Lorna Goodison was announced as the recipient of the 2019 Queen's Gold Medal for Poetry, which will be presented to her during an audience with Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace. She is the first Jamaican to receive the honour. Goodison's body of work expands across several decades, and her poetry often features Jamaican settings and personae. She was honoured with an Order of Distinction in the rank of Commander (CD) in 2013, and in 2017 became the second official poet laureate of Jamaica, after Mervyn Morris, making her the first woman to hold the title.
After losing her two-day-old son Damani to health complications in 2018, Crystal-Gayle Williams founded 4Damani as a platform for other grieving parents to share their stories and support each other. After realising that there was a need for the silence on baby loss to be broken locally, she lobbied for this, and this year was officially acknowledged in Jamaica. The decree was made by Governor General Sir Patrick Allen that October would be observed locally as Pregnancy and Infant Loss (PAIL) Awareness Month, while October 15 is observed as Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day.
At only 19 years old, Mikayla Simpson became the youngest person to be nominated for the best Reggae Album Grammy award, after her debut EP Rapture got the nod. Her songs, including her breakthrough hit Toast, have been doing extremely well both locally and internationally. Koffee, a past student of Ardenne High School, also became only the fourth solo female artist to be nominated in the category. A woman is yet to win the award, but many critics speculate that the 21st century girl will become the first.
After joining the company in February, Allison Philbert was appointed as the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Digicel Jamaica effective August 1 this year. The mother of two has nearly 20 years' experience in the telecommunications industry, and previously served as regional president for Verizon, New England. Philbert is the first woman to hold the position.
Juliet Cuthbert Flynn
After opening the debate seeking to repeal the sections of the Offences Against the Person Act which make abortion illegal in 2018, this Member of Parliament has stayed the course and stuck to the task throughout 2019, even offering up her own personal story in the debates.
Seasoned journalist Racquel Porter this year walked away with the Press Association of Jamaica's Journalist of the Year award, as well as the UNICEF Award for Excellence in reporting on children's rights. Porter's body of work, according to the judges, had public appeal and created a change in the lives of her fellow Jamaicans.
This 22-year-old footballer was instrumental in securing a spot for the Reggae Girlz team in the 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup, and in so doing created history by being the first Caribbean team to qualify for the women's tournament. Though the team did not advance beyond the group stage, the team exuded a resilient Jamaican spirit throughout their matches in France, and elicited great pride from Jamaicans at home.
The senior lecturer and head of the Institute for Gender and Development Studies at The University of the West Indies was named among the top 100 most influential persons globally in the areas of gender policy and equality for 2019 from over 9,000 candidates. She was the only person from the Caribbean included on this year's top 100 list. Dr Dunn has been an internationally acknowledged activist and scholar on issues of gender mainstreaming and women's rights for over two decades. At The UWI, Mona, she has been engaged in the development of the UWI Gender Policy, adoption of innovative teaching and learning strategies and expansion of the programme of teaching and learning.
Self-trained bodybuilder Diedre Lewis created history by becoming the first ever Jamaican Bikini Fitness athlete to win gold at the Central American and Caribbean (CAC) Bodybuilding and Fitness Championships in Dominican Republic. Lewis, who beat nine other women from the region to the title, was elated at the opportunity to not only represent her country, but also to create history while doing so. “One thing I've learnt from older folks is that you should always put your heart into what you love. Defend your dream with all your might! Your winning season might not come when it's someone else's time to shine for whatever reason, but believe wholeheartedly that it will come,” she said.
Though in March a number of church and civil society groups wrote to Prime Minister Andrew Holness requesting that the Jamaican Government withdraw its support for Jamaican attorney Macaulay as a commissioner of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), Macaulay prevailed and was reelected to the post this summer, to serve for the period 2020-2023.
The IACHR is an autonomous organ of the Organization of American States (OAS), and has been at the forefront of championing human rights for all, a position that irked these groups. The groups charged that Macaulay had made public statements as commissioner that were inconsistent with Jamaica's laws and norms. But as a distinguished member of the Jamaican Bar who has championed the rights of vulnerable women and children for many years, Macaulay, despite criticism, remains responsible for ensuring that the 35 nations of the OAS respect and uphold the rights of women, and all people.