Therese Turner-Jones: Woman on a missionSunday, December 18, 2016
By KIMBERLEY HIBBERT
THERESE Turner-Jones, 56, is committed to finding the good in all things while fostering increased academic and social engagement with the youth across the region, most notably at the university level.
In fact, Turner-Jones, a Bahamas native living in Jamaica, told
All Woman that she makes it her point of duty to look for the positives first and build on those.
"It pays to know when to bail out of a failing situation and adjust. Women, in my view, tend to always try to stay with the problem, thinking they can solve it. Sometimes this works, and in others it only gets worse. It is important to be able to assess what is working and what is not. Often we need help from others to point out what is causing the failure. This should not be interpreted as weakness, but as courage to get the help to solve the problem," she said.
Turner-Jones, the first of five children, said her life has had its fair share of ups and downs, but she remains upbeat, stemming from her early upbringing.
"I have always been ambitious with my own goals, using every day as an opportunity to learn something new or think of new ways to solve a problem. I thrive on change," she said.
A United World Colleges Lester Pearson scholar as well as a University of Toronto and University of East Anglia (UK) graduate, Turner-Jones worked in research at the Central Bank of The Bahamas, then the IMF in Washington, DC in 1993, until she landed a job with the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) in 2013.
Now the general manager of the IDB’s Caribbean Country Department, Turner-Jones is responsible for managing the IDB’s portfolio in six countries in the Caribbean — Barbados, Guyana, Jamaica, Suriname, The Bahamas, and Trinidad and Tobago; and since taking office, she has made a greater commitment towards empowering and motivating youth through a series of academic lectures, town hall meetings and personal development talks.
"There is an unimaginably wide world to explore, full of exciting opportunities. Young people are no longer bound by geography — they can spend any amount of time on the internet exploring new worlds and learning about different cultures and ways of experiencing this short time we have on Earth. Make the most of it. Learn a second or third language," she said.
She has offered advice to sixth-form students from Wolmer’s Girls’ who are preparing for university admission within the next year, emphasising the importance of setting goals, maintaining a good attitude, learning a second and third language, and the need to establish their own bank accounts.
In Barbados, she participated in a town hall meeting on November 21 with more than 300 students from the Barbados Community College and the Cave Hill campus of the University of the West Indies (UWI), to outline how the IDB is working to tackle the issues associated with the future of work and employment for youth in the Caribbean.
And in the Bahamas, Turner-Jones also recently delivered the prestigious 31st Annual Adlith Brown Memorial Lecture which focused on the theme "Imagining Vibrant Economies". Her lecture, which was delivered on the occasion of the 48th Annual Monetary Studies Conference, highlighted how economics can serve as the conduit for improving lives in the Caribbean region.
"I think it is very important to engage the youth; to hear their perspective on how we can move forward as a region, as well as to provide the right information across various issues and topics so that they can be equipped to make the best decisions about their careers and their personal lives, which can in turn result in the creation of vibrant economies. This is part of how the IDB is working to advance our vision to improve lives throughout the Caribbean. These engagements are also in keeping with the IDB’s ethos to share and generate knowledge," she said.
Locally, she has delivered several lectures to students and teachers at UWI’s Geography Department as well as to first-year students at UWI’s School of International Relations.
Her lectures have focused on research and emerging trends in the region, creating vibrant economies, managing climate change, understanding developments on the international scene, and evaluating changes in gender and diversity matters.
"For the first time we learned that female-run businesses in the Caribbean can do better than male-run enterprises. However, the incidence and tolerance of violence against women surely does not support this trend. Women look after families, work, and drive change because we must. We are slow to conquer the political realm — men still outnumber women in parliament globally — so policies that can support working women with children and families tend to get less traction than other areas. It is a constant struggle — child abuse, sexual harassment, domestic violence, human trafficking — these aren’t going away fast enough because we do not have strong enough laws and enforcement of those laws," Turner-Jones said.
A self-proclaimed globe trotter and author of Caribbean Renewal Tackling Fiscal and Debt Challenges, Turner-Jones has also worked in an orphanage championing the cause of young girls.
"I used to mentor an orphanage of mostly girls in Conakry, Guinea, where we lived for three years. I helped to prevent pre-adolescent girls in that orphanage from being circumcised by educating the mother in charge and the community around it that female genital mutilation was a harmful practice to women’s health — the girls could also die from bleeding and it was totally unnecessary as a practice," she explained.
She has also done research on emerging trends in the region such as climate change and gender and diversity matters.
Also a mother and wife, Turner-Jones enjoys playing tennis, reading, enjoying company over good food and wine, or just hanging out at home with her family.
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