Or is it a matter of representation; for every 6 men that made a valiant contribution to freedom and Jamaica’s attainment of political sovereignty there is only one woman? Hardly likely. Jamaican women have been playing leading roles in society for decades, but their efforts often go unrecognized. Besides Nanny, there are a host of other women who have impacted Jamaican history in significant ways.
“Cubah, Queen of Kingston, Congo Sally, these women led enslaved people in rebellions, even after slavery,” cites Dr. Dalea Bean, Assistant Lecturer at the Institute for Gender and Development Studies at the University of the West Indies, Mona. Continuing she points to “Amy Ashwood, Amy Jacque Garvey, Henrietta Vinton Davis, these woman were part of the pan-African and Garvey movement and would have been staunch leaders and organizers as well.” In more recent history “Una Marson and Amy Bailey who would have been critical to the women’s liberal club and these clubs gave women a platform to discuss issues relevant to them. Not to forget Mary Morris Knibb who is actually the first woman to be elected to public office in 1939,” outlines the gender expert.
Furthermore, these women helped to broaden the scope of governance by legitimatizing certain social issues and finding solutions. “Issues that are pertinent to what would have been considered the private sphere would not have been given pride of place in public policy. These women brought these things to the fore: birth control issues, family planning, sanitation, children and child rearing and the laws that govern these things,” says Dr. Bean. “This is why policymakers ought to ensure that women’s representation at every level of decision-making including the boardroom is optimized to ensure that a wider and more relevant view of social and economic policy development can be realized,” asserts Chairperson of the Women’s Resource and Outreach Centre (WROC) Lorna Lee. “It is time that a structure is established where a set number of women occupy positions of leadership, waiting for it to ‘naturally’ happen is unwise and society in turn misses out on the benefits of a real gender partnership that could bring about true transformation,” adds WROC’s Executive Director Dorothy Whyte.
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