The past few days in Jamaica surrounding International Women’s Day have been powerful and progressive, I feel. Here is a contribution made by Senator Imani Duncan-Price in the Upper House last Friday. It is quite long but offers much food for thought on the need to “jump start” solutions to break down the Persistent Patriarchy and take meaningful steps towards gender equity.
Senator Duncan-Price put forward this Motion to Advance Women’s Leadership in Politics and Decision Making. The debate will continue next Friday, March 14, and I and other supporters and interested parties intend to be there.
Here is the full, unedited text. Do take a read, share and discuss…
Women and Men Leading in Partnership: The Move Forward for Inclusive Development and Growth
“When women and men lead together, decisions better reflect and respond to the diverse needs of society. Countries and companies with higher levels of gender equality have higher levels of growth and performance.”
United Nations Women, Executive Director 2010-2013
Mr. President I stand today to lay the basis for the motion in my name which seeks to ‘Advance Women’s Leadership in Politics and Decision-Making’.
Of course, in bringing such a motion to this honorable Senate, I am quite aware and indeed humbled as I stand on the shoulders on the many brave and courageous women who have been the forerunners. I take this opportunity to publicly acknowledge and honor the work of all the Elders and Gender Pioneers/Champions who have worked so hard to get us to where we are today – the women who came together from the days of our people’s enslavement as real ‘Rebel Women’ to make a difference that we the daughters and granddaughters could benefit in truly life-changing ways. We thank Nanny, and all our enslaved foremothers, I thank Mary Seacole, Edna Manley, Aggie Bernard, Amy Bailey, Mary Morris-Knibb, Lady Bustamante, Rose Leon, Valerie McNeil and the team who fought and laid the base in the years leading up to 1974; Lucille Mathurin Mair who led the first Women’s Desk in the Office of the Prime Minister in 1974, Jeanette Grant-Woodham who became the first female President of the Senate in 1984. During the activism of the 1970s, Beverley Manley Duncan – the first President of the PNP Women’s Movement in early 1970’s – led courageously from within the male-dominated political party, and along with other Rebel Women such as Joan French, Linnette Vassell, Judith Wedderburn, Marjorie Taylor, Barbara Bailey, Jennifer Edwards to name a few – I thank all forerunners who linked hands with women across all social classes, who fought for and won seminal legislation that created a shift in our society – No Bastard No Deh Again; Maternity Leave, Equal Pay for Equal Work.
Mr. President, I say thank you to my mother, Grace Duncan – the Rebel Woman who consistently held on to what she called “irrational hope” seeing to the building of 27 Schools of Hope across Jamaica, in the face of limited resources available – such was her commitment to disabled children and the community – she showed me daily what was possible as she also raised her family with the critical support of our ‘village’ – of which my father, Dr. D.K. Duncan was central – neither of them showed me limitations – only possibilities.
Mr. President, I say thank you to the organizations and leaders that continue the gender work today – Women’s Resource and Outreach Centre (WROC), Jamaica Women’s Political Caucus, Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (FES), PNP Women’s Movement, Fathers Inc, the JLP’s National Organization of Women and Women Freedom Movement, UWI’s Institute for Gender and Development Studies, Young Women’s Leadership Initiative, International Women’s Forum, Women Business Owners and the 51% Coalition to name a few. I am honoured to have so many stalwarts here today with us in the Senate and indeed many young women who are committed to gender equity and equality in decision-making.
And indeed thank you to the Most Honorable Prime Minister Simpson Miller not only for the confidence reposed in me as a Senator, but also for:
having the fortitude and courage to put herself forward as a political representative 40 years ago and having the perseverance to stay the course, and ultimately becoming Jamaica’s first female Prime Minister
And, thank you to our Most Honorable Prime Minister for:
making definitive decisions that have contributed to this Senate being comprised of 28.6% females – the highest ever in our history and very close to the 30% target stated in the 2011 National Policy on Gender Equality – a policy whose frame was initiated in 2004 and which enjoys the support of both political parties.
And Mr. President, I say thank you to my husband Stephen Price – I have to ‘Big Him Up’ as my genuine partner. Our partnership is manifested in our love, our respect, our communication and equality in parenting – his unequivocal support enables me to contribute to national development in this way and I thank him.
My fellow Senators, on this day, March 7th, 2014, the day before International Women’s Day We honor all these women, and indeed the men who supported them, support us as women – we honor them all with love, respect and humility.
Indeed, Mr. President, on this day, the day before International Women’s Day we honor women’s advancement, while diligently reminding of the continued vigilance and action required to ensure that women’s equality is gained and maintained in all aspects of life – and for the purposes of this motion today, specifically we look to the action to ensure that women’s equality is gained and maintained in political leadership and decision-making.
For Mr. President, I move this motion not only as one culmination of 40 years of work – of sweat, tears, and sacrifice. Indeed the time for this motion is NOW, the timing for this motion is imperative because of the nature of the challenges that we face as a country.
These challenging times call for partnerships of no uncertain order. These challenging times calls for Smart Economics.
So how is this linked to Women in Leadership and Decision-Making?
Gender Equality and Smart Economics
Drawing on various studies and analyses of different countries performance, the World Bank’s 2012 World Development Report states unequivocally that “gender equality is smart economics”.
Let’s explore this. What is Gender Equality?
Mr. President when I say gender equality – I mean men and women working together in partnership with more equal representation – sharing competencies and perspectives critical for effective development results. Gender is a relational concept, looking at men vis-à-vis women, and women vis-à-vis men – it is evidence based and data driven – based on disaggregated data, analyzed through race and class to drive insight and action. Mr. President, Gender equality does NOT mean women and men will or have to become the same. Gender equality does NOT mean that women want to take over from men. It means that the rights, responsibilities and opportunities for girls and boys, women and men will NOT depend on whether they are born female or male. Gender Equality implies that the interests, needs and priorities of men, women, boys and girls are taken into consideration, because of the diversity of issues faced and how these may impact them differently. Mr. President, equality between women and men is a human right, enshrined in our Constitution and my Motion is rooted in this Fundamental Law.
Indeed, my fellow senators, Gender equality ensures equal opportunity and equality of outcomes which allow for the possibility that women and men may make choices which benefit them and their families, without intervening systemic and structural barriers.
Let me elucidate how Gender Equality ties to Smart Economics:
- Smart Economics means being responsive to your customer base – in this instance, the women, who in the majority make decisions about expenditure in the market place and who in the majority also, work in our political processes.
- Smart Economics is essentially what the Most Honourable Prime Minister has charged her team with – Balancing the Books while Balancing People’s Lives – enabling women and men to move from ‘‘welfare to work and from work to wealth creation’.
- Smart Economics means our best resources, men and women together, are optimally engaged to establish and strengthen the base for growth in our economy.
But how do we get there in a practical way, in an urgent way? This brings us to Gender Equality. For Gender Equality is Smart Economics!
Let’s think about it – with gender equality, the experiences, abilities and insights of both women and men are a win-win solution for Jamaica. We know that women’s experiences across sectors, as professionals, as consumers, as primary care-givers of children – daughters AND sons – caregivers of the elderly, as managers of family resources, as practitioners of one kind or another will bring different and diverse abilities, expertise and skills to their performances at the different levels of leadership, which men by virtue of their different gendered roles will not. Men bring other positives to the table. We need both sets of talents for better results! And I think we can all agree that Jamaica needs extraordinary results now.
Indeed, the 2012 World Bank reports unequivocally that
- Gender Equality enhances economic productivity
- Gender Equality improves development outcomes for the next generation
- Gender Equality makes institutions and policies more representative and so the laws do more for all the different groups of society, especially the marginalized.
In short, Gender Equality is Smart Economics! And no one can deny that Jamaica needs smart economics NOW.
Mr. President, please note that I do not simply hang my argument based on the World Bank’s view, but the actual results tell a powerful and compelling story.
From a private sector perspective, studies published by Forbes magazine and Catalyst (a research NGO) in 2011 indicate that Companies with a higher number of women on their Boards had a “53% higher return on equity, 66% higher return on invested capital and 42% higher return on sales.”
In fact, since women tend to be more risk averse than their male counterparts, other surveys have shown that companies with gender-diverse boards came through the recession faster and better than companies with all-male boards. In addition, a survey of over 600 board directors found that at the board level where directors must take the views of multiple stakeholders into account, women’s more cooperative approach to decision-making created better performance for their companies.
Why wouldn’t we in Jamaica want to create similar conditions and results as a country?
Don’t the taxpayers of our country, don’t the citizens of our country – the voters, who are akin to shareholders of companies, deserve extraordinary results?
We have the power to support this motion and put in place quotas as a structural enabler that can lead to better results – for Gender Equality is Smart Economics. And Jamaica needs Smart Economics now.
The current state of Gender Equality in Financial resources… in Political Leadership
The lived experiences of women and men remind us that patriarchy is alive and well. I wish to emphasize that Patriarchy is not a code for or against men, and does not refer to any individual or collection of men. Patriarchy is a reference to a kind of society in which men and women are in unequal relations of power which affects relationships in all spheres. It encompasses the organization of social systems, practices and structures (home, work, churches, political parties, parliaments) in which men and women live and work, and have relations.
And yes Mr. President, in spite of all the gains, in spite of the fact that women are involved in areas previously thought to be non-traditional, it is important to recognize that Patriarchy is alive and well in Jamaica. So that even when there is a woman as Prime Minister of our country and we have a high % of women in our universities (62% women versus 38% men registered) and 55% of the graduates of HEART in 2012 were women; and women are leading certain arms of Government (like the Judiciary with the Hon. Mrs. Justice Zaila McCalla), patriarchal power “runs things”. The power dynamics of this are real and shape the relationships between women and men in all aspects of our lives. Women are not in equal numbers at the table, in decision-making – equally participating throughout society. Women are still twice as likely to be unemployed or employed in low-paying jobs compared to men in Jamaica. In fact, a 2010 IDB study revealed that on average women in Jamaica at all levels earn approximately 12.5% less than males for the same jobs.
This clearly indicates that notwithstanding the significant numbers of women trained to contribute to the local economy as well as educationally and professionally qualified for strategic decision making positions, the system of equal opportunity and/or rewards remains inequitable. Indeed, the system remains inequitably favorable towards men.
As a percentage, “one or two” women are let in from time to time but the power remains firmly in the hands of male privilege. It’s amazing actually if you think about it, it’s also an example of how systems persist and perpetuate themselves – a few get through so you can always point and say “see – they did it” – but the underlying structure of the system actually has not changed, the patriarchy system is resilient and resistant to change. So we still see contemptuous attitudes and offensive behaviors towards women often manifesting in abuse – verbal, physical, sexual and otherwise.
Patriarchy also harms men by defining manhood, defining what it means to be a man in Jamaica, defining masculinities in ways that drive SOME men and boys into risky anti-social and dangerous behaviors and to, in many ways, devalue education, for example and hurt our families and society.
Mr. President, the patriarchal system is alive in the results we see in leadership representation in politics and perpetuates the system itself.
My fellow Senators, think about this, the participation rate of women in general elections and local government elections as candidates is significantly low and thus the subsequent representation rates of women (those who actually win) are also significantly lower than men. And this reality is one that has persisted from 1944. Indeed, data from the Electoral Office of Jamaica indicates that of the 835 persons elected to Parliament in the 70 years since 1944, only 67 have been females – 8%.
According to the current data for 2014, women now represent a mere 12.7% of the Members of Parliament, 20% of the Cabinet, and 28.6% of the Senate. The highest ever achieved for the Members of Parliament was 15% and that was in 1997. This is not good enough.
Indeed, as Michelle Bachelet, United Nations Women, Executive Director 2010-2013 stated,
“When one woman is a leader, it changes her. When more women are leaders, it changes politics and policies.”
Despite the gains, our situation in Jamaica, our results have been persistent. This is not good enough.
- Not good enough when women make up 51% of the Jamaican population
- Not good enough after 50 years of political independence
- Not good enough after 70 years of Universal Adult Suffrage, when in 1944, Iris Collins of the JLP successfully ran and won her seat as the first female Member of Parliament.
When I researched and analyzed the background to this – the fact is that women accounted for only 35% of those running for political office in the 2011 General Elections. Women weren’t even ½ of the possibility set. Of the sixty-three (63) seats contested, twenty-two (22) seats were contested by women. As indicated before, of that 22, only 8 or 12.7% won their seats.
As legislators, as leaders in this Honorable Senate, I’m asking you for just a moment to think about this. I believe we need to be aware of the reality around us that generates this result consistently for over 40 years – it’s the paradigm we grew up in, are living in. And by paradigm, I’m referring to the definition from Landmark Corporation that says “essentially a paradigm defines the limits of the way we perceive or see things”. The figures to-date serve to show that a deliberate and strategic approach must be taken towards improving this imbalance in gender-power and in decision-making given the active role women continue to play in the shaping of politics, its associated institutions and national development. Women must be seen as integral components for effective development planning and this should therefore be reflected in the very numbers which are appointed and elected to higher office.
I ask you to really consider this because it this persistent reality that necessitates the need for temporary special measures – we have to shock the system – we, as women and men, have to rally against this system not only because:
- It’s right, a human right that spaces are made at the table for 51% of the population. We need all talents at the table. And,
- All talents being engaged at the table for Jamaica’s benefit as gender equality is smart economics. And Jamaica needs Smart economics now.
Gender Quotas to Generate Gender Equality in Political Leadership and Decision-making
Given the slow speed by which the number of women in politics has grown, the time is therefore now for more efficient methods reach a gender balance in political institutions. Quotas, as a temporary special measure, present ONE such mechanism that has proved to be effective. You see Mr. President, I am not proposing we step into unchartered waters.
In recognition of the persistence of the patriarchal system that men and women have grown up in across the world accounting for low % globally for women in decision-making roles, many countries across the world now have moved beyond mere discussion about the possibility of instituting a Gender Quota/Gender Parity policy as integral to the functioning of the political system, to having ensured the place of women as necessary to the equitable and effective functioning of their democracies.
Countries and case examples are numerous in different parts of the world with different cultures and stages of democracy. Of significant prominence in Europe is Iceland, Denmark, and Sweden. In terms of countries which have emerged not only as newly democratic, but out of situations of war and stark female discrimination –Rwanda, in particular, Cameroon, Zimbabwe, Tunisia and South Africa are all success stories where employing gender quotas of different types has not only improved and cemented a commitment to inclusive democracy, but in particular, has assisted in solidifying the critical role of women in political decision making. This wave of transformation has also moved throughout Latin America. Costa Rica, Panama, Uruguay, Columbia, Brazil, Chile and even the former dictatorship Bolivia have all been proactive in forging ahead with ensuring more equal representation of women in politics at the national and local government level. Closer to home, Guyana is the only CARICOM Caribbean country with a legislated Candidate Quota system, introduced as a Constitutional measure. On each political party list, one third of candidates must be women (they have 30% women in their National Assembly).
This advancing of gender quotas in the political sphere therefore presents a unique opportunity for Jamaica who has often been at the vanguard in international progressive movements to be a part of the process, given the possibility of such a system to be more politically inclusive of women leading to better results for our country. All this as Gender Equality is Smart Economics.
And Mr. President, please be reminded that when I say Gender – that means women AND men, Gender refers specifically to the relationships between women and men, in the many different spaces that they share. WE here can take on the fight for Women and Men recognizing value in both perspectives and experiences. By virtue of the ways in which we are raised, the different experiences and expectations that men and women have across class and race in Jamaica lead to us as men and women seeing things differently, we have discourse and discussions differently – and both ways are valuable – the combination of both leads to smart economics, smart leadership. Furthermore, Mr. President, we must acknowledge women’s rights as human rights, and that like men, they should be equally present in these decision-making spaces.
As a country, we must find the way make the best use of the capabilities of women at the highest levels of decision making. In the search for our solutions, we must cause changes in the way we organize our society, that is, if we are serious about overcoming current challenges and placing Jamaica on a sustainable path for economic growth and development. We need a game-changer – we must shock the system!
So how do we get there?
My recommendation: Draft Terms of Reference for Joint Select Committee – bi-partisan and gender balanced
I look forward to the debate in this Honorable Senate on how best to improve the place of women in the political leadership sphere and decision making process.
Let me state unequivocally, as a young woman I started out with the view that the incremental approach, the time-based approach would be sufficient – in time as more and more women were trained, built the confidence, they, we would find a place at the table. However, working in the private sector in Executive Leadership, working in the Political parties in the current political culture, becoming a mother, caring for a dying parent – my own mother – and looking at the systems of support, looking at the decisions made on policies and programmes for public benefit, looking at who has access to power, and who continues to make the decisions and the process for equity in gender in leadership and decision-making, I’ve come to the view that we need a definitive game-changer so more women across different socio-economic classes have an opportunity to pursue whatever aspirations that may have – as we would have effectively addressed some of the barriers.
And please note, Mr. President, this is not because our men are not smart and well-meaning – they just have a perspective that is grounded in their upbringing and experience as men – which is valuable but not balanced nor allows for the full picture for balanced laws, policies and programmes. For remember, the system in which we all live and work is grounded in patriarchy – which inhibits not only women as a group, but also some men based on their social and economic status. This has contributed to the slow pace at which we have tackled this and other women’s issues over the last 40 years.
Given this persistent situation, I propose that we convene a Joint Select Committee – that is a committee comprised of both Senators and members of the Lower House, 50:50 bi-partisan, and grounded in gender equality. This Parliamentary Committee so constructed can make a practical difference for Jamaica and the time is right given our electoral 5 year cycle, as candidate selections will likely occur within the next 18 months. How can we make an effective difference this time around? A difference that will lead to creating greater gender equality – a difference that will lead to ‘smart economics’. There is no time to wait and we must plan properly for the desired results of inclusive development – indeed Jamaica needs Smart Economics and Smart Leadership now.
I recommend that this Committee seek to:
- Identify specific, practical recommendations for the political parties to activate in light of the barriers that women face in engaging the political sphere as leaders as identified in the National Policy on Gender Equality
- Review and recommend the types of Temporary Special Measures such as gender quotas, that would work most effectively in our political culture given the objectives of gender equality in political leadership
Given my analysis of the situation, I would ask that the Committee review my proposal regarding the latter. I believe the best way forward is to employ a Temporary Special Measure by way of instituting a Gender Neutral Quota system for the Senate and for the Candidate Slate of Political Parties which ultimately results in the gender composition of MPs in the Lower House. Within this frame, neither gender would fill more than 60% nor less than 40% of the appointed or elected positions in either the Senate or the House of Representatives. Such a move will also ensure that our men, whose contribution is valuable in the governance process are not in turn subject to discrimination.
For the Senate, I believe that a legislated Gender–Neutral Reserved Seat system of 60%/40% should be in place in terms of recommendations for appointments. This goes further than the 30% stated in the National Policy on Gender Equality – this is so because women make up 51% of the population and it takes us closer to true representation.
For the Lower House, to maintain the efficacy of democracy – the right of the people to vote for who they desire to represent and lead them, I do not recommend reserved seats. Instead, I recommend instituting a minimum 40% Gender Neutral Candidate Quota System from each political Party’s slate. This could be legislated or voluntary. In either case though, the rank order of the candidates on the lists would be regulated, so that women candidates are not just placed at the bottom of the lists with ‘unwinnable seats’. Sanctions for non-compliance would also be important to look at.
I recommend that such a system of special measures be instituted for only two terms or for a 10 year period while we also implement the plans laid out in the National Policy on Gender Equality, which seeks to change and improve the systemic problems – the social, political, economic, and psychological barriers which have prevented both men and women from achieving an enlightened understanding of the critical role of women in all spheres of decision-making.
Some will argue that it is the very systemic issues with the wider negative societal socialization about women as leaders which have hindered the gradual progression and accession of more women into representational politics and other positions of leadership external to ‘politics’. It may even be further proposed by some, to just deepen the focus on the socialization and re-socialization of our young men and women in order to address the barriers to female leadership-much of which has been psychological – before or even instead of taking this step of temporary special measures, Gender quotas.
I argue that the data clearly speaks to the reality – the patriarchal reality – and so the system needs a game-changer – the system needs a shock to achieve Gender Equality necessary for more inclusive and effective decision-making. But this game-changer to create that necessary shift MUST be done in conjunction with programmes highlighted in the National Policy on Gender Equality to effectively address the systemic issues. For if we do not do the latter, when the recommended timeframe for the temporary special measures elapses – the society would not have fundamentally shifted and provide a consistent flow of female leaders to be present in the Senate, in the Lower House, on Public Boards etc.
And please note, Mr. President, when I speak of quotas – it does not mean giving women space just for the sake of them being women as I do not advocate or support a man getting a position just because he’s in the boy’s club. This is our country’s political leadership – this is decision-making regarding policies and programs and our nation’s resources. As such, I expect that both women and men who put themselves up for representation and those who are called on for duty must meet standards for leadership and qualifications. These standards and qualifications are not dictated by a tertiary degree as that is not the end all be all, but may include experience and exhibited competencies in leadership within their community or other organization(s), they will be critical and analytical thinkers, they will have heart, they will hold that leadership at this level is a privilege, they will hold themselves to high standards of integrity and honesty taking into account the principles of good governance and they will be genuinely committed to the process of development of our Nation.
So Mr. President, I submit that we in this Honorable Senate can take the bold steps to pursue both the necessary long-term changes and the game-changer necessary to create the platform for greater gender equality in political leadership. Let us openly and unreservedly start the deepening of the participatory process. Let us here in this honourable Senate explicitly acknowledge the critical importance of a balanced gendered approach to participatory governance and the decision making process, which will eliminate the notion of a male dominated political system and create a true partnership of men and women working together with all of society benefitting from the insights, talents, resources and skills from a wider cross-section. Let us lift up our women as a group in this Nation – stating unequivocally that Gender Equality is Smart Leadership – and this a means to peace and prosperity for Jamaica, land we love.
 In 2007, according to the Jamaica Economic Statistics Database (JESD), unemployment by gender as a percentage of the total unemployed labour force stood at 14.3 percent for women, while unemployment for men was 5.5 percent. Fast forward to October 2013, unemployment for women has moved to approximately 20 percent, while male unemployment has risen to 14.6 percent, still comparatively lower than that of unemployment of women.