Are Women Under Siege in Jamaica?

I am reposting this important column by businesswoman, author and leading member of the Women’s 51% Coalition in Jamaica, Dr. Marcia Forbes. This is an issue we must – must – keep on the front burner, if we care about the development of Jamaica. And who knows, it may also be relevant to some of my readers in other countries…

This article appeared in the excellent online magazine Carib Journal. The link is here: http://www.caribjournal.com/2013/09/23/are-women-in-jamaica-under-siege/

MANY ARE quick to point out the sprinkling of women in top-level positions in Jamaica as representative of “woman power.” Then, too, the country has a female Prime Minister. These relatively few high profile women disguise an ugly truth – the situation of the majority of women in Jamaica leaves a lot to be desired.

Women Being Fired / Transferred

The question as to whether women are under siege in Jamaica is raised not just in the context of rising unemployment levels among this gender, as detailed below, but  also against a backdrop of unexplainable dismissal and or transfer of seemingly top-performing women in very high-profile, senior positions in the public service.

Concern regarding this drove the lobby group 51% Coalition: Women in Partnership for Development and Empowerment through Equity to alert the public by way of a letter to the Editors of Jamaica’s two national newspapers.

One newspaper captioned the letter “Transparency needed in dismissal of women in Key Leadership Positions in the public service.”

The 51% Coalition noted that it was “watching…the developments related to the employment status of women in three key leadership positions – the Managing Director of the National Housing Trust (NHT), the Commissioner-General, Tax Administration Jamaica and the Chief Executive Officer, of the Child Development Agency.”

To add to those three women, we now hear about the transfer of Superintendent of Police Gladys Brown, Head of the Centre for Investigation of Sexual Offences and Child Abuse (CISOCA). Superintendent Brown has been strident in bringing the matter of sexual offences and child abuse to public attention. It is no secret that members of the police force are sometimes guilty of perpetrating such acts.

Joyce Hewett of the Women’s Crisis Centre has come out against Superintendent Brown’s transfer.

Hewett ascribes less-than-honourable motives to the Jamaica Constable Force for removing a woman she and many others regard as a hard and effective worker. We may or may not hear more about this transfer.

No Answers from the Political Directorate

As the 51% Coalition noted in its letter to the editors, “public calls for details on the justification for the termination of the Head of the CDA, Ms Carla Edie, went largely unheeded.  The controversies surrounding the status of the NHT and TAJ Heads is cause for unease.”

Both the former Managing Director of the National Housing Trust (NHT), Mrs. Cecile Watson, and the former Commissioner General of the Tax Administration Jamaica, Ms. Viralee Latibeaudiere, are now locked in legal battles with the Government of Jamaica and their agencies.

Ms Latibeaudiere has been a passionate and effective advocate on behalf of the Government of Jamaica on matters relating to tax collection. Mrs Watson is described as “a senior business leader with over thirty years experience in leadership, strategy, change management…(with) main industry experience … in banking, engineering and consulting” (HRMAJ.org)

The manner in which these women have been removed from their jobs leaves great cause for concern. Despite public outcry and request for further and better particulars, not much has been forthcoming.

The 51% Coalition ended its letter with a promise to “closely monitor the developments related to the current court proceedings and the subsequent handling of the employment status of these women.”

Now to the matter of rising unemployment among women in Jamaica!

Women Unemployed

In light of this country experiencing the highest unemployment rate in the past sixteen (16) years, we note that among the unemployed women outstrip men by almost two to one. While 21.3 percent of women are unemployed, for men it is 12 percent. The very useful @diGJamaica.com, by way of a graphic display of data from the Statistical Institute of Jamaica (STATIN), has the following posted on its site.

Source: STATIN Data via @diGJamaica.com

We note the climb in female unemployment rate. As @diGJamaica.com noted, “unemployment is a critical indicator of the status of the economy.”

It is a sign that the economy is in trouble. Given the high incidence of female-headed households with women as sole bread-winners, the point must be made that female unemployment is a serious problem for Jamaica.

Be Alert!

When female unemployment is coupled with what could be the beginning of a trend toward disempowering women and removing them from senior positions in the public service, an alarm must be raised. All women in Jamaica should be on the alert.

Dr Marcia Forbes, a Caribbean Journal contributor, is a media specialist, the co-owner of multimedia production company Phase Three Productions Ltd (http://phase3prod.com) and Adjunct Senior Lecturer, Caribbean Institute of Media & Communication, University of the West Indies, Mona. She is the author of Music, Media & Adolescent Sexuality in Jamaica and the recently-released Streaming: Social Media, Mobile Lifestyles.

Follow Dr Marcia Forbes on Twitter: @marciaforbes

Dr. Marcia Forbes is the author of two books on social media and its impact on Jamaican youth. She also heads a dynamic team at Phase Three Productions, a 25-year-old Jamaican company offering TV, film and multimedia services. (Photo: jamediapro.wordpress.com)
Dr. Marcia Forbes is the author of two books on social media and its impact on Jamaican youth. She also heads a dynamic team at Phase Three Productions, a 25-year-old Jamaican company offering TV, film and multimedia services. (Photo: jamediapro.wordpress.com)

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