Cover photo: 51% Coalition members Indi McLymont Lafayette (left) and Hilary Nicholson, who moderated the unexpectedly large meeting, pause for thought.
The past few weeks have been extraordinary. We have seen a surge in violent crime that has frightened many Jamaicans; in particular several abductions and killings of young women and girls. Social media posters have been reeling in horror. Alongside this – a parallel narrative of equal import – the issue of the alleged sexual abuse (rape) of minors by older men in authority (such as the Moravian pastor, reportedly “caught in the act” just a few weeks ago) has been rumbling on. All pretty horrific, you might say – and so it is. But on top of that there has been a groundswell of advocacy (and its close cousin, activism), mostly by Jamaican women, surrounding these issues. These actions and planned actions have the potential to clear the air.
Adding to the growing chorus, which has emanated from various corners of Jamaican society, was this week’s “Meeting of the Minds” organized by the 51% Coalition, to discuss, examine and brainstorm solutions and actions that it would like to see implemented (and that its members, partners and friends would be able to undertake). Let’s see where this takes us. It may take us all further than we expect.
Solidarity! A luta continua!
February 9, 2017
51% Coalition’s Meeting of the Minds Offer Strong Recommendations on Fighting Violence Against Women and Children
“We must use the word ‘justice’ in every conversation!” declared 51% Coalition member Hilary Nicholson of WMW Jamaica during an energetic Meeting of the Minds on Tuesday, February 7, 2017 at the Jamaica Suite, Phoenix Central in Kingston.
Over 70 women and men packed the room and after over two hours of passionate discussion came up with some strong recommendations including:
- – allocation of funds for a shelter for abused women in every parish by the end of 2017;
- – influencing the Prime Minister, as head of the Social Partnership, to “step up and lead” on the issue;
- – strengthened restorative justice and psychological support for victims;
- – working with youth (counseling and mentoring);
- – strengthened community policing and special training for police;
- – “targeted activism” in schools, communities and the workplace;
- – and using critical “touch points” such as health services for speedier interventions.
Moderated by Indi McLymont Lafayette, the meeting began with a minute’s silence for the victims and survivors of gender-based violence. Head of the Association of Women’s Organizations of Jamaica (AWOJA) Dr. Hermione McKenzie spoke on the dangers of trafficking in women and girls. Maria Carla Gullotta of Stand Up for Jamaica emphasized that sexual abuse is a key factor in so-called “uncontrollable” girls who find themselves in conflict with the law. Glenroy Murray of WE-Change spoke on the Sexual Offences Act, currently under review by a Parliamentary Committee. Patricia Donald Phillips brought a strong statement from women Church leaders.
Groups represented at the meeting included 51%Coalition member organizations WMW-Jamaica; Panos Caribbean; Institute of Gender & Development Studies/UWI; WE-Change; AWOJA; Women’s Resource and Outreach Centre and Jamaica Network of Rural Women Producers; as well as Children First, Bureau of Gender Affairs, Kiwanis Club of New Kingston, The Positive Organization, the Women Entrepreneurs Network of the Caribbean, Jamaicans for Justice, Girl Guides’ Association, Women’s Centre Foundation, Jamaica Community of Positive Women, 1 Billion Rising-Ja, Her Flow, Mothers of Jamaica, Great People Solutions, YWCA, Stand Up for Jamaica and the National Family Planning Board/Sexual Health Agency.