Women’s Empowerment Group Graduates From Integrity and Advocacy Programme in Style

I have done a lot of celebrating in the past week or two, as we move down towards Christmas. One project that I am proud to have been involved with (in a small way) was the Women’s Resource and Outreach Centre’s (WROC) Strengthening a Culture of Integrity in Jamaica project, implemented in collaboration with National Integrity Action (NIA) and USAID, the funders. It has been a challenging but powerful journey, put on hold once or twice due to security problems in the communities that WROC serves.

Dr. Patrece Charles of NIA presents a Certificate of Participation to Joy Matthews – Miss Joy. (Photo: WROC)

A few evenings ago, a group of nineteen women (aged 19 to 65) from the communities of Trench Town and Fletcher’s Land graduated from the Women’s Advocacy and Leadership Training (the “WE Group”). This was a two-month programme focused on improving the socio-economic condition of women and girls by equipping them to advocate for their own interests, those of their respective communities, and beyond. The women were trained as “community mobilisers” around issues such as anti-corruption, gender, sexual and reproductive health, human rights and integrity. In the inner-city environment, men (including the notorious “dons”) often assert themselves in negative ways. This training enabled the women to see themselves as leaders. Besides the areas mentioned above, the women learned some critical communication and social skills; dealing with conflict; money management; and mentorship.

Ms. Maxine Wilson, General Manager of Palisadoes Credit Union is herself a “rags to riches” story. (My photo)

There was an air of anticipation at the Knutsford Court Hotel on December 5, as the women sat down, dressed splendidly and beautifully, for the happy occasion. Some were quite serious (nervous, I believe), while others smiled quietly or chatted and made jokes with each other. We took many, many photographs.

Here’s more about the programme itself, from WROC’s press release earlier this week:

The highly interactive programme utilized a holistic approach to training the women, with three energetic and experienced facilitators connected to Women’s Media Watch Jamaica, who have backgrounds in gender advocacy and development. These sessions took place once per week on Wednesdays between the hours of 9:00am – 3:00pm.

At the beginning of the programme, 25 women were enrolled. By the end 19 remained, having completed the training. They are now certified as community mobilizers for their communities. So far, the women have staged one successful community sensitization session to educate their community members about the Jamaica Women’s Health Survey Report commissioned by UN Women. The focus of their presentation was Intimate Partner Violence. They have also formed themselves into a Community Based Group and have developed their 2019 work-plan for the work they will undertake in the Trench Town Community. Additionally, the participants have begun the process of securing funding to underwrite their activities through the Project for Maternal and Neonatal, Infant Health (PROMAC) to improve the service delivery of health facilities to women and babies.

The programme livened up quickly. With Project Coordinator at WROC Marsha Grant guiding the proceedings (she is such a hard-working team member!) it took off with the women’s dynamic dramatic skits. They had rehearsed them thoroughly; there was a little ad-libbing, but no one fluffed their lines. The two skits emphasised how women suffer from corruption in the community when they try to find jobs and better themselves. One woman, complete with painted moustache, played the “big man” politician with gusto. He had his favourites, of course, as did a corrupt businessman. With much laughter, and a touch of Jamaican “slapstick,” serious messages were underlined.

Business on the phone: another skit by the women highlighted corrupt practices. (My photo)

The women also sang: Miley Cyrus’ “The Climb,” which has highly motivational lyrics. WROC’s Ruth Howard conducted them with great energy. The chorus goes like this:

There’s always gonna be another mountain
I’m always gonna wanna make it move
Always gonna be an uphill battle
Sometimes I’m gonna have to lose
Ain’t about how fast I get there
Ain’t about what’s waiting on the other side
It’s the climb

One of the highly engaging skits performed by the “WE Group.” Note the moustache! (My photo)

WROC’s Executive Director, Nikeisha Sewell Lewis, encouraged the women.“This marks the end of one stage of your life and I encourage and implore you to embrace every opportunity for growth and development that comes your way, as you begin the next stage of your journey,” she said. Deputy Director of NIA Dr Patrece Charles told them that the road ahead might be uneven at times, but they are already well on their way.

General Manager of the Palisadoes Credit Union, Maxine Wilson, was the guest speaker. The highly successful businesswoman reminisced about coming from a poor background herself – as the daughter of a minibus driver from Waterhouse, one of those deprived and often volatile communities. By the way, that is where the athlete Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce grew up; both these women still “give back” to the community. Ms Wilson spoke of her own determination, and told the women “never give up.”

This was not one of those graduation ceremonies where all the recipients sit quietly. There was feedback, conversation – and lots of laughter. There was dinner, dancing – and many hugs.

Marcia Samuels, a member of the group, said she has grown as a person since coming to the training, which helped her speak out within her community against sexual and other abuse. She has even been able to share her own stories involving physical abuse in her past intimate relationships. That’s not an easy thing to do.

Dr. Patrece Charles, Deputy Director of National Integrity Action, gave a heartfelt speech. (My photo)

Doreen Knight, another graduate, said: “This group has inspired me so much as a woman in my community. I am able to see more and more that my purpose is not only to stay at home and raise children – but to be a leader and positively impact the lives of other women around me.” Doreen has successfully completed two CXC subjects and five Skills Building subjects from HEART.

This was the first time that most of the women had ever received a Certificate of Achievement of any kind, in their lives. In fact, many of them have never been able to complete an educational course. So, this was really a momentous occasion.

Many congratulations to WROC, NIA and in particular the three awesome trainers who worked with this group. A special shout out to WROC’s loyal supporter Pastor Joscelyn Hamilton and Shavae Scale, a student from the University of Technology, who provided support. Most of all, congratulations to the women themselves! We are all extremely proud of you.


Women's Resource & Outreach Centre logo

The Women’s Resource & Outreach Centre (WROC) is a non-profit organization that was established thirty-five (35) years ago on International Women’s Day, March 8, 1983. WROC caters to the Lyndhurst/Greenwich and surrounding communities by providing support to women and their families, as well as young men. Our programmes include employability training, gender advocacy, research and communication, remedial classes, seniors club and community building. For more information, contact: Onica Grannum, Communications Officer, tel: 876-929-8873 / 876-476-8663. E-mail: wroccommunications@gmail.com. You can find WROC at 47 Beechwood Avenue, Kingston 5. And do visit their recently revamped website! WROC is also on Twitter, Instagram and on Facebook

The women sang a moving song by Miley Cyrus, “The Climb,” directed by WROC’s Ruth Howard. (My photo)


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