Wed | Aug 23, 2017

Jaevion Nelson | Our women and girls remain vulnerable - #PlanForHer’

Published:Thursday | October 13, 2016 | 10:00 AM

The tendency of many 'well respected' Jamaicans to pretend it is a fallacy that women and girls face a plethora of social and economic maladies which affect their personal and professional development is particularly horrifying. I am outraged by the habit. We cannot afford to sit by, pretending as if sexism and patriarchy have not and do not continue to mete out grave injustices to women and girls, as well as stymie national development.

The fact that females are more likely to matriculate to higher levels of education and that Jamaica is celebrated as having the most female managers, does not suggest, in any way that they have broken the glass ceiling and now live and work in spaces where gender equality is mainstreamed and guaranteed to everyone. I don't deny that there has been a great deal of progress over the years but it is preposterous to pretend everything is now alright. Our women and girls are still vulnerable and we have a responsibility to engender a better society for them to live in.

Earlier this week, I was particularly struck by the statements made by two of the country's best Parliamentarians - Dayton Campbell and Floyd Green on the International Day of the Girl Child.

Green who was speaking at 'I Am Glad I Am A Girl's #PlanForHer' forum at the University of the West Indies (UWI) said, "Despite much progress over the last few decades, including in their increased matriculation through various levels of education, girls continue to be affected by a number of social and economic ills such as violence, patriarchy, sexual abuse and exploitation, which continue to put them at greater risk of being unemployed, trapped in poverty and have substandard health and quality of life. The situation impresses on us the critical need to consider how well our laws, policies and programmes are working to provide girls with an avenue to equally participate in public life and otherwise achieve personal success."

I sincerely wish some of us would untangle ourselves from all the cobweb of idiocy that we have created, and accept that the under performance of men and boys has nothing to do with the empowerment of women and girls. I am therefore compelled to point out that we do not need an 'International Day for the Boy Child' (as people have been asking) because they are not being marginal zed.

Parliamentarians like Green and Campbell give me and many others hope about the future of our country. We need more people like them as legislators to stand up for the rights of our women and girls.

We have an obligation to ensure girls in our country do 'not have to worry about sexual harassment and violence, are not more likely to be unemployed and be paid less when they grow up because of their gender, and are empowered to be the best girl they can be, whether that means they're an engineer, model, teacher, architect, hairdresser, doctor, bus driver or politician.'

If we can achieve this our families and communities will be better off. As Green said, "The onus is on all of us to engender a society which supports girls' development.[...] We must see the securing of their livelihood and well-being as crucial to any strategy to move our country from poverty to prosperity.'

I would like to speak to the issue of the Armadale Fire which result in seven girls dying and several others injured. I am excited about the ruling - justice at last! I must thank the six survivors of the fire at the Armadale Juvenile Correctional Centre in St Ann who, despite the odds against them, did not allow our collective silence to stand up for their rights and the lack of support and time it would take to pursue legal remedies to challenge the government's negligence and ineptitude. It is a bloody shame that it took all of seven years for the matter to be resolved. It shouldn't have even gone to the court. The findings and recommendations of the Commission of Enquiry were pretty clear.

Let us commit ourselves today, to not be silent about injustice, to not turn a blind eye to the abuses being meted out to people, to not be perturbed unless we are directly affected.

• Jaevion Nelson is a youth development, HIV and human rights advocate. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and jaevion@gmail.com.