Wed | Aug 23, 2017

Jaevion Nelson | 'Be Bold for Change' - A revolution coming for women

Published:Thursday | March 9, 2017 | 3:00 AM

Yesterday, we observed International Women's Day under the theme #BeBoldForChange to celebrate the achievements of women across the country and call for more to be done to make Jamaica more gender-inclusive.

I am fully aware of the fact that many of us believe that feminists, gender advocates and others who work around women's rights and development have some kind of agenda to (further?) marginalise men and boys. We have become so blinded and unwilling to accept the truth about the realities of many of our women because of the successes they have had in certain areas.

The truth is, though there has been much success, women are still at a disadvantage because of their gender. They are paid 40 cents less on the dollar than men, on average. Female-headed households are typically poorer than male-headed households. Fewer women are in the labour force and employed labour force. Women are disproportionately affected by domestic violence, rape and other forms of sexual violence.

These are facts: not made of figures from research of any kind, yet we often quip that women are all right because more women are in tertiary institutions than men and we have the most female middle managers than anywhere else in the world. Consequently, I have accepted that what we need is a revolution for women: a revolution that is led by fiercely courageous women who are not burdened from years of pushing for greater gender parity and who are unapologetic about what they stand for and represent. A revolution that will get people to understand that there is in fact a problem, rubbish the folly of certain arguments, demand change, and get things done.

The Tambourine Army best represents that kind of rebirth and renewal, particularly around the issue of rape, sexual harassment and other forms of sexual violence perpetrated against women and girls. I am proud of these warrior women and what they have achieved since they began in January. They have a healing circle for people who have experienced sexual violence. A submission was made to the Joint Select Committee reviewing the Sexual Offences Act. And they will be hosting the first survivors' empowerment march on March 11, 2017.

 

PLATFORM FOR SURVIVORS

 

The survivor empowerment march serves as a platform for survivors to share their stories and experiences, and publicly call on Jamaicans to take bold action to end Violence Against Women and Girls in all its forms. It begins at 3 p.m. at the Covenant Moravian Church, located at 127 Molynes Road, and ends in Half-Way Tree square with a rally. There will also be broadcast on CVM and Irie FM between 3:30 and 6 p.m.

Tambourine Warrior Tanya Stephens, who will also be participating in the march alongside artistes Etana and Keisha Firmm, says that as a survivor she feels understood and represented and that "this march will empower other survivors with at the very least the awareness that they are not alone and change is imminent".

Commendations to FiWi Jamaica, I'm Glad I'm A Girl Foundation, IGDS, JMMB, IrieFM, PRiDE JA Magazine, UN Women, Island Grill, Eve For Life, CVMTV, Jamaican Teas, Equality For All Foundation Jamaica, Jamaica AIDS Support for Life, 360 Artists, and WE-Change who are supporting this bold and well-needed initiative in helping those who have been abused.

There is a groundswell for change and we must make use of this opportunity to make Jamaica a better and safer place for our women and girls. As Tambourine Warrior Abby-Sade Brooks said: "For far too long we have been silent about abuse against our women and girls. For far too long we've blamed and shamed survivors for their own injustice and exploitation. For far too long we've hung our heads while perpetrators walk scot-free. We, the Tambourine Army, have risen to mash dung the status quo. We have risen to give voice to all survivors who believed they would not be heard. We hear you and we will stand and fight with you until justice is served."

I encourage you to join the march this Saturday. Contact them at tambourinearmy@gmail.com, or 864-1611 for more information. I sincerely hope that all of us, including our politicians, will #BeBoldForChange for our women and girls who are depending on us to do so.

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