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Rallying for more women - Holness in support of increased female representation in House

Published:Friday | January 22, 2016 | 12:00 AMDaraine Luton

Despite only 14 per cent of the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) candidates for the next general election being women, Andrew Holness, the party's leader, says the movement he leads is committed to increasing female representation in Parliament.

The 2011 National Policy on Gender Equality targets 30 per cent of the Parliament being women, and Holness, while speaking at a joint Gleaner-Mona School of Business and Management Leadership Roundtable Forum at the Spanish Court Hotel on Wednesday, said, "we support that".

"That actually started in our government in terms of a policy of ensuring that there is appropriate and balanced gender representation in Parliament," Holness said.

Both of the country's political parties are expected to field a full slate of 63 candidates in the upcoming elections.

Nine women - Olivia Grange, Beverley Prince, Juliet Cuthbert Flynn, Juliet Holness, Fayval Williams, Shahine Robinson, Marlene Malahoo Forte and Andrea Walters - will contest parliamentary seats for the JLP in the upcoming elections. This represents a decrease from the 13 women who contested the 2011 elections, three of whom were elected.

Currently, two of the eight opposition senators are women. The opposition leader nominates eight persons to be appointed as senators while the prime minister nominates 13 persons.

On the Government side, four of the 13 senators are women.

The governing People's National Party (PNP) will be fielding 12 female candidates in the next general election, four more than it did in 2011.

Of the five women MPs elected in 2011, two - Natalie Neita-Headley (minister without portfolio in Office of the Prime Minister) and Lisa Hanna (minister of youth and culture) - were appointed to the Cabinet, while Sharon Ffolkes-Abrahams was made a junior minister in the industry ministry.




Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller, Jamaica's first woman prime minister, appointed Sandrea Falconer as de facto information minister from the Senate.

Since launching in November 2011, the 51% Coalition has been pushing for greater representation of women in Parliament.

"There are many issues relating to gender equality which we think are not being addressed," Nikeisha Sewell, secretariat coordinator at the 51% Coalition - Women in Partnership for Development and Empowerment, said at the roundtable.

Holness said the party is sensitive to gender issues, and "we do try to ensure that whatever we do, there is a gender balance".

He said the party supports a policy for the "appropriate gender representation and balance in Parliament".

A new study by the International Labour Organization (ILO) has found that Jamaica has the highest proportion of women managers, globally, ahead of countries like the United States and the United Kingdom

The study also found that while women are still under-represented in top management, the number of women in senior- and middle-management positions has increased over the last 20 years.

The current prime minister is a woman whose government Holness' JLP is seeking to unseat.

"We have done fairly well in terms of gender mainstreaming, and under my government, I would have a department, a section of the ministry that deals with gender affairs," Holness said.

The responsibility for gender affairs now rests in the Office of the Prime Minister.

Holness argued that gender affairs should not be limited to females, stating that "part of the gender problem that we are having is that boys are now forming a critical vulnerable group".