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'Embrace the skill and talent of our young women' - JN exec bats for gender empowerment in sport

Published:Monday | December 19, 2016 | 12:00 AM
Sharon Smith (centre), senior manager, Jamaica National Building Society, poses with members of the victorious Sunshine Girls squad, which defeated England Roses 2-1 in the recent Vitality International Netball Test Series.

Sharon Smith, senior manager, Jamaica National Building Society (JNBS), says it is time for Jamaica to use sports as a tool for economic and gender empowerment.

Smith was celebrating with the Sunshine Girls, following their 2-1 victory over England in the Vitality International Test Series in England earlier this month, at an event organised by Netball Jamaica on the campus of The University of the West Indies last Thursday.

She said that the Sunshine Girls' victory brought home the need for greater investment and development of sports such as netball in which Jamaica has a competitive advantage at the international level.

"As a country, we should be at the stage to accept sports that have real economic muscle, which can provide 'growth and jobs,' not only for men, but also our women," she urged, highlighting the high level of unemployment among women.

According to figures from the Statistical Institute of Jamaica, women make up close to 60 per cent of the unemployed labour force.

"We, therefore, need to increase the opportunities for our women, who need to grow up knowing that there are careers they can pursue beyond the traditional and demonstrate that a career in sports, such as netball, is a real possibility," the JNBS senior manager and licensed pension adviser said.

She also pointed to countries such as Australia, where netball is treated almost on par with other sports, providing opportunities for professional female athletes.

 

NARROW VIEW

 

Reflecting on two young women who could have become professional athletes, Smith argued that Jamaicans maintain a narrow view of the types of careers women can pursue.

She noted that in both young women's cases - one an employee at JN who plays netball, and the other from a Corporate Area-based primary school - neither of them was able to pursue careers in sports because of the lack of professional leagues for women and the perceptions of women in sports.

"The young girl's hopes were dashed when the principal of her school simply told her that sports was not for young ladies. That youngster, at about age 13, ended up pregnant and out of school," Smith recounted.

"We need to get past this narrow view and embrace the skill and talent of our young women."