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Sixteen women among Parliamentarians to be sworn in today

Published:Thursday | March 10, 2016 | 3:01 AM

Jovan Johnson, Parliamentary Reporter

Among the 84 people who will today be sworn in as members of the Houses of Parliament, 16  will be women - that's two more than the number who made up the previous parliament.

Of the 11 women who will be in the House of Representatives, four will be first time Members of Parliament - Juliet Holness, Juliet Cuthbert Flynn, Marlene Malahoo Forte and Fayval Williams - having won their seats in the February 25 polls.

All four first-timers won their seats on the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) ticket.

They bring to seven, the total number of women who will sit on the government benches. 

The other four will be from the Opposition People’s National Party.

Meanwhile, the Senate will consist of five women, one less than the total number in the last parliament.

Three women will be sworn in on the Government side with the remaining two for the Opposition.

Marlene Malahoo-Forte, an Opposition member in the last Senate, now Attorney General and MP, says she will be more than just a female representative in Parliament.

"I will ensure that it is not just a symbolic representation of another woman in parliament. All of the unique perspectives that I bring to the position will be used to ensure we make progress on the problems facing the people of Jamaica.

Judith Wedderburn, gender advocate and director of Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, said the increase in numbers is "encouraging".

But she warned that the society cannot become complacent.

"We shouldn't fool ourselves into feeling this small minority of women will meet all expectations. They belong to political parties and they would have to be miraculously brave to stand up and take a position that is not in tandem with the party’s position," she told The Gleaner.

Meanwhile, the JLP MP-elect for Portland Western, Daryl Vaz, believes that it is "healthy" for Jamaica’s democracy that there is an increase in female lawmakers.

"The fact that there’s more women indicates a willingness to get into representational politics. More than the gender, it’s the quality of the persons who will enter Gordon House. It augurs well for the new parliament and national leadership,” he argued.

jovan.johnson@gleanerjm.com