Thu | Mar 21, 2019

Professor Opal Palmer Adisa | Gender Justice: An inclusive policy for an independent nation

Published:Monday | September 3, 2018 | 12:00 AM

Gender is the current buzzword, and many people are trying to figure out exactly what it means.

Gender is not a woman's-only issue. Gender includes all members of our society because the fact is that there is not a single issue that affects women that does not have a correlating effect on men. We at the Institute for Gender and Development Studies - Regional Coordinating Unit (IGDS-RCU) of The UWI seek to provide inclusive programmes for women, men, and children to ensure that there is equality for all, in all reaches of Jamaican society.

The UWI is the intellectual heart of our society, and its "Triple A Strategy 2017-2022" aims to make the university more relevant under its mandate of Access, Alignment, and Agility for all. Sir Hilary Beckles, the vice-chancellor, has positioned the university as an activist institution that engages the community in myriad ways. As a result, in celebrating the 70th anniversary this year, The UWI launched its gender policy in May 2018, becoming the first tertiary institution in the anglophone region to do so.

This gender policy promotes gender justice and is a call to action to end sexual harassment, sexual abuse of girls and boys, and the marginalisation of youth and men living in poverty. This policy is an important paradigm shift from one of exclusion based on gender, class, sexual preference, and numerous other self-identification labels, to one of inclusion and respect for diversity.

Model for others

The UWI Gender Policy can serve as a model for other institutions, private companies, non-governmental organisations, and the Government, locally as well as regionally, to begin to investigate and implement changes that will bring about equity in both opportunities as well as salaries for women and men. As The UWI's Gender Policy shares Vision 2030 Jamaica, the IGDS, as a multidisciplinary, integrated institution, is positioned to help guide these necessary changes.

Jamaica and many other Caribbean nations have thrown off the colonial legacy to gain independence. This journey was only achieved by a dramatic perspective shift and a more inclusive vision. Gender Justice provides a model. Gender Justice begins with us thinking and acting as a family and working through our differences for the betterment of the entire society. Gender Justice begins with a conversation and our willingness to listen to one another. It demands retooling and expanding our outlook. With a preparedness to expand our beliefs, we can accelerate our development as a society. Gender Justice is about living in balance.

We Jamaicans have overcome so many obstacles that have not served us, and now we are being called to rise up again. Jamaica is a powerful nation, and as such, we have the opportunity and responsibility to build a society where Gender Justice is the norm. That is what we at IGDS are working towards, and that is what we are asking you to do in your homes, workplaces, and in the wider society so that we can all live comfortably and enjoy this tallawah nation that we love and that has impacted, and continues to impact, the world.