Thu | Dec 8, 2016

Promote Gender Equality and Empower Women

Published:Sunday | March 8, 2015 | 12:00 AMJody-Anne Lawrence

As we celebrate International Women's Day, we have made strides in gender equality, but still have some work to be done as it relates to the Millennium Development Goal: Promote Gender Equality and Empower Women.

While there has been some progress made, the Planning Institute of Jamaica (PIOJ) does admit that there are areas in which the country is still lagging behind. There still exist wide disparities in the current employment of women within the non-agricultural sector. While there was improvement between 2000 and 2007 when there was a substantial increase from 37 per cent of women being employed in the non-agriculture sector to 48.9 per cent in 2007, we have currently tumbled back to 2014 to 39.3 per cent.

The Bureau of Women's/Gender Affairs, in collaboration with several government ministries and women's groups, implemented several programmes to assist with the disparities in the wage employment in the non-agricultural sector. So far, they have reported seeing results in this area.

As it relates to politics, there has been a vast improvement in political representation. However, in comparison to men, the numbers aren't encouraging, even though we pride ourselves on having a female prime minister. In 1990, women represented only five per cent of the seats in Parliament and a little over a 100 per cent increase was achieved over the 10-year period, with women accounting for 12 per cent in 2000. We have been consistent since then with only a minute increase to 13.3 per cent in 2011. We currently have 12.6 per cent female representation in our national Parliament, meaning that men account for 87.4 per cent.

In 2011, Jamaica adopted the National Policy on Gender Equality, that consists of a formal policy framework in which to pursue gender equality. The policy has made provision, according to the PIOJ, for the use of Temporary Special Measures to facilitate a gender balance. They seek to do this through quotas at national and political party levels to encourage women to become more involved in politics.

According to the PIOJ, civil groups have shown interest in creating an equitable environment to support women in Parliament and thus the 51 per cent Coalition - Women in Partnership for Development Through Equity - was formed. This is a group of nine women's organisations.

There is still a long way to go as a country, but with that said, there is a glimmer of hope.