Keisha Shakespeare-Blackmore, Staff Reporter
When Parliament reopens later this month as expected, there will be eight women from the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) and the People's National Party (PNP) who will be in the House.
Portia Simpson Miller
Portia Simpson Miller
They include outgoing Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller who won with 9,456 votes against her JLP opponent, Garnett Reid, who got 614 votes in St.Andrew South Western. Mrs. Simpson Miller, who was born on December 12, 1945, in Wood Hall, St. Catherine, has been Prime Minister of Jamaica since March 30 last year.
She became the first female head of government in the country after she replaced P.J. Patterson. However, after the general election held on September 3, she will no longer hold the post of Prime Minister as a final count has the JLP winning a majority.
Mrs. Simpson Miller is no stranger to Parliament as she held the post of Minister of Local Government and Sports from 2002 to 2006. She previously served as Minister of Labour, Welfare and Sports from 1989 to 1993, when she re-entered Parliament for South West St. Andrew. She was Minister of Labour and Welfare from 1993 to 1995, Minister of Labour, Social Security and Sports from 1995 to February 2000, and Minister of Tourism and Sports from February 2000 to October 2002. She was a vice-president of the PNP from 1978 to 2006. In appointing her first Cabinet following her swearing-in, she also assumed the portfolio of Defence Minister.
Unlike Mrs. Simpson Miller, Shahine Robinson has not been in politics long. In fact, her foray into representational politics dates back six years, when she won a by-election in the North East St. Ann constituency which was considered a PNP stronghold. She then won the seat in the 2002 General Election and retained it in Monday's poll.
The JLP Spokesperson on Local Government gained prominence in 2001 when she was asked by then leader of the Opposition Edward Seaga to take control when Michael Belnavis took leave of absence. Later, when the PNP's Danny Melville resigned, she offered herself for candidacy, won the by-election and has been representing St. Ann North Eastern ever since. In Monday's election, she won with 10,568 votes to the 8,923 received by PNP candidate Oswest Senior-Smith.
Maxine Henry-Wilson has been a politician since 1974. Born in Manchester, Mrs. Henry-Wilson is the outgoing Minister of Education and Youth. She is MP-elect for South East St. Andrew. She beat the challenge of the JLP's Joan Gordon-Webley in the latest general election and won with 5,126 votes to Gordon-Webley's 4,589.
In 1983, she left politics for a while to pursue her academic studies and returned as Minister Without Portfolio in the Office of the Prime Minister, and as general secretary of the PNP in 1994. She has later the position of Minister of Information in the Office of the Prime Minister from 2000 to 2002. She has been the Minister of Education and a Member of Parliament for St. Andrew South East since 2002.
Olivia 'Babsy' Grange
Olivia 'Babsy' Grange
Olivia 'Babsy' Grange was never interested in representational politics as a girl growing up in West Kingston it was a politically charged environment.
In 1965, she went to Canada, became a model and also did public relations for the Ontario Department of Labour, promoting women's issues and human rights. In 1970, she returned to the island and began working with the West Kingston Trust, which was involved in non-political work in a primarily JLP environment.
Unlike her other colleagues, she has been through imprisonment and exile but has used the experience to enhance her previous career in music she had no interest in politics at first, her transformation began in 1983 when she was appointed senator and parliamentary secretary under the Edward Seaga-led government. Eight weeks before the 1989 General Election, she decided to face the electorate for the first time. She lost, but in 1997, when she represented Central St. Catherine, she won against former party member Bruce Golding (who had left the JLP and is now its leader). She retained the seat four days ago, polling 9,221 votes to 2,590 received by her PNP opponent Rohan Silvera.
Lisa Hanna may be considered the baby among the lot as her political career began earlier this year when she was put forward as the PNP candidate for St. Ann South Eastern.
Though her career has just begun, her win speaks volumes as she won convincingly with 7,134 votes, while Peter Fakhourie claimed 4,456 votes for the JLP, albeit in a strong PNP constituency.
She is no stranger when it comes to representing her country, as in 1993, she won the Miss Jamaica World title and then the coveted Miss World title in the same year. Over the past two years, she has devoted her time to community service. She has been instrumental in raising funds to develop the recreation and play areas for children in the Arnett Gardens community in Kingston; providing audio-visual equipment for several basic schools in North West Manchester and organising fund-raising ventures towards the annual rebuilding of basic schools in areas such as Clarendon and Denham Town in Kingston. Today, she is one of the youngest women to be elected to Parliament.
Marisa Dalrymple-Philibert may be considered a multifaceted woman as she is not only a politician, but also a lawyer and businesswoman.
The Trelawny South candidate for the JLP gained 6,189 votes over her PNP opponent, Doneth Brown-Reid, with 4,467 votes.
Over the years, she has been involved in various businesses and non-profit groups. She has been secretary/director for S.K.D.P Haulage and Distribution Ltd., D. Bay Garden Centre Ltd., Sherold Limited and Royal Reef Hotel. She is also very involved in her community as a member of the board of trustees for Westwood High School, a founding board member of the MoBay Hope Diagnostic and Medical Centre, as well as past chairman of the board of management for Brown's Town Community College. However, she had to put these aside after she entered representational politics.
After JLP stalwart Neville Gallimore resigned she was asked to enter politics, but she did not feel it was time. But she subsequently ventured into the field as she became concerned with what she felt was a sense of hopelessness creeping into the youth around her.
A lawyer for the past 27 years, she attends court sessions in Falmouth but lives in St. Ann, the parish of her birth. Once she gets through with her clients, it's off to deal with constituency matters.
Natalie Neita-Headley is not only a politician, she is also a singer.
Neita-Headley, the new PNP representative for East Central St. Catherine, has a love for music that was one of her stepping stones into politics. When her grandfather Sydney Douglas took her to her first political meeting and the song Young, Gifted and Black heralded the entrance of the candidate for the area, her fate was sealed. She seemed to have won the hearts of the people by gaining 7,466 votes to her JLP opponent Leslie Campbell, who got 6,183 and Independent candidate, Ainsworth Campbell who received 72 votes.
The 39-year-old is a human-resource consultant for Omni Industries Limited, with nine years experience in the field. She has a bachelor's degree in the social sciences with a minor in economics and a master's degree in labour relations from the State University of New York.
She grew up in Brown's Hall, St. Catherine, where she currently resides with her husband, Alvin Headley, and daughters, Morgan and Sydney. She says she has learned over the years to balance politics and family life with the assistance of her extended family.
According to the PNP's website, much of the development that has taken place in South Central St. Catherine, must be attributed to the sitting MP, Sharon Hay-Webster, who has placed education on the top of her priority list. She's credited with upgrading several schools in the fiercely competitive constituency, which is described as a PNP garrison.
A three-time member of Parliament for South Central St. Catherine, the perennial backbencher, first under the P.J. Patterson administration of the PNP then more recently under Portia Simpson Miller, Sharon Hay-Webster on Monday retained her seat, defeating the JLP's Devon McDaniel by 1,440 votes. Mrs. Hay-Webster, a former communications consultant and lecturer before entering representational politics, was born in 1961. She has sat on various committees of the House of Representatives, including the Public Accounts Committee, and was the African, Caribbean and Pacific co-president of the joint parliamentary assembly.
- Sources: Gleaner Archives.The Directory of Jamaican Personalities (2004), eighth edition.