Erica Virtue, Senior Gleaner Writer
Two women in senior roles within the governing People's National Party (PNP) say the political climate in Jamaica requires crocodile skin to withstand the viciousness of what they describe as a blood sport.
Lisa Hanna, one of the PNP's six regional chairpersons, said the abuse suffered by politicians, females in particular, was painful.
Speaking during a Gleaner Editors' Forum held last Thursday at the newspaper's Kingston offices, Hanna said family members of politicians, including young children, are often on the receiving end of political vitriol that is unfair to them.
"It (politics) is blood sport. It's a rough sport. You have to have crocodile skin to stay and continue in it. It does not matter which gender you are. It's blood sport for the men and for the women too," said Hanna.
She did not say what circumstances in her political career required the protection offered by her crocodile skin, but noted it was an outfit she has always possessed.
Hanna said dealing with critics like former Youth and Culture Minister Olivia 'Babsy' Grange, whom she succeeded after the PNP defeated the Jamaica Labour Party in the December 2011 general elections, was not among the circumstances that called for her thick skin.
"Babsy (Grange) is easy because you expect that from her," said Hanna, head of the PNP's Region One.
not coming forward
She has been criticised by rights and advocacy groups in Jamaica for her handling of aspects of her portfolio ministry, especially on issues related to children.
"The truth is that women are not coming forward, especially at the representational level, of the local government and member of parliament. What you find is that the indoor and outdoor agents, the cluster managers are predominantly women. But many of them don't want to make the transition," said Hanna.
In the case of Natalie Neita-Headley, she said her worst moment came when a common derogatory slur about her mother was directed at her.
She said the abuse reduced her to tears.
"I went home and cried for hours. It's after that you put on your crocodile skin," she stated.
She said "political women" must also contend with being wife, mother, and family person and the demands are great. Women grapple with careers in politics, she said, "because politics takes all of your life".
Additionally, women do not get the same level of financial support, "... because those in the public tend not to give the same backing to women as they do to men. It is a fact and so we struggle more to find ways of financing our campaigns."
According to the two, those are among the negatives to the survival of politicians, women in particular.