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JFJ crumbles - Osborne latest to resign amid sex-ed controversy

Published:Monday | July 21, 2014 | 12:00 AM
Kay Osborne

Jermaine Francis, Staff Reporter

The leadership of Jamaicans for Justice (JFJ) continued to collapse, yesterday as the human- rights lobby's Executive Director Kay Osborne resigned with immediate effect after less than five months into the job.

Osborne's resignation came less than two days after JFJ Chairman Lisa Lakhan-Chen indicated she would be resigning, following the controversial sex-education programme that was delivered in six privately run children's homes.

Osborne stressed in her resignation letter to Lakhan-Chen that JFJ's review of the controversial 'Healthy Sexual Growth and Development in Marginalised Youth: Rights, Responsibilities and Life Skills' course implemented in the homes had explicitly exonerated her from having knowledge or oversight of the programme.

"The board of directors having clarified that the children's home programme was a HIV/AIDS-prevention intervention has led to my decision that I cannot work as executive director of a human-rights advocacy organisation that does not advise me that it is implementing a programme in children's homes to decrease the spread of HIV/AIDS," her resignation letter read.

Osborne has maintained that she was unaware of the programme, telling The Gleaner/ Power106 News Centre less than two weeks ago that she would not have taken the job if she had been aware of the sex-education course.

"I was unaware that JFJ was engaged in a sex-education programme. It never came up in the interview and it did not come up in any part of the interview process and confirmation of my appointment," she had said on July 7.

However, Dr Carolyn Gomes, the former executive director of JFJ, under whose tenure the project was initiated, has argued that Osborne was aware of the project and even spoke about it on television and in a press release.

Specific details

In that episode of CVM TV's 'Live @ 7' current affairs programme, which aired in early June, Osborne gave specific details of a programme dealing with sexuality being delivered by JFJ in children's homes.

"We just completed 75 and will complete 100 workshops in children's homes where we are helping children learn more healthy ways of engaging with their own bodies, learning about their sexuality, about self-esteem and so on, helping them to become better citizens," she said on the programme, which aired days before the controversy over the sex-education course and its content first came to national attention.

She added: "We are at fault in that we have not tooted our horn as much as we could."

In a response to Gomes' claim that this was further proof that she was aware of the programme, Osborne yesterday asserted that during that interview she thought the initiative she was speaking of was more in line with JFJ's other programmes.

Expectation

"I mentioned the programme during my 'Live @ 7' interview and in my press release to the Honourable Lisa Hanna, minister of youth and culture, as being among JFJ's ongoing projects. Like Jamaicans everywhere, my expectation was that the children's home programme was similar to one of the different types of human-rights advocacy programmes JFJ is well known for engaging in over many years," Osborne said.

The sex-education programme is now the subject of an investigation by the police, Child Development Agency and the Attorney General's Department, as it is said to have exposed children to inappropriate material.

Lakhan-Chen said JFJ has since sought legal advice in light of the investigations and has conducted its own internal review.

In addition to Osborne and Lakhan-Chen, Gomes recently resigned as a board member of JFJ.

After Gomes' departure, JFJ directors Susan Goffe and Rodje Malcolm also resigned. The Reverend Sean Major-Campbell, deputy chairman of the lobby, is also expected to tender his resignation soon.

jermaine.francis@gleanerjm.com