Sat | Sep 23, 2017

Split in 51% Coalition

Published:Sunday | January 18, 2015 | 1:00 AM

Women's groups at odds over decision to walk away from Partnership for Jamaica

Nadine Wilson-Harris, Gleaner Staff Reporter

The 51% Coalition secretariat is to meet this week with the heads of various women's group who have taken issue with a letter that was sent out on their behalf to suspend the Partnership for Jamaica (PFJ) agreement with the Government during the height of the National Housing Trust (NHT)/Outameni saga last December.

The Sunday Gleaner understands that the women are upset that the name of their organisations were attached to a letter that was sent to Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller informing her of their withdrawal from the partnership without consultation with them. The letter was sent to the prime minister in her capacity as the chair of the PFJ on December 15 with the names of 16 organisations and individuals attached.

Among other things, the letter expressed concern about several alleged breaches in the Outameni saga that contradicted the Government's commitment to transparency and accountability.

These breaches, the group said, included the purchase of the Outameni property by the NHT, environmental breaches by the Ministry of Agriculture, the outbreak of the chikungunya virus, the controversies relating to the 380 megawatt project and the handling of the sale of the Goat Islands.

"At the signing of the agreement, the women's sector stood with pride and a feeling that we were about to see a 'new day' in Jamaica. At that time, our distinct feeling was that this partnership would be the one to begin a process of transformation that would be marked as a defining moment in the history of our country and our people," the 51% Coalition wrote to the PM.

"While we want to stay at the table and we believe that this is perhaps the best opportunity we have to really turn things around for Jamaica, we are concerned that without clear, measurable and resolute change by the Government, our remaining at the table would be tantamount to supporting and endorsing a process which lacks sincerity and merely pays 'lip-service' to the agreement," added the Coalition.

dissatisfied with content

But some members of the coalition have expressed dissatisfaction with the content of the letter with the Jamaica Household Workers' Union's president Shirley Pryce asking for a public retraction.

"Our group joined with 51% with regard to the goals that were stated at that time - greater representation of women in decision-making positions," said Pryce who pointed out that she was not informed about the letter prior to it being sent.

President of the Association of Women's Organisations in Jamaica (AWOJA), Hermoine McKenzie, said several of the women in her organisation feel the letter appeared too partisan. Her group represents 19 women's group.

"After the letter was sent out, I consulted with the board members of AWOJA and we had a unanimous response that they didn't want to be associated with any type of argument that would seem political or partisan," she said.

The 51% Coalition: Women in Partnership for Development and Empowerment is a civil society group that was started in 2011. Its main focus since then has been to address gender imbalance in the public and private sector by advocating for a greater representation of women on public boards and bodies.