Tue | May 18, 2021

Gabriela Morris part of the next generation of women leaders

Youngest senator says she remembers being 'enthralled with Portia Simpson-Miller'

Published:Monday | February 1, 2021 | 12:20 AMKrysta Anderson/Gleaner Writer -
Senator Gabriela Morris, opposition spokesperson on youth and sport, is already making strides in the political arena as the youngest senator in the history of the Upper House.
A native of Montego Bay, Morris shared fond memories of growing up in the second city during her interview inside the Princess Royal suite at The Jamaica Pegasus hotel.
The 24-year-old's advice to women is simple: show up authentically and remove that barrier of fear and uncertainty.
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Female empowerment either starts from a place of emulation or develops as an act of becoming the change you would like to see in the world. For Gabriela Morris, it is shaping up to be an inspiring blend of the two. The political world can be very...

 

Female empowerment either starts from a place of emulation or develops as an act of becoming the change you would like to see in the world. For Gabriela Morris, it is shaping up to be an inspiring blend of the two.

The political world can be very harsh on women, Morris, a senator, told Flair, noting that often, the vision of leadership is blurred when it comes to women because of socialisation. But the 24-year-old, on behalf of young women and little girls looking on, is putting an end to this claim.

"There's so much that a woman can contribute. I think we bring sound and level leadership to the table, and that is important in governance," she said.

The opposition spokesperson on youth and sport is already making strides in the political arena as the youngest senator in the history of the Upper House and is eager to build on her advocacy roots.

"Growing up, I was pretty much entrenched in all things 'Mobay',"she said. The Montegonian shared fond memories of going to the beach and strolling [along] the hip strip. From an early age, she was actively involved in outreach initiatives. Taking on the responsibilities of a junior councillor for a year, she maintained a strong and supportive presence in the Montego Bay Seventh-day Adventist Church, and going to Montego Bay High School instilled in her a sense of discipline, learning respect for systems, rules, and regulations.

She shared, “We were also taught to have a greater appreciation for charity, so I am always of the mindset that there is a need to give back to the community and be of service." For her time spent at The University of the West Indies, the biggest lesson of that period was that there is a world that exists outside of Jamaica, one that is open, so that encouraged her to extend beyond her own environment, to appreciate being a global citizen.

The university student got involved in Vision, a political youth group, and later, the People’s National Party Youth Organisation, but she attributes her activism in the political sphere to her parents. “They weren’t overly partisan, but they understood the need for political engagement. I remember at a young age being very enthralled with Portia Simpson-Miller for her theatrics, but her overall way of leading was inspiring."

Bold, empathetic, vocal, charitable, and tenacious, the young senator finds her new role intimidating, but very humbling, as well as life changing and truly rewarding. The roller-coaster ride has thrown her a real learning curve but has helped her improve in areas like management. But this is a major foot in the door, and she is hoping that her contribution paves the way for others to get involved.

Engaging with young people and assisting them in whatever way she can is what keeps her pushing and gives her the motivation to advocate on their behalf. Morris is particularly passionate about gender issues: she went to an all-girls high school and was attached to an all-girls hall - the Mary Seacole Hall - on campus. “Being around so many [women] sheds some light into all the issues we have to contend with. Women need a champion. We see the abuse and assault against women, and that is important for young girls - to feel safe, supported, and motivated. Our young people, generally, are in desperate need of opportunities and support. I’ve always been strident about representing their needs,” she said, noting that she is advocating for the youth, but women, in particular, to show up and let their voices be heard so they can evoke change.

Since completing her pharmacology degree, she is currently pursuing her master’s degree in communication. “I'm looking to contribute significantly to the next four to five years of the Senate, put down political roots, and learn all I can. I don't know what is next for me just yet. It's hard to tell."

She is advising women to start showing up in the space - that's the first step. The country has seen in this election a record number of women participating, and that was beautiful for her to see — women understanding the contribution they can make and putting their best foot forward in that regard.

Her advice to others: “Remove that barrier of fear and uncertainty with putting yourself up to run for anything. There are people who will come to your aid, those who are willing and ready to support. And show up authentically. There's so much that a woman can bring and contribute. I think we bring sound and level leadership, and that is important in governance. Don't be afraid to raise your voice, to object and to inspire others and make a contribution. We need more women. I'm hoping the next few years will see many more women entering politics to contribute and better our country," said Morris.

krysta.anderson@gleanerjm@com