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OAS electoral mission redoubles call for gender quota in Parliament

Published:Sunday | February 28, 2016 | 12:00 AM
Janet Bostwick, mission chief of the Organization of American States/Electoral Observation Mission (OAS/EOM), speaks with The Gleaner ahead of last Thursday's general election.

Having completed its third mission to observe general elections in Jamaica, the Organization of American States (OAS) has reiterated its concerns about the gender imbalances that pervade Jamaica's political system.

In its preliminary report on Jamaica's 17th general election, the Electoral Observation Mission of the Organization of American States (OAS/EOM) has recommended that affirmative action be taken to help increase the participation of women in the electoral process.

"The EOM noted that despite the growing number of Jamaican women in decision-making positions and their presence in most areas of the electoral campaign, women continue to be under-represented in actual nominations for the electoral contest and in their election to the House of Representatives," the preliminary report said.

Of the 152 candidates contesting the 2016 elections, 26 candidates, or 17.1 per cent, were women. Eleven women, or 17.5 per cent, were elected to the House.


In the previous Parliament, women made up 12.7 per cent of the 63-member House of Representatives, while six female senators constituted 28 per cent of the 21-member Upper House.

The OAS is, however, calling for more women to be elected to the Parliament.

A similar call was made by Juliana Kantengwa, a Rwandan parliamentarian who visited Jamaica last year.

Rwanda is hailed globally as a model in the area of women's political empowerment and participation at the political level, with 61 per cent of its parliamentary representatives being women. This high level of participation of women in political leadership was facilitated by the introduction of a gender quota, which mandated that at least 30 per cent of candidates being fielded by a party vying for power should be women.

The OAS is a strong proponent for the introduction of a gender quota in developing countries that face development challenges and believes that Jamaica should implement such a quota.

"In some countries in the world, they have implemented a quota system. It has been discussed here in Jamaica and perhaps some consideration can be given to it. It will always improve the political process if the political directorate is more representative of the people," OAS/EOM chief of mission Janet Bostwick said.