Wed | Feb 1, 2023

Canada rolls out billion-dollar gender-equality initiatives in Jamaica

Published:Saturday | November 5, 2022 | 12:09 AMSashana Small/Staff Reporter
From left: Juliet Cuthbert-Flynn, state minister in the Ministry of Health and Wellness; Canadian High Commissioner Emina Tudakovic; and Gender Minister Olivia Grange at the official launch of Global Affairs Canada’s Gender Projects in Jamaica at the Off
From left: Juliet Cuthbert-Flynn, state minister in the Ministry of Health and Wellness; Canadian High Commissioner Emina Tudakovic; and Gender Minister Olivia Grange at the official launch of Global Affairs Canada’s Gender Projects in Jamaica at the Official Residence of Canada on Seymour Avenue in St Andrew on Friday.

Canada is lending support to Jamaica in its push for gender equality with the launch of two new programmes at a cost of CDN$9.8 million (approximately J$1.12 billion).

The five-year programmes are dubbed WE-Talk and SAIL (Strengthening Access Inclusion and Leadership) for Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR).

WE-Talk aims to contribute to the reduction of gender-based violence (GBV) in Jamaica, with a particular focus on women, girls, boys and other disadvantaged groups as victims by taking a behavioural-change approach through research and engagement.

SAIL will target adolescent girls and members of vulnerable communities, healthcare service providers, educators, parents, and community leaders to enhance the delivery of SRHR services.

Speaking at the launch of the initiatives on Friday at the Official Residence of Canada in St Andrew, Canadian High Commissioner Emina Tudakovic said the programmes would be implemented through partnerships with Canadian collaborators, local advocacy groups, and the ministries of gender, health and education.

While noting that Canada has a long history of supporting gender-equality initiatives in the Caribbean, Canada’s minister of international development, Harjit Sajjan, said programmes such as these are important in empowering vulnerable women and girls.

“We know that these barriers prevent women and girls from realising their full human rights,” he said. “Together, they will help to accelerate the end of gender-based violence and advance sexual reproductive human rights in Jamaica.”

National Parent Support Commission CEO Kaysia Kerr pointed to a recent UN Women study, which revealed that one in four Jamaican women is a victim of domestic abuse. She said programmes like these were instrumental in curbing this phenomenon.

“It is my sincere hope that though the great works being done to find solutions to combat GBV and initiatives which are focused on eliminating all sorts of violence against women and girls, our women and girls will realise their full potential in a violence-free, gender-responsive and inclusive way,” Kerr said.

Juliet Cuthbert-Flynn, state minister in the Ministry of Health and Wellness, lauded Canada for its role in helping to develop Jamaica’s health sector, noting that programmes like these bolster the island’s capacity to deliver good-quality healthcare.

“Sexual and reproductive health is a main focus area of the government and the ministry is committed to universal access to SRHR, including family planning information and introduction of reproductive health into national programmes,” she said.

In this vein, she said that the government continues its work towards the completion of a sexual and reproductive health policy “as part of the effort to mitigate the many barriers that prevent access to services, especially among adolescent and vulnerable groups”.

She believes this is another step towards a healthier, gender-responsive and inclusive Jamaica.

“We, therefore, welcome this technical support to help to address, among other things, healthy sexual and reproductive health behaviours among adolescents, vulnerable and key populations, gender stereotyping, and discrimination and intimate partner violence. We remain very sensitive to the need for a broader effort to combat all forms of discrimination in order that members of vulnerable and key populations have access to health services across Jamaica,” she said.

Meanwhile, Gender Minister Olivia Grange noted that the programmes have great relevance as they directly support the country’s National Policy for Gender Equality.

“Gender equality should remain a primary focus for all Jamaicans,” Grange emphasised.

sashana.small@gleanerjm.com