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US Embassy continues missions to empower J’can women - US$100,000 split up among five local projects

Published:Sunday | March 31, 2019 | 12:11 AMJason Cross -

Members of the top five cash prize-winning teams in the US Embassy Kingston Women’s History Month Grant Pitch Competition on March 27. They are joined also by consolation cash-prize winners, Jeremiah Knight (fifth left), counsellor for Public Affairs at US Embassy in Kingston, and Mark Seibel (right), US acting deputy chief of mission.
Members of the top five cash prize-winning teams in the US Embassy Kingston Women’s History Month Grant Pitch Competition on March 27. They are joined also by consolation cash-prize winners, Jeremiah Knight (fifth left), counsellor for Public Affairs at US Embassy in Kingston, and Mark Seibel (right), US acting deputy chief of mission.

Gleaner Writer

Serious about empowering women, the United States (US) Embassy in Kingston, last Wednesday, handed over US$20,000 each to five innovative non-governmental organisations whose activities centre around improving the lives of Jamaican women and girls.

Through its Women’s History Month Grant Pitch Competition 2019, held at The University of the West Indies’ regional headquarters in St Andrew, the embassy provided a platform for 10 women’s groups to pitch ideas in areas such as education, health, security, business, and agriculture, which coincided with the theme, ‘Innovative Women: Promoting Resilience and Development’.

After listening to and posing pertinent questions to representatives of the 10 groups, the judging panel, consisting of US Embassy’s Counsellor for Public Affairs Jeremiah Knight; renowned US philanthropist Michelle Rollins; local communication specialist Marcia Forbes; Observer Executive Editor Vernon Davidson; and Gizelle Riley, development and communications manager at the Branson Centre for Entrepreneurship – Caribbean, made their decision.

Consolation cash prizes were handed out to entities that didn’t fall into the top five.

The winners were Abilities Foundation, Fight for Peace, St Patrick’s Foundation, the Downtown Girls Theatre Collective, and the Jamaica Mental Health Advocacy Network (JaMHAN).

Abilities Foundation won for its project titled: ‘We R Different – Empowering Women with Disabilities’; Fight for Peace for its project, ‘Girls Up’; JaMHAN for its ‘From the Barber Chair’ project; St Patrick’s for ‘My Body … My Responsibility’; and Downtown Girls Theatre Collective for its project, ‘Using Theatre to Effect Social Change’. The money will now enable these groups to better carry out the various initiatives.

Proposals

The Barber Chair project, carried out through the JaMHAN, aims to contribute to gender empowerment from the barber chair. Their proposal is to train 25 barbers in Kingston, St Andrew, and Montego Bay, in areas such as dealing with gender-based violence, mental health and HIV/AIDS. The plan is to equip participants with communication skills, facilitation skills, and problem-identification skills, to help lessen instances of violence against women, by helping to provide a sense of camaraderie between men and their barbers.

Fight For Peace, through its Girls Up programme, has created a network of partners that go into six of the most challenging communities in Kingston and St Andrew, teaching women boxing and martial arts and giving them youth leadership and psychosocial support.

The St Patrick’s Foundation is using technology and other creative means to educate young women and girls in the community of Seaview Gardens in St Andrew, on taking responsibility and ownership for their reproductive health.

The Downtown Girls Theatre Collective brings young women together to create theatrical scripts and skits, depicting unpleasant and unwanted advances from men, which serve to teach other women in similar circumstances how to react and deal with the issue. It also shows men how unpleasant ‘catcalling’ and certain unwanted sexual advances from men can be.

Susan Hamilton, director of Abilities Foundation, who was accompanied by young ladies from her organisation, told the judges and the audience that “women with disabilities are hidden. They are in their houses and some of them never went to school. This is going to shift the mindset of these women because they feel they don’t matter. Persons in rural areas do not have access to services, so we give them skills training and transition them into work”.

She added: “Over the years, girls have been dropping out, either because they get pregnant or because they get abused. What we plan to do is work with 20 women for six months and we are going to change their narrative by giving them life coaching, health, and wellness, and give them professional tools to equip them in areas that you don’t usually see women, like furniture making and agriculture. We are fortunate because we have a furniture-making lab and we give them financial literacy.”

Knight told The Sunday Gleaner that the competition is important, “because it provides an opportunity for the US Embassy to gauge what the needs are, of women and girls, through a broad spectrum of casting. It is also a great opportunity for them to network”.

jason.cross@gleanerjm.com