Professor Jessica Nare, 2013
"Why treat us inhuman, Just because we're only woman?
Don't treat us inhuman, Just because we're only woman.
We're not weak, We are strong. We've been held back. For too long ...We've got our God-given talents just like you.
Open the door and let us through..." Song sung by Judy Mowatt Why Aren’t “Jamaican” Us Equals: Women’s Right in Jamaica The powerful song lyrics quoted above sadly and accurately capture the intense desire Jamaican women have for gender equality and the opposition they face daily in their quest for it. They are currently waging a battle to have the same opportunities for advancement that men in Jamaican society possess in Jamaican. Of the many issues facing women in Jamaica, three are considered the focal points for societal advancement: political, educational, and economic equality and opportunities. These are the stepping stones that women must climb in order to attain their rightful place as society’s equals to men. Only when women have this status can they truly contribute to Jamaica’s development and prosperity. From Jamaica’s original inhabitants, the Arawak Indian, to the colonial history of slavery where men and women were considered equals in the eyes of the slave-owners, to the British colonization of the island; Jamaica has endured a western education of ideals via European colonization, religions and ideals.
As a growing mulatto class emerged, so did the Jamaican’s desire for decolonization. Dissatisfaction over colonial rules and racist factors begat a desire for freedom and instigated a rise in nationalism. A growing working class desired to protect their benefits and demanded independence. Between 1944 and 1962 Jamaica was striving for constitutional decolonization. These fights for freedom and independence, waged mainly by men, created the setting for women to assume their rightful place on the political, educational, and economical platform for realizing gender equality.
The failures, goals, and successes of past generations, striving for Jamaican independence has created a virtual springboard for women to utilize in the battle for freedom and equal rights. To gain independence for all women is a long and difficult battle. For two steps forward there is always one step back. In these neo-colonial times, women’s rights are slowly bearing fruit; despite the obstacles from globalization. More and more, women are assuming major roles in politics, from members of Parliament to Prime Minister. Significant advances have been achieved via rallies, marches, protests, legislation and other methods and means of promoting equality. Noteworthy women’s groups waging on-going battles on Jamaica’s frontlines for equality are: The People’s National Party Women’s Movement (PNPWM), The National Organization of Women (NOW), The Women’s Business Owners of Jamaica (WBOJA) and the proponents of The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). Of the aforementioned groups, PNPWM has been engaged in the equal rights movement for women for over 75 years. The PNPWM’s mission has been: “To mobilise, motivate and educate the members of the Movement, of the Party and of the Society to accept that they have equal rights and responsibilities in every aspect of spiritual, cultural, social, economic and political sphere of life; to encourage, foster and promote women’s integration in all areas of national development; and to protect and promote the rights, equality and dignity of women.” (Jamaica Gleaner 1). Marching under this acronym, the PNPWM has established significant political legislation, garnered equal pay for women in much of the workplace, created the Maternity Leave Act and the Status of Children Act, which abolished misperceptions and mistreatment of children born to unmarried parents; thus removing the scorn and shame often attributed to illegitimate births. The PNPWM works hand-in-hand with the...
Bibliography: 11. (Women’s Manifesto, 2002)
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