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Jamaican Women: Agents of Social and Political Change Inculturation Workshop, St. Michael’s Theological College, University of the West indies, February 18, 2011 Presented by Judith Wedderburn, Representative Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, Director, Jamaica & the Eastern Caribbean


OUTLINE         

Historical context Leadership traditions in Jamaica clarified Legacies and cultural implications of the Plantation Economy Ideological responses: women and masters Mobilizing & organizing Gender analysis of women in leadership in Jamaica Barriers women face Political advertising in 2007 election campaign Challenge and scope of violence against women


Historical Context ď Ź

The islands and the littoral of the Caribbean Basin were places where British, French, Dutch and other European adventurers, planters, and merchants cultivated an export crop with slave-labour transplanted from African and indentured Indian workers seeking escape from the poorest regions of the sub-continent. Enormous wealth was extracted from the soil, and the toil (blood, sweat and tears) of generations of Caribbean peoples. (Kari Levitt in Reclaiming Development: Independent Thought and Caribbean Economy, Randle Publishers, Kingston, Jamaica)


Tradition of female leadership: ignored by the historians!! 

Nanny of the Maroons, not an exception but a woman exercising power, in the tradition of female leadership in Akan Society. Highest office in the Ashanti Kingdom was that of the Queen Mother, the Ohemaa, matrilineal descent was the norm Political office held by men, but conferred through women


Nanny’s power – part of a female tradition!!  

This tradition of female leadership had precedents Coromantee Queen in St. Mary, 1683, with the King, led an army of runaways against the British After Nanny, Cubah, a female Coromantee slave led a slave conspiracy across 6 parishes (Mathurin, 1974)


Early Rebel Women 

Existence of rebel women demonstrates that earliest attempts to resist slavery in Jamaica were supported by a form of female organization which was critical to the whole process. Silence about it – buys into the myth that Jamaican women are inherently passive, not proactive as leaders, but creating conditions for men to act. (Ford-Smith, A Caribbean Reader on Development, 1986)


Role of women in the struggle for emancipation (Ford-Smith, A Caribbean Reader on Development, 1986))

  

Generally misrepresented or ignored Majority of slaves working in the field at the time of emancipation were women This opportunity/right was lost when the sexual division of labour was introduced into the Caribbean via development of factorybased industrial capitalism, separation of the world into two domains – public & private


Women on plantations: Jamaica and the Caribbean   

At Emancipation, Worthy Park estate, Jamaica, 70% of the cutting gang Wider Caribbean similar tradition: Cuba/La Ninfa – workforce 100%, In the Leewards, ratio of 112 women:100 men, Barbados 119 women:100men, St. Lucia 120 women:100 men (Reddock 1984)


Legacies of the plantation economy: Inequalities based on race, class & gender 

Historically, race, class and gender have been strong determinants of access to economic and political power in Jamaica. Male leaders of racial and ethnic minority groups and the ‘brown’ mulatto elite have had distinct social and economic advantages, as part of this historical legacy of slavery and colonialism.


Legacies of the Plantation Economy (cont).   

Historically unequal economic arrangements Specific social implications: Nexus between race, class, and gender Inequalities and discrimination against women – under-represented in the centres of economic and political decision-making Framework in which political culture has developed


Cultural implications of these legacies!     

N/S way of thinking promoted northern cultural values and attitudes vs indigenous/African/Indian values persistent struggle with gender and other identities devaluing of national thought and ideas writing of his/tory vs her/story, latter consistently undervalued & underrepresented


Earliest domain of woman’s ideological response (on the plantation)  

Struggled for control of her own body & her own sexuality Why? This struggle threatened an area of experience which was an intrinsic part of human existence: outside the accepted boundaries of political power Struggle was for control of women’s bodies, since this was the ultimate source of labour (Ford-Smith 1986)


Response of the colonial masters? 

   

Propagation of new forms of household organization – legally sanctioned, male-headed, monogamous unions, new image of “woman” And new forms of morality – Christian marriage as the only accepted form of morality, male headship Family? Man, his wife, his or their children, not hers War against African religious practices War against the cultural expression of female sexuality in dance.


Women’s responses!! 

Resisted attempts of the planters to control their wombs in the interests of the reproduction of the slave system. Estimates – unsuccessful pregnancies (miscarriages, stillbirths, abortions), approximately 200/1,000, Worthy Park Established leadership roles in resistance to the slave system, central to the abolition of slavery


Women in Political Activity: Mobilizing & Organizing in the Early Days 

 

Indigenous & enslaved African women, resisted capture, organized and mobilized themselves and men, struggled for their rights. 19th Century Asian-Caribbean women: against racist, sexist planter & govt. policies European & black/coloured middle class women were prominent as social activists


Some features: political movements in the early 20th Century ď Ź ď Ź ď Ź

Elite women: activism through social work, letters, speeches, organized government Working-class women: more radical, strategic, confrontational politics, protests Trade unions: women active at founding as rank & file, not as executive members, who were/are mostly male


20th Century Representational & Party Politics ď Ź

ď Ź ď Ź

Middle class/professional women move from social welfare role, voluntary, charitable orgs, become politically active, seeking seats at sites of political power Working class women in electoral politics, as voters and party organizers Presence in rep. politics, but few compared to men, or have become Party Leaders or sit in highest positions of policy & decision making


Mobilizing & Organizing: Waged Work, Political reforms, social activism   

Early 20th century: women employed in wage work & active in organized protest action End 20th century: social activism supporting political activism, social and political reforms. Caribbean feminism: not imported from the North! Advocates found their “space and voice” in the black nationalist organizations


Finding Organizational Voice and Space!!  

Mrs. James Mckenzie, 1901, in Robert Love’s People’s Convention Amy Ashwood, Pan Africanist & feminist, in Marcus Garvey’s UNIA & Amy Jacques as Secretary General of the UNIA, 1930s. Una Marson, 1930s, linked Caribbean women to artists, political activism & organization, a tradition continued by Louise Bennett, Lorna Goodison, SISTREN, Elean Thomas.


What did women struggle and organize for?  

Amy Jacques Garvey (1896-1973) “If the US Senate and Congress can open their doors to White women, we serve notice on our men that Negro women will demand equal opportunity to fill any position in the Universal Negro Improvement Association or anywhere else without discrimination because of sex. We are sorry if it hurts your oldfashioned tyrannical feelings, and we not only make the demand but we intend to enforce it” (Our Women and What They Think, 1924-27)


Activism and Visibility!! 

Early 20th century, significant reforms for women as a result of waves of protests (1918 & 1919), supported by the international worker’s and women’s movements, franchise extended to middle class women. Activism & visibility of women in protests throughout period, well-documented in newspapers, but not in the history books! WHY NOT?? (See FES Women in Politics Calendar)


And Today?? 

 

The exigencies of this present age require that women take their places beside their men on equal footing, with equality of opportunity in all spheres: economic, social and political. Requires understanding of gender issues Gender dynamics present in all relations, especially relations of power


Gender Analysis of Women’s Place in Jamaica’s Politics 

Political activity: involves any collective or individual action which aims to bring about change for the good of a people or a community, and affects the distribution of power, (Shepherd 1999) and Consider acess to resources and relations of power between women and men


Jamaica: Under-representation of Women in political leadership (1)  

 

Data 2007 Elections 21 women/14.4% contested, PNP 10, JLP 7, small independent parties 4, only 8 women were elected Small increase in 2007 elections, 2 new female PNP MPs, 1 new female JLP MP but Women only 13.3% in Parliament, 11% of Cabinet Ministers; 14.3% of Senators, 16% of local government councillors


Jamaica: Under-representation of Women in political leadership (2)  

Concerns? Low level of participation of women in political leadership, despite high level of participation in the labour force (46%), and number of female-headed households (46%) Women’s strides in educational and professional development acknowledged, but their participation increased only by 4% on public boards, & by 2% on private boards between 1998-2007 (WROC/CIDA research)


Unequal Board Representation Sex Composition of Boards in Public and Private Sector 1998 and 2007

1998

Public Sector Private Sector

2007

F

M

F

M

29

71

33

67

14

86

16

84

Compiled from Vassell 1998 and WROC/CIDA 2008

Carol Watson Williams: WROC/CIDA


Women’s Representation in the private and public sectors 

Minimal progress in private sector

None of the private sector companies had more than 25 per cent female Directors; Two had no women serving on the Board.

Only 5 (all public sector) of the 35 Boards had women Chairs (14.3%)

Carol Watson Williams: WROC/CIDA


Women’s Rights are Human Rights: Human Rights Framework   

Women’s equal participation at the highest level of decision-making is a basic human right. Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1944) CEDAW, Article 7: eliminate discrimination against women in political and public life & ensure all women access equal terms with men. Despite the above, the Jamaican Constitution does not stipulate that discrimination on the basis of sex is prohibited, 50 years after political independence!


Current ideological & societal context: Nexus of Race/colour, Class and Gender 

  

Liberal ideology: locates women in the private sphere, their activities & contributions are promoted as belonging in that sphere. Private is subordinate and less valuable than the public, followed women into public spaces. Maintain status quo built on nexus of inequalities based on gender, race and class Political culture: competition for social ranking, race/complexion/shade determines social position, enforce capitalist & masculine expressions of power & criteria for participation in political life (Heron 2008).


Another historical legacy? Focus on women’s service and not their rights!! 

Popular ideology/beliefs/attitudes stress women’s services not women’s rights to seek equality with men, women’s rights restricted to labour demands. Does not embrace calls that questioned or seek to balance the power relations between women and men (Vassell 1995) Women’s interests & participation tend to be subsumed into the general acceptance of a maledominated political environment.


Time Use Issues faced by women in leadership    

Domestic Responsibilities Handa (1998) reports that women spend less time in labour market activities than men while spending more than three times as much time on home-related work activities. Constrains women’s ability to freely choose to pro-actively pursue leadership roles in politics or other areas.


Constraints/barriers women in politics and leadership face ď Ź ď Ź

ď Ź

Research shows: Irrespective of the socio-economic progress or educational achievement made by some women, systemic cultural barriers exist. Attitudes towards towards the role of women in politics; prevailing unequal gender system in society; may prevent women from participating equally in politics & decisionmaking (Heron 2008)


A Challenge to the norms of political culture ď Ź

ď Ź

Presence (2006) of a female prime ministerial candidate fundamentally of African descent and of working class origins. Environment qualitatively different from previous elections; PNP internal elections, bitterly divisive; colour, class and gender shaped the overall tone of the electoral campaign.


Political advertisements in 2007 election campaign (Heron 2008)  

 

Some observations: PSM’s citizenship as woman was used as an unfair measure to judge her capacity (or lack thereof) as prime ministerial material. Bruce Golding’s public citizenship was not questioned in a way that tested his manhood. Positive advertisements of PSM/PNP or Sally Porteous/JLP did not break patriarchial mould and public/private dichotomy. (PSM – Portia Simpson-Miller)


Donkey say dis world not level!! 

A woman’s leadership qualities can be questioned, because she was “entering terrain that was not her designated location”, evident during election campaign as well as during her tenure as Prime Minister (18 months). Portrayal of gender along stereotypical lines in electoral campaigns, uncritically promoted in the media, implicitly perpetuates gender inequality in governance generally & undermines the value of women in particular.


Additional challenge to women: Gender based violence (GBV)  

Violence against women because they are women!! Widespread gangs, culture of aggressive masculinity, rates of GBV against women, rape and domestic assault are high. GBV is part of larger national problem of crime and violence, specific challenge to women seeking leadership


Scope of this Challenge!!     

2008 GBV data: Women murdered in 2008/160 - 50% higher than 2007 Rapes in 2008/94 -100% over 2007. 38% of the 160 murdered in 2008, result of domestic violence. 2007/9, 625 reported cases of domestic violence. 29% more than 2006 – only tip of the iceberg!!


NOW…..LET’S TALK….ABOUT ANYTHING AND EVERYTHING…..

THANK YOU!!

On Jamaican Women  

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