UWI Lecturer Calls For More Women In Jamaican Politics


Dr Leith Dunn, a senior member of the Institute for Gender and Development Studies at the Mona campus, says women continue to be outnumbered by men in Parliament and local government.

Speaking last Wednesday at the Rotary Club of Portmore’s weekly meeting, Dunn said little progress has been made in political gender equality in Jamaica, 23 years after the country signed a recommendation by the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), agreeing to establish a quota system ensuring a greater role for women in politics.

No woman for PM

“Our country right now is in the process of selecting a new leader and there is no woman proposed to replace Mr (Prime Minister Bruce) Golding,” Dunn said. “That is something we have to work on as we build our country.”

According to Dunn, women make up 13.3 per cent of the 60-seat Parliament and 11 per cent of the 20-member Cabinet. Women comprise 14.3 per cent of the 21 seats in the Senate.

The CEDAW quota system requires a minimum 40 per cent of women to be involved in the highest legislative council of signatory countries.

According to Dunn, it has been adopted with considerable success in several African countries, most notably Rwanda, the central African country where more than 800,000 were murdered in the 1994 genocide.

Fifty-six per cent of the central African country’s parliament are female, also accounting for a third of its Cabinet. Rwanda is the only country in the world with a female majority in parliament.

Dunn says the fact that Rwanda recorded six per cent economic growth in 2010 is instructive. She believes with more women in influential political posts, similar progress can be achieved in Jamaica.

But little attention has been placed on the training methods CEDAW outlined in its 1988 recommendation.

“There’s been resistance to it from both men and women because women are not perceived as leaders. We need special measures to break that glass ceiling,” Dunn said.

Portia Simpson Miller, Jamaica’s first female prime minister, has been the country’s most high-profile politician for more than 30 years. However, no woman has occupied any of the major Cabinet posts (national security, finance, industry and commerce) since Jamaica gained independence from Britain in 1962.

There is only one full female minister in the current Cabinet – Olivia Grange, who heads the youth, sports and culture ministry.

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