Women's Network for Jamaica
19 April 2021
“Women in Local Government are the vanguards of communities and local politics. When women win, communities win. When communities win, nations win.” (President, ALGAJ, Mayor Winston Maragh)
With research from UN Women revealing that 43% of women, and 53% of men, believe that men make better leaders, it is now high time for this perception to be corrected. This is why CLGF’s Commonwealth Women in Local Government Network was established in 2017 and, since that time, country chapters have been springing up around the Commonwealth. This month was the turn of Jamaica, with the Association of Local Government Authorities Jamaica (ALGAJ) launching its own Women in Local Government network.
SDGs in a covid-19 world
CLGF Board member Professor Eris Schoburgh moderated proceedings with a keynote speech from the Minister of Local Government and Rural Development, Hon Homer Davis; and some updates from Sandra Singh, Regional Programme Manager, CLGF Caribbean. A host of speakers gave context to the launch, providing an overview of the network, its priorities and ambitions for the future. They included: Mrs Kenisha Gordon, Chair of the Network; Cllr Tosha Schwapp, ALGAJ Vice President; Mayor Winston Maragh and Cllr Genevor Gordon-Bailey. The launch also provided an opportunity for Ms. Johnnel Smith to share some practical points on the importance of women in realising the SDGs in a covid-19 world.
Amplify women's voices at local level
In June 2020, in the middle of the Covid-19 Pandemic, the Steering Committee for the ALGAJ Women in Local Government Network was first established, responding to a proposal to accelerate gender equality in local government, put forward by the Association’s PRO, Mrs. Kenisha Gordon. Under the auspices of Mayor Maragh, and endorsed by the Associations’ executive, the plan sought to amplify the voice of women at the local level. Mayor Maragh charged the committee with the responsibility to accelerate a structural framework for the advancement of the committee, the work of gender mainstreaming in local government and increased advocacy for the importance of women in local government.
Challenges face by women
On 9 April, 2021, ALGAJ made the momentous step to launch its Women in Local Government Network. At its core, the network is steered by a representative group of female councillors from a cross-section of rural and urban communities across Jamaica. The Network will seek to provide a unified platform to effectively address, advocate and present gender-based issues, gender mainstreaming and mentorship of women to serve in local government. The role of the ALGAJ Women in Local Government Network is to further increase awareness of the challenges faced by women in local government across the island, examine and share the experiences of women who currently serve in local government, improve the standing of women in local government, bolster the confidence of women who are serving and who hope to serve both in local government and community based organisations.
Aligned to Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) number 5, the network will strive to achieve full and effective participation of women in politics. This includes ensuring equal opportunities for leadership at all levels of decision-making in political, economic and public life; and supporting increases in the proportion of seats held by women in national parliaments and local governments.
Other key issues flagged as critical to supporting the implementation of SDG5 include ensuring that there are policies and enforceable legislation to promote gender equality and empowerment; equal rights to economic resources; access to ownership and control of land; and the ending all forms of discrimination against women and girls.
Network of networks
CLGF’s newly appointed Secretary-General, Ms Lucy Slack, welcomed the ALGAJ Women’s Network into the Commonwealth Family, as it joins the Commonwealth Women in Local Government Network - a ‘network of networks’ which seeks to promote, support and link existing initiatives of CLGF member organisations. Ms. Slack shared that the Commonwealth Women in Local Government Network would focus on Commonwealth best practice for women in local government, gathering lessons and examples to make them available to the whole membership.
Highlighting some of the Women’s empowerment principles and approaches to implementing SDG 5, Ms Slack noted a key element of the Commonwealth Women’s Network is to encourage mainstreaming of these principles into CLGF’s wider work programme and helping to mobilise donor funding for initiatives aligned to the ComWLG networks’ priority work areas. These priorities relate to:
- Working with existing elected women, and prospective elected women, at community level;
- removing barriers to women within political systems, and increasing awareness and the ability of elected leaders to include a gender perspective in all aspects of their work (legislation, oversight and representation); and
- improving gender sensitivity in local governments and local government associations; and, as well as working locally, engage on this issue at the Commonwealth and International level.
Ms Slack closed by quoting the words of CLGF Patron and former Prime Minister of New Zealand, Helen Clark: “You need to see it, to be it”, and wishing the members of this latest chapter of the Women In Local Government every success.
CLGF’s networks are managed by Networks Officer, Janine Xavier-Cross. Among a host of other activities, some of the recent work of the network includes:
- mapping opportunities and potential partners for increased participation by women in local government;
- developing knowledge products & online materials looking at the barriers; being faced by women entering local government and strategies to overcome;
- developing support to inform mentoring programmes;
- exploring the use of ICT in women’s political inclusion;
- knowledge dissemination through the CLGF website, the ComWLG Network Facebook Page, YouTube Channels ); and
- data collection on Women’s political participation in local government across the Commonwealth
CLGF is working with the Commonwealth Secretariat and the Rwandan Government to hold the Commonwealth Women’s Forum at the 2021 Commonwealth Heads of Local Government Meeting (CHOGM) in June 2021.
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