The News
Monday 22 of April 2024

Gender-Based Diplomacy

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What’s Jamaica’s secret?

Jamaica’s Foreign Service has a unique composition that is unlike that of any other around the globe.

A full 75 percent of the Caribbean nation’s foreign service is female.

Here in Mexico, the dynamic and always personable Sandra Anita Grant Griffiths has been that country’s head of mission since November 2013, and her entire diplomatic staff is composed of women.

Before she came, there were five other consecutive female Jamaican ambassadors in Mexico.

And it’s not just in the diplomatic field that Jamaican women excel.

Jamaica elected its first female prime minister, Portia Simpson Miller, in 2006, and, according to the International Labor Organization (ILO), nearly 60 percent of managers in Jamaica are women.

That’s the highest percentage of female bosses in the world, much higher than in most developed countries.

In fact, the only other two countries where woman are more likely than men to be the boss are Colombia, at 53 percent, and St. Lucia, at 52 percent.

(As a point of reference, the comparable figure for the United States is 43 percent, and in Japan, it is a dismal 11 percent.)

So what’s Jamaica’s secret? How is the little Caribbean nation trailblazing the way for gender equality?

On the one hand, it is the result of higher education opportunities for women, with increased access to health services, all of which have motivated Jamaican women to be more engaged in politics and career advancement.

That’s the up side.

But on the down side, Jamaican men have, over the last decade, become less engaged, dropping out of school and turning to drugs and crime at a much higher rate than in the past.

In other words, like it or not, women, who constitute the highest percent of family breadwinners in the country, have had no choice but to take up the slack as they juggle household and childrearing duties with job responsibilities.

But the government has also made a concerted effort to help women, creating a National Policy for Gender Equality and providing low-cost loans for female-owned startups.

Still, the real credit goes to the women themselves, who have fought tooth and nail to win their positions and gain their status in a society where, for decades, women were subject to discrimination and domestic violence.

Even today, the incidence of assaults against women in Jamaica is one of the highest in the region, and registered a surge in 2016 over the previous year.

Gender equality is not won easily, and in Jamaica, as in most countries, it is a hard-fought battle where women are just now getting a fair chance at the workplace and playing a key role in the country’s national growth and development.

Jamaica still has a long way to go in elevating its female population to its rightful status, but it’s made a lot more advances that most other countries, and for that, its government — and especially its women — deserve recognition and a strong round of applause.

Thérèse Margolis can be reached at [email protected].