Jamaica | Mar 16, 2023

Ensure that women-focused policies translate into benefits for all women

Candice Stewart

Candice Stewart / Our Today

Reading Time: 4 minutes
Carol Watson-Williams, social research consultant

Social Research Consultant, Carol Watson-Williams says that there is a “huge gap” between the establishment of women-focused legislative policies, their programmatic framework and how they benefit all women.

“We have to ensure that once we have created policies and frameworks, that they translate into benefits in the lives of all women. We are not seeing the gains on the ground. It is very important that as we look at the cost of exclusion, that we think about how we can ensure more inclusion, and how we can integrate the experiences and needs of women in our products,” said Watson-Williams. She added that those considerations should be made across the board in as many areas of work especially within financial institutions.

Watson-Williams was speaking as a panelist on a webinar hosted by the Development Bank of Jamaica (DBJ). It was held under the theme, Understanding Gender Balance and the cost of Exclusion to Growth and Development.

“We’re talking alot about the cost of exclusion but, how do we ensure substantive inclusion? I’ve been doing some work in looking at securing women’s economic rights in Jamaica and looking at the gap between legislative policy, their programmatic framework  and the practice on the ground. That is, how are women experiencing these policies and programmes that we say we have put in place? One of the very interesting things that I’ve been finding is that there is this huge gap,” she said.

Watson-Williams highlighted that some of the legislative policies Jamaica prides itself in does not benefit all women, namely maternity leave. She said: “With maternity leave, for example, large groups of women are locked out because of the conditions of their employment as they work in the informal sector.”

She was referring to the maternity leave entitlements for female public sector workers which became effective in January of this year.  It was increased 40 days to a period of 60 working days.

From left (top): Webinar panel moderator, Deborah Newland, general manager, strategic services, DBJ, Carmen Neithammer, senior gender specialist, European Investment Bank and Carol Watson-Williams, social research consultant, Jamaica. From left (bottom): Nicole Pitter-Patterson, expert on inclusive finance, gender and trade, and Sharon Coburn-Robinson, principal director, Bureau of Gender Affairs at the Ministry of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport.

“Workforce data is important because it tells us that maybe 40 per cent of Jamaican women work in the informal sector. If that is so, then those women are not benefitting from the protections that we say that we have provided for them,” she said. “Now, we have a rise in contract and short term work. When you’re working under those conditions, you’re not eligible for maternity leave and so, although we can say that we have the maternity leave act and maternity leave entitlements, we have to look at how we can expand the access to that, she continued.

The Four ‘AsOf Addressing The Cost Of Exclusion

On the point of access, another panelist, Sharon Coburn-Robinson, principal director, Bureau of Gender Affairs at the Ministry of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport, spoke of the four ‘As’ crucial in highlighting what exclusion looks like.

She said, that the four As are: access. alignment, advocacy, and action.

Sharon Coburn-Robinson, principal director, Bureau of Gender Affairs at the Ministry of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport

“In the gender space we look at who has access, who needs access, and what does having access look like. We have to focus on alignment which looks at the relevance of what we’re doing. As a gender machinery, women are part of a gender architecture which is all of the moving parts that work within the gender space,” she said. “There needs to be an alignment with what happens in the government space and what is happening with the non-governmental organisations (NGOs), civil society space, faith-based organisations, and community based organisations (CBOs). We all are linked. That is why we call ourselves a gender architecture,” she added.

The third and fourth ‘As’ she mentioned are advocacy and action. Coburn-Robinson said that advocacy is important as “we need to know what we advocate, for whom should we advocate and once we do that, determine how the advocacy going to impact persons”.

Other members of the panel included Nicole Pitter-Patterson, expert on inclusive finance, gender and trade; and Carmen Neithammer, senior gender specialist, European Investment Bank.

The webinar was the first of several DBJ-led initiatives that will be funded through resources from their international development partners, the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), and the European Union (EU) who have committed to help transform Jamaica’s landscape as it relates to understanding, appreciating and commitment to inclusiveness.

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