UNESCO and UWI pay tribute to ‘Champions for Gender Equality’ during kick-off of Caribbean Sheroes Initiative

Kingston: On 29 April 2021, UNESCO, in partnership with the Institute for Gender and Development Studies (IGDS), Regional Coordination Unit of the University of the West Indies (UWI) and supported by the Jamaica National Commission for UNESCO, highlighted the tireless efforts of civil society organizations (CSOs) working for gender justice and equality in Jamaica.

With the launch of the Caribbean Sheroes initiative under an event themed “SHEROES: Women leaders rising to the challenge, “UNESCO and UWI honoured twelve local organizations as ‘Champions for Gender Equality.’ Two special recognitions were given to Linnette Vassell and Joan French, for their substantial leadership and contribution to Jamaican society in advancing women’s rights.

Across the Caribbean, engagement in CSOs and particularly women’s groups working to promote women’s and children’s rights, improve living and working conditions, raise awareness and combat all forms of violence, including gender-based violence (GBV) and child abuse, and support survivors of abuse and trauma is critical to advance a peaceful and inclusive society. Furthermore, CSOs have also remained at the forefront, actively battling the pandemic, by organizing local-level actions to help women affected by the pandemic. The leadership and resilience of women amidst the pandemic have been a driving force in the fight against COVID-19 worldwide.

In her opening remarks, Saadia Sanchez-Vegas, Director and Representative of the UNESCO Cluster Office for the Caribbean, emphasized that culturally sanctioned behaviours, preconceived notions of traditional gender norms and stereotypical gender roles often manifest themselves overtly or subtly, leading to exclusion and unequal opportunities for women. It is important “that we meaningfully include men and boys in the global movement for gender equality alongside women and girls,” said Saadia Sanchez-Vegas.

Mr. Everton Hannam, Secretary General of the Jamaica National Commission for UNESCO, congratulated the initiative as an important step to advance gender equality. Prof. Opal Palmer Adisa, University Director of the Institute of Gender and Development Studies, Regional Coordination Unit, The University of the West Indies, honoured Jamaica’s CSOs for their substantive work in promoting women’s rights and ending GBV, one major challenge to gender justice in Jamaica. “Sheroes is about spreading the wings, lifting those who need to be lifted”, explained Prof. Palmer Adisa. She thanked the CSO’s for their firm commitment and encouraged women activists to continue to advocate for social and civic equality.
Hon. Olivia Grange, Minister of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport, and Chairperson of the Jamaica National Commission for UNESCO expressed that the Caribbean Sheroes Initiative is timely as it recognizes the pivotal role of women in leadership and the role they must play in ushering a new generation of nation-builders.

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