By Shanea Johnson
I vividly recall, in a small 12-year-old voice asking “Why everybody inna parliament look suh ole ar a jus fi ole people?” At that age, that’s what I understood parliament to be – for the elderly. I still remember the days I would watch Prime Time News and say “Parliament need some young people man.”
Today, I am elated to see one of my former colleagues from The University of the West Indies, Gabriela Morris, a Communications Specialist, now a member of the Senate, serving in the Upper House of Jamaica’s Parliament. I was and still am proud. Finally, my dream as a little girl to one day see more young people in Parliament blossomed into reality on Tuesday, September 15, 2020.
Although Gabriela was not the only young person to be sworn in, she is the youngest female senator in history! I mean, Gabriela is just 23 years old and a SENATOR! Jamaican women at home and abroad, as well as females across the world must be proud of this historic moment. Parliament for years has been seen as a male-dominated arena. Not only that, but Leader of Government Business in the Senate, Kamina Johnson-Smith has noted that a record 38 percent of the 21 Senators who were sworn in on Tuesday were females.
This has not only marked the start of the new parliamentary term but a start for women in a male-dominated arena. In the words of Mrs. Johnson-Smith, “This is the largest percentage ever achieved in our history.”
However, I am aware that there are some people in our society who still believe in the upholding of patriarchal standards. It simply means that there are some people who believe that parliament should only be dominated by males and is no place for females. I recall just over a year ago, during my course of study at The University of the West indies, doing a course called Gender and Society. It was an eye-opening experience for me.
We examined the Jamaican society and I was surprised by how patriarchal we still are and this concept seems to have been around from Jesus’ time. I got the opportunity to study The Gender Knot: Unraveling our Patriarchal Legacy written by Allan Johnson who summed up the meaning of patriarchy in a way that even a toddler could understood.
He stated that patriarchy is a concept that promotes male-dominance and male-privilege whereby men believe they have the right and power to control their subordinates – females. For far too long we have allowed this concept to enslave us and it has deeply affected both the lives of men and women. I would want to believe that this new phenomenon of having more females in parliament will facilitate the voices of these females being heard and will lead to the development and execution of great ideas coming together to achieve greater results. I see this as an arena in which women will be able to work with men and will be better able to assist our government in making wise decisions. This is not to say, of course, that the decisions made before were not wise.
Without straying from the topic of focus, the concept of patriarchy is largely evident even in some churches today, where it is believed that men should be the leaders and women should not be heard. However, that is another topic for another day.
I do hope that this paradigm-shift in our parliament will be welcomed with open arms. Who knows? Perhaps one of these women will rise to the challenge of becoming the next Prime Minister of Jamaica. This would be nothing strange, since, as we have seen before Portia Simpson-Miller was the first female Prime Minister of Jamaica. I wish our young parliamentarians a successful term – both males and females alike.
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