By Romell Eubank
Jamaican politics has had its fair share of both outstanding young and senior individuals – both male and female. Many prominent females within our society have raised concerns about the low percentage of females being appointed and chosen to play a part in the affairs of our country.
These individuals must realize that we cannot appoint individuals simply on the basis of gender but on the basis of performance and their ability to manage the required tasks.
We have had female leaders who have done exceptionally well and have earned themselves great recognition, and in many cases above that of many of their male counterparts. We have had a female senate president, Jeanette Grant-Woodham, who served as President of the Senate of Jamaica from 1984 to 1989.
We currently have a female House Speaker, Marisa Dalrymple-Philibert, who also previously served in the same position from July 2011 to December 2011.
Most notably Jamaica’s very first female Prime Minister, Portia Lucretia Simpson-Miller, served as Prime Minister of Jamaica from March 2006 to September 2007 and again from January 2012 to March 2016. She was also the leader of the People’s National Party (PNP) from 2005 to 2017 and the Leader of the Opposition twice, from 2007 to 2012 and from 2016 to 2017.
These and many other prominent females have outperformed many male counterparts. However, they were not appointed or elected based on their gender but based on their abilities and their hard work.
People perform well regardless of gender, so we should not be advocating for persons from any specific gender to be randomly chosen for leadership positions. What we should do is advocate for the individuals best suited for the responsibility or task. If there are instances where qualified or suitable individuals are denied positions based on gender or age then we should use all resources to advocate for them and laws should be enacted to address issues of that nature and magnitude where possible.
Former Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller performed tremendously and in my opinion, even outperformed her male predecessor Prime Minister P. J. Patterson. Many female members of parliament, such as the late Shahine Robinson, have earned their reputations as some of the most outstanding politicians in Jamaica, and in Robinson’s case, her excellent work and impact have caused her former constituents to want another female representative. If we look into these examples we’ll understand that gender is not a factor in one’s performance and one can be a star despite gender.
Many complain about the low rate of youth involvement and youth appointments in parliament. We have many young persons who have been appointed to the senate and many young elected members of parliament. Notably, our Prime Minister, Andrew Michael Holness is the youngest Prime Minister ever appointed. The examples show that despite gender or age, hardworking persons can make remarkable impacts on politics. Some complain that too many elderly or senior persons are playing roles in different areas while young persons are behind in the shadows not playing a part in the development process.
We must remember that experience is very important. We have instances where older ministers have outperformed younger ministers because in many cases, experience is what is needed and not necessarily renewal. If a senior official is not performing well and is impeded by health issues then he or she should be replaced, but the idea of replacing them with someone young is not advisable, as one may be young and have the academic knowledge but lack experience and practical skills.
If we can have mentorship and other programmes set up that will strategically train our young people and women for leadership roles and responsibilities, then we will have a solution to the concerns some gender and youth advocates are having. I believe that despite gender and age group, individuals should work hard and put their best forward in order to gain recognition.
I also believe persons should not be denied the opportunity to serve because of their gender or age group. Jamaica’s history has shown that many individuals have made remarkable contributions to our society despite their age and gender. Every individual who is qualified, capable, and passionate should be given the opportunity to serve and represent our people.
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