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

Kingston, Jamaica. 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 CSOs 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.

“All of society benefits when women realize their full potential. Women bring different experiences, perspectives, and skills to the table and make irreplaceable contributions to decisions, policies and laws that work better for all,” said Hon. Olivia Grange, Minister of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport Jamaica.

The Champions for Gender Equality were recognized in five different categories: advocacy for women's social and political justice; addressing gender-based violence and supporting victims; promoting economic/worker rights; promoting women's service, participation and leadership; and supporting and advocating for sexual and reproductive health and justice.

Meet the ‘Champions for Gender Equality’

Advocating for Women’s Social and Political Justice

SISTREN Theatre Collective

Women’s Resource and Outreach Centre (WROC)

WMW Jamaica

Combatting Gender-based Violence and Victim Support

Woman INC

Advancing Economic/Workers Rights

Jamaica Network of Rural Women Producers

Jamaica Household Worker’s Union

Promoting Women’s Service, Participation and Leadership

Soroptimist International Jamaica

Jamaica Women's Political Caucus

Supporting and Advocating for Sexual and Reproductive Health and Justice

EVE for Life

Women’s Centre of Jamaica Foundation (WCJF)

WE-Change Jamaica

HerFlow Foundation

In pursuit of the Sustainable Development Goals, gender equality is one of UNESCO's global priorities. As such, UNESCO is committed to removing barriers that hinder women's personal and professional development. Furthermore, UNESCO, as the lead United Nations agency on Social and Human Sciences, has the mission to foster inclusive and peaceful societies. In closing, Paula Istúriz Cavero, UNESCO Social and Human Sciences Specialist and Gender Focal Point in the Caribbean, recognized the role of universities and the social and human sciences in producing knowledge, addressing epistemic inequalities, and collecting data on gender gaps as a fundamental building block for action to promote gender equality in Jamaica and the Caribbean as a whole. UNESCO, in partnership with UWI will continue to work to advance gender equality in the Caribbean region.

This event also marked the launch of the Caribbean Sheroes Initiative, which aims to produce knowledge and enhance the skills of young people to promote gender equality to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030). In the first phase, this will involve the production of a knowledge toolkit that will provide technical resources for CSOs to promote gender equality in Jamaica and the broader Caribbean. The toolkit, expected to be released in May 2021, will highlight gender equality approaches in practice and share key lessons learned.



Paula Istúriz Cavero
Programme Specialist for Social and Human Sciences
Youth and Gender Focal Point
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Media Contact:

Catherina Schönhammer
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Source: UNESCO Press Release 29 April 2021

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