#Kingston, May 4, 2019 – Jamaica – The Gender Ambassadors Programme (GAP), launched recently as a pilot, is seeking to achieve mindset changes against antisocial attitudes, promote equality and encourage females to enter non-traditional careers.
The programme, which is a collaboration between the Ministry of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport, and the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information, facilitates the raising of awareness and activism on gender equality in schools.
Its primary aim is to tackle several gender-based matters, including gender equality and equity, healthy relationships, child rights, discrimination, school-related gender-based violence, issues affecting boys, gender parity in decision-making, and leadership positions in educational institutions.
Student at the Spanish Town High School, in St. Catherine, Tianna Lawson, told JIS News that the GAP initiative has made her “very involved” in passing on to other students what is right about gender equality, and to “stop things that are not correct in school”. Miss Lawson was attending the recent launch of the programme at The Knutsford Court Hotel in New Kingston.
For his part, Kayne Matthew Duncan, a student at St. Mary High School, said he had seen first-hand some of the issues that GAP is seeking to remedy, but had not paid much attention to them, noting that the programme has inspired him to “stand against hype and bad man tendencies”.
“That is what I want to change. I want the boys at my school to become men. We can grow together and follow our own goals instead of somebody else’s, and we will know how to respect women, and treat everyone as they should be,” he said.
Teacher at Westwood High School, in Trelawny, Yanique Martin, said GAP will be “very beneficial” to the all-female institution, in helping them to be empowered.
“The action plan that we are working on is to inform girls about male-dominated jobs such as engineering and becoming pilots,” she told JIS News.
Ms. Martin said many of the students want to venture into unusual careers, but they are afraid because it is suggested that only males can manage those areas.
“They are shying away from them and a programme like this can address a lot of issues in the society, and I am really happy that we were selected as one of the first schools,” she said. She emphasised that GAP is relevant and necessary, “as we don’t want any gender to be dominating the other. It is equality that we need, so we want the men to stand up and the women to play their part”.
The Bureau of Gender Affairs has implemented the pilot programme with students from 11 secondary and seven tertiary institutions across the island to participate in the initiative.
Meanwhile, Portfolio Minister, Hon. Oliva Grange, said the skills gained by the students should be used to prevent violence at their schools.
“If you see someone being bullied in school, serve as a mediator, and this is going to test your skills. You have to be prepared to use your skills to mediate and to solve such problems. Be the best, and carry out what is expected of you in this programme,” the Minister told participants at the launch.
She added that the selected students will make useful changes in their schools and communities. “You have my commitment to work in partnership with my colleague Ministers to provide you with the necessary support, to inspire courage and hope as you take on this brave challenge of being GAP Ambassadors in your respective educational institutions,” Miss Grange said.
For his part, State Minister for Youth, Hon. Alando Terrelonge, said efforts will be made to promote leadership development, and respect across the gender divide.
“The programme also aims to engage the youth on what is gender-based violence (GBV) and ways to reduce the prevalence of GBV in Jamaica. It is intended to help our students appreciate that recognition and approval are found not only within gender norms and stereotypes, and to understand the real world effects of such thinking,” the State Minister said.
Mr. Terrelonge said the targeted students are expected to develop key character traits that underpin a well-rounded and confident identity that will support their educational attainment and healthy future beyond school.
“We are working towards covering a range of gender-focused topics, including healthy relationships and consent, gender stereotyping and resilience, and culture and positive masculinity. We aim for students to identify the impact of these topics,” he said.
Senior Acting Director at the Bureau of Gender affairs, Sharon Coburn Robinson, said students will also be exposed to proper use of social media in the programme. She urged the students to stand against all forms of violence as “it is not okay to be violent at any place, at any point”.
“Violence is totally unacceptable, unappreciated and not to be tolerated at any point in your life cycle,” Ms. Coburn Robinson told the students.
By: Garfield L. Angus
Header: Minister of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport, Hon. Olivia Grange (fourth left), embraces student of St. Mary High School, Kayne Matthew Duncan (third left) at the launch of the Gender Ambassadors Programme (GAP), at The Knutsford Court hotel in New Kingston. At right is Minister of State in the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information, Hon. Alando Terrelonge.
Insert: Minister of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport, Hon. Olivia Grange (second right), and Minister of State in the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information, Hon. Alando Terrelonge (right), interact with students at the launch of the Gender Ambassadors Programme (GAP), at The Knutsford Court Hotel in New Kingston.
Photos by Michael Sloley