Wed | Feb 26, 2020

Jamaican women holding half of the sky

Published:Sunday | February 9, 2020 | 12:24 AM

International Women’s Day, March 8, 2020, will be special for 60 Jamaican women who will be immortalised in print when the RJRGLEANER Communications Group unveils its specially commissioned book, Jamaican Women of Distinction: Holding Up more than Half the Sky. It is being produced in collaboration with the Ministry of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport, and the Jamaica National Bank.

The book is made up of profiles and images of exemplary Jamaican women, representing incredible contributions to the Jamaican economy, politics, arts and culture, sport, music, science, medicine, technology, law, education, security, journalism, trade unionism, and the public service.

The process of choosing a finite number of exemplary, living Jamaica-born or second-generation women whose pioneering work is grounded in development, was not an easy task. In the final analysis the women selected to be featured in the book were the product of bargaining, negotiation, concession and compromise. So-called ‘omissions’ should not be interpreted as deliberate attempts at rejection or belittling of importance. In selecting this representative group of women, the RJRGLEANER Communications Group hopes readers will appreciate the intention: as a movement of proud Jamaican womanhood from which there can be no omissions.

The format of the book is quite simple. Produced in full colour on high quality art paper and with a hardback binding, each double-page opening features a succinct biography of each of the women on the left-hand page and a specially commissioned full-page photograph on the facing page, capturing the women in their varying moods and demeanour and as they are today.

Pride of place

Assuming pride of place is former jurist Ena Collymore Woodstock who at the grand age of 102 is the oldest among the women featured.

There are familiar faces of women who are still active and in the public eye but readers will be surprised and happy to see others like Leonie Forbes, no longer active on stage, and Patsy Ricketts, who was a leading force as dancer and dance educator up to the 1990s.

And how can we not mention Olivia ‘Babsy’ Grange, the current minister of culture, gender, entertainment and Sport, who in her person and through her achievements embodies the best qualities to be celebrated among Jamaican women both past and present?

While focusing on women who are alive and still contributing to the society, an introductory section highlights the contribution of women of distinction who earlier led the way in breaking the proverbial glass ceiling and paved the way for succeeding generations of women. Dedicated to the memory of the Hon Louise Bennett-Coverley, the publication is a timely reminder that Jamaica’s rich and complicated past, stirring present and hopeful future are products of deliberate efforts by 51 per cent of Jamaica’s population – our women – who have borne the lioness’ share of the weight of the Jamaican spirit. They indeed hold up more than half the Jamaican sky.

The idea for a publication celebrating the achievements of Jamaican women, past and present, is the brainchild of Garfield Grandison, general manager of the Gleaner Company (Media) Limited, who is not only pleased but surprised by the level of support and co-operation received from the featured women, especially in making themselves available to be photographed.

Grandison draws attention to the coincidence of the book being produced in the 185th year of the existence of The Gleaner; on the 25th anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, (a global agenda for women’s rights and empowerment) and its conception in the centenary of the birth of Louise Bennett, cultural matriarch of Jamaica.

The project also has an element of the prophetic with the crowning of Toni-Ann Singh as the reigning ‘Miss World’ and the Grammy Award for the Best Reggae Album to Koffee (Mikayla Simpson), making her the first woman to win that award and still short of her 20th year, the youngest Jamaican woman of distinction to be celebrated.

The book will be launched on March 8, and thereafter available in bookstores islandwide and from The Gleaner, 7 North Street; the RJRGLEANER Gift Shop 32, Lyndhurst Road, Kingston; and the RJRGLEANER Western Bureau, 23 Orange Street, Montego Bay, St James.