Sherene Golding Campbell feels no pressure as she enters Senate - Former PM’s daughter says she will give it her best shot
Attorney-at-law Sherene Golding Campbell has taken her place in the Upper House of Jamaica’s Parliament at a historic time for the legislature, which currently has the highest number of women sitting at any one time.
Although the daughter of former Prime Minister Bruce Golding is not a big fan of the controversial quota system touted by advocates as a mechanism to increase women’s participation in leadership, she said the development is a major step to having women’s voices where work is being done.
“I’ve have always been uncomfortable with it,” Golding Campbell said, “because I want to be where I am because you consider me to be a competent, hard-working and worthy individual. I don’t want to be there because you’re filling numbers.
“I’m not suggesting that any woman in the Parliament is there because of numbers. I’m not suggesting that at all, but that’s what I think, for me, is my pushback on the quota argument,” added the mediator and lawyer who practises at the private Bar in areas such as commercial, family, land and estate law.
But she accepts that the measure can be helpful.
“Quotas are useful to right a wrong,” Golding Campbell told The Sunday Gleaner. “When the scale is so skewed in one direction, quotas help you to bring it back in the other direction, but then there comes a time when they then become no longer useful and you have to look at creating an equal status for everybody in terms of the barriers to entry.”
It is why the newly minted senator said she found favour with Opposition Leader Dr Peter Phillips’ comment in a pre-election political debate in late August that household issues were part of the structural hindrances to more women participating in politics.
“He was perfectly right,” said the former coordinator of the national legislative programme out of the justice ministry. “I don’t know why people had such a quarrel with him about it.
“A lot of the reasons why women don’t serve in these kinds of roles is because of the other responsibilities that they carry. So every woman that works out of the house has two full-time jobs. Facts! Men don’t have two full-time jobs. They have a job outside of the house and then they come home to the woman who is running the house, in most cases,” she said, raising the issue of the need for support systems such as affordable childcare facilities and nanny care professionals.
“If the prime minister had asked me to do this four years ago, I would have told him no. Four years ago, my youngest child was a three-year-old and my second child was four years old,” said the mother of three. “I could not have left my babies as they were at that time to go out to give service in that kind of way.”
Golding Campbell is one of eight women appointed to Parliament’s review chamber, which is made up of 21 members, while 18 of the 63 representatives in the House of Representatives are women.
Half (four) of the Opposition’s Senate cohort fulfilled the commitment given by Phillips in the debate that 50 per cent of his slate would be women.
The leaders of government and opposition business in the Senate, the Speaker of the House and the deputy are also women.
One of the popular questions asked of new Senate picks in the new Parliament that opened its session last Tuesday was what their agenda for the term will be.
For Golding Campbell, however, it’s not quite like that.
WHO THE HELL CARES?
“Who the hell cares about my priorities? Jamaican people didn’t elect me, you know. I’m not an elected official … . I don’t have a constituency running,” she declared.
“The Government has a priority and the prime minister has laid that out very clearly. The prime minister said on Tuesday that ‘I want to concentrate on ensuring the economic recovery and viability of this country’.”
But the 47-year-old mom admitted that there were areas of government priority that “I will find myself more interested in”, such as in education.
“If there are areas that I think my contribution and my ideas can have a valuable contribution, then I will speak up and I will let the powers that be hear what I have to say,” she said. “This is not a party for senators to go dancing around on their own agenda.”
Does being the daughter of a former prime minister noted for his advocacy on constitutional and parliamentary reforms to strengthen accountability mechanisms increase the pressure to perform well?
Senator Golding Campbell was unambiguous.
“Bruce Golding is Bruce Golding and Sherene Campbell is Sherene Campbell,” she said, noting that making her dad, and her businesswoman mom, Lorna Golding, proud is a key motivator.
“We are not the same people, though, obviously, having been raised by him and my mother, I probably would have quite a bit of his influence in terms of how I view things,” she said.
Her father served as prime minister of Jamaica from 2007 to 2011, when he resigned months before the end of his Jamaica Labour Party administration’s term over the fallout from the Christopher ‘Dudus’ Coke controversy.
Sherene is one of three children for the Goldings.
For the next five years in the Senate, the Immaculate Conception High graduate said she will be approaching the job the way she believes Jamaicans should approach theirs.
“You go prepared to do the work with an attitude of thoroughness, an attitude of diligence and you put your best effort into it.”