Wednesday, 28 December 2016

Towards A Modern Approach To Development

According to the World Bank, in 2011, seventeen per cent (17%) of the people in the developing world lived at or below $1.25US a day. This means that 1.4 billion people or twenty one per cent (21%) of the world’s population live in extreme poverty. Undoubtedly, the fight against poverty and gender inequality requires multiple approaches involving government and non-governmental organizations (NGO’s). Recently, there has been an increase in the number of countries investing heavily in social protection programmes to address the needs of the most susceptible in their societies. As a result of such investments in conditional cash transfers, cash grants from the government to poor household in exchange for sending their children to school and for regular health check up there has been an improvement in the standard of living for many families. For example, in The Philippines conditional cash transfer has reached 4.4 million families and has made a significant change in the quality of life they now enjoy. In Jamaica, the social safety net programme is administered generally through the Programme for Advancement through Health and Education (PATH). It is estimated that since its inception in 2002, the PATH programme has transformed the lives of more than 400,000 Jamaicans. Additionally, there is also the National Health Fund (NHF), which provides assistance to Jamaicans to purchase specific prescription drugs used in the treatment and management of selected chronic illness.  There are five broad categories of beneficiaries for the NHF benefits. These are children from birth to completion of secondary education, elderly, 60 years and over and not in receipt of a pension, persons with disabilities, pregnant and lactating women and poor adults 18-59 years. The National Health Fund also administers the Jamaica Drugs for the Elderly Programme (JADEP) which provides a specific list of prescription drugs free of cost to elderly Jamaicans sixty years and over.  According to the 2012 Survey of Living Conditions published by the Statistical Institute of Jamaica (STATIN) more than 500,000 Jamaicans or one out of every five Jamaicans lives below the poverty line. The statistics clearly indicate how important such a social safety net programme is for Jamaica in terms of transforming the economic and social well being of citizens. It can be argued that a country cannot progress without making the requisite investments in their human capital. Governments must view social safety net programmes as a tool for development both for urban as well as for rural development.  Historically, development programmes institutionalize male power and privilege; however, we need to interrogate this patriarchal approach. A recent World Bank report indicates that rising incomes can counter gender inequality. When incomes go up, fertility rates fall which facilitate more women to participate in the workforce. We must therefore welcome this relative new shift in gender and development which posit the view that women’s invisibility and economic worth must be taken into account in a country’s economic output.
The McKinsey Global Institute estimates that by advancing women’s equality could add US&12 trillion to the world’s yearly gross domestic product over the next decade.  Regrettably, the tendency is for developmental policies to marginalize women’s specific conditions and needs by adhering to the belief of women’s inferiority. Countless women have suffered globally through the patriarchal structures and policies which have rendered them as second class citizens.
Gender as a social indicator must be seen as a critical pillar of development in which women are integrated more into the process. We need to move away from the top down, urban centered approach to development which unfortunately many governments still subscribed to. There is an urgent need to incorporate more gender sensitive policies in the development progress to benefit all our people.  A process of gender analysis is essential since it is only through an integration of gender into development that we can truly better understand the realities of both sexes and provide by policy makers which the tools necessary to overcome inefficient resource allocation to encourage a holistic approach to development. Jamaica stands at a critical juncture as the country moves to achieve its 20/30 vision of making Jamaica the place of choice to live, work, raise families and do business. However, in order to realize this we must redouble our efforts to eradicate poverty and move towards and embrace a paradigm shift in which gender and development (GAD). As we approach the new year let us emphasize more on gender and development as active contributors to development planning and action as we  encourage more women to participate equally in the decision making process at all levels of the society. In the words of Nelson Mandela, “as long as poverty, injustice and gross inequality persist in our world, none of us can truly rest.

Wayne Campbell is an educator and social commentator with an interest in development policies as they affect culture and or gender issues.

Friday, 23 December 2016

Disability is Not An Obstacle to Success

"Disability is not an obstacle to success”. –Stephen Hawking
According to a World Bank Report one billion people, or 15% of the world’s population, experience
some form of disability. The report also added that disability prevalence is higher for developing
countries. In Jamaica approximately 200,000 Jamaicans live with a disability as stated by the same
source. Persons with disabilities, on average as a group, are more likely to experience adverse
socioeconomic outcomes than persons without disabilities, such as less education, poorer health
outcomes, lower levels of employment, and higher poverty rates. I met a most remarkable young lady last Saturday She was visually impaired but was in high spirits and bubbling with energy and positive vibes. Tamika was born sighted but unfortunately lost sight in both eyes at age 22.  In spite of her disability, she is a positive, industrious mother of 5 and was all too willing to share a bit of her story some of which was rather personal and almost moved me to tears. Until you have interacted with a blind person you really do not know what it is to be discriminated against, laughed at and ignored. During our conversation Tamika spoke intensely about the lack of awareness in the wider Jamaican society regarding the plight and concerns of members of the disabled community, especially those who are blind. She recalled painfully of being let off at the wrong bus stop on numerous occasions by Jamaica Urban Transit Company (JUTC) bus drivers even after telling the drivers where she would like to disembark upon entering the bus. She added that in most instances those incidents took place at nights in areas which are lonely and unsafe. She was left alone only with the mercy of God to navigate her way back to where she wanted to go. As a result of those negative and traumatic experiences Tamika is now fearful of taking the Jamaica Urban Transit Corporation (JUTC) and one can clearly understand why.   
Tamika is encouraging the government to embark on a public education campaign to highlight the issues which the disabled community encounters almost on a daily basis.  Tamika’s voice became almost inaudible when she told of instances in which blind persons have had their canes kicked away and stepped on by able- bodied members of the society. She spoke of the struggles of the blind in the society specifically in rural areas where they oftentimes remain at home out of fear of being ridiculed, wasting away as their talents go unused. It bears thought that as a society we cannot achieve sustainable development if we continue to exclude a sizeable section of the society.
Sustainable Development Goals
In fact the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s) addresses all three dimensions of sustainable development which are (environmental, economic and social). Disability is referenced in various sections of the SDG’s and specifically to parts related to education, growth, employment, inequality and accessibility of human settlements. For example, goal 4, speaks to inclusive and equitable quality education and the promotion of life-long learning opportunities for all focuses on eliminating gender disparities in education and ensuring equal access to all levels of education and vocational training for the vulnerable, including persons with disabilities. Goal 8 of the SDG’s speaks to the promotion of sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all, the international community aims to achieve full and productive employment and decent work for all women and men, including for persons with disabilities, and equal pay for work of equal value. Additionally, goal 10 of the SDG’s addresses inequality within and among countries by empowering and promoting the social, economic and political inclusion of all, including persons with disabilities. Goal 11 of the Sustainable Development Goals aims at making cities and human settlements inclusive, safe and sustainable. To realize this goal, member states are called upon to provide access to safe, affordable, accessible and sustainable transport systems for all, improving road safety, notably by expanding public transport, with special attention to the needs of those in vulnerable situations, such as persons with disabilities and finally Goal 17 speaks to reliable data that is also disaggregated by disability. Tamika was quite fortunate to have left rural Jamaica and came to Kingston to live where she completed HEART/ Level 3 training in her chosen field. She was extremely passionate in sharing what she considered insensitive and uncaring remarks hurdled at her when she became pregnant by a number of persons who questioned who would want to impregnate a blind person. She was quite unwavering in her comments that members of the disabled community have feelings and emotions and are capable of loving and being loved. As a society we must be mindful that the disabled community also has the right to reproductive rights and health care and that this human rights should be respected by all. Tamika reiterated that the State needs to do more to highlight the troubling issues the disabled community endures as well as to work towards making this vulnerable group feel a part of the wider society.  
Tamika made a special appeal that more of our country’s sidewalks should be paved in order to facilitate the blind members of society the freedom to navigate in and around the city without fear of injuring themselves. She was adamant that more skills training are needed for members of the disabled community in order to empower them in areas in which they can earn an income and building their self-esteem. She also suggested that more grants should be made available to members with a disability in order to make them more independent this she said would inevitable foster a culture of entrepreneurship within the disabled community since it is difficult for members to source employment. She mentioned that although she has lost sight in both eyes, her vision was still intact. This vision Tamika refers to is one in which her children will grow up to be the contributing members of the society as well as a vision to expand her small business and become financially independent. As a society we all have a responsibility to work towards dismantling the stigma which oftentimes is associated with a disability. As we go about our business during this Christmas season let us remember those members who are most vulnerable and give a helping hand wherever it is possible. We need to look beyond one’s disability and instead focus on the abilities and talents of our brothers and sisters and work towards a more inclusive society. In the words of Scott Hamilton, the only disability in life is a bad attitude.

Wayne Campbell

Monday, 12 December 2016

Take The Fight To Gender-Based Violence

“Violence against women and girls is a human rights violation, public health pandemic and serious obstacle to sustainable development. It imposes large-scale costs on families, communities and economies. The world cannot afford to pay this price”. – Ban Ki-moon 
Jamaica is part of the international community which each year observes the 16 days of activism against gender-based violence. From November 25 which is commemorated as the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women through to December 10, Human Rights Day, the global community pauses to raise public awareness regarding discrimination steeped in patriarchy and violence against women which has genesis in the unequal power distribution between men and women. According to USAID, gender-based violence cuts across ethnicity, race, class, religion, education level, and international borders. An estimated one in three women worldwide has been beaten, coerced into sex, or otherwise abused in her lifetime. Disturbingly, a significant number of violence against women goes unreported and the perpetrators are not brought to justice. The Caribbean region has one the highest incidences of rape. According to the UN Woman narrative on gender-based violence in the Caribbean, The Bahamas has the highest incident of rape per capita in the Caribbean at an average of 133 per 100,000, followed by St. Vincent and the Grenadines 112, Jamaica at 51, Dominica 34, Barbados 25 and Trinidad and Tobago 18.  Over the years Jamaica has been witnessing an alarmingly trend of murder-suicide. According to University of the West Indies lecturer in political psychology, Dr. Christopher Charles murder-suicide must be viewed in the context of domestic violence. As part of his findings on his research on murder-suicide in the security forces Charles highlighted the fact that 86 per cent of the perpetrators of murder-suicide were males and that the targets were overwhelmingly females.
Sadly, the discourse on gender-based violence tends to ignore the social and economic cost associated with hospitalization, time off from work and counseling which the State and survivors must bear. In a recent presentation at the University of the West Indies, Miss Taitu Heron, Programme Coordinator, UN Women’s National Programme, stated that 7 paid work days are incurred to victims of gender-based violence in Jamaica at a cost of $3,000 per day at a public health care facility. She added that in Uganda 11 paid work days are lost per 1 incident of gender-based violence to the survivors, while in India it was 5 paid work days.  In situations where children are exposed to seeing one parent being abused by the other we are yet to fully quantify the psychological damage that such incidents can and does have on those children. Such children can become withdrawn, perform poorly in school, depressed, violent, angry, and fearful and can later in life become abusers. This is an area which more research is needed in order to completely understand the impact of gender-based violence on the society. There is a tendency to exclude the fact that men are also victims of gender-based violence. We must come to the realization that some men are vulnerable and also suffer from gender-based from their spouses or significant others. Of course in a society which values hyper-masculinity such men rarely are afforded the chance to voice their concerns due mainly out of fear of being ridiculed and having their manhood questioned. Gender-based violence is not confined to the domain of sexual and or physical. No one should feel a sense a shame and suffer in silence due to violence of any nature. Unfortunately, we live in a world and society with a high tolerance for lawlessness, in addition for our insatiable appetite for pornography which devalues women. It bears thought that we need to do more towards eradicating gender-based violence.
The society needs to increase the awareness of the scope of gender-based violence and its impact on the target and the society through pointed public education campaigns. There is also an urgent need to engage more men and boys to join the effort in eliminating violence against women. The education system also has an integral role to play in eradicating gender-based violence by infusing gender-based violence into the National Standards Curriculum. We also need to ensure that our National Gender Policy for Gender Equality is gender-neutral in order to address discrimination against all genders. The government through Parliament should legislate and ensure the enforcement of laws to prevent violence against women. We need to ensure that gender-sensitive training becomes compulsory for the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) as well as the Jamaica Defense Force (JDF) so as to better equip officers to deal with such forms of violence. We also need to create more partnerships with National Governmental Organizations (NGO’s), civil society, churches and other stakeholders in addressing all forms of violence. The creation of safe spaces for the survivors of gender-based violence should be of utmost importance to policy makers if the State is serious in tackling gender-based violence, at least one such facility should be in each parish.  The State has an obligation to safeguard its citizen and eradicate gender-based violence. The society cannot achieve sustainable development and economic growth until and unless all citizens are protected. As a society we should work towards fulfilling the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s) number 5 which speaks to gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls. In order for us to have better societies we need to foster partnerships between both sexes while ensuring that women and girls have equal access to all resources and are protected from all forms of violence. In the words of Barack Obama, empowering women isn’t just the right thing to do-it’s the smart thing to do.

Wayne Campbell is an educator and social commentator with an interest in development policies as they affect culture and or gender issues.

Thursday, 1 December 2016

Ending HIV/AIDS Discrimination

HIV/AIDS is a disease with stigma. And we have learned with experience, not just with HIV/AIDS but with other diseases, countries for many reasons are sometimes hesitant to admit they have a problem. – Margaret Chan
It has been more than three decades since the HIV virus was first identified by the scientific community, however, despite of the advances in medicine, stigma and discrimination continue to be  major barriers in accessing treatment and services for those affected and impacted. World AIDS Day is observed on December 1 each year. The United Nations endorsed day provides an opportunity to show support for people living with HIV, as well as, to raise awareness of the struggles and prejudice those with the virus face daily. According to UNAIDS more than 35 million people have died from AIDS-related illnesses. It is estimated that more than 36 million people are living with HIV. Sadly, a significant number of people living with HIV remain without antiretroviral therapy, including sex workers, young people, women and girls, transgender people, men who have sex with other men, people who use drugs and other key populations within the wider society. UNAIDS expects that US $26.2 billion will be required for AIDS response in 2020. However, we need a cultural change in as much as we need to find additional financial resources in the fight against preventing HIV/AIDS. Many of the barriers those living with HIV face are rooted in patriarchy and cultural biases which render women powerless and voiceless in their sexual relations. Disturbingly, in many situations adolescent girls’ right to privacy and control over their body is not respected as a significant number of them report that their first sexual experience was forced. According to the United Nations, of the 250, 000 new HIV infections cases in 2013, more than two-thirds were adolescent girls. This shows how vulnerable females are regarding contracting HIV. A major study examining how antiretrovirals (ARV’s) reduce the risk of HIV transmission among heterosexuals has found that no participant with a fully suppressed viral load infected his or her long-term HIV negative partner. These final results from the HPTN 052 study of 1,763 mixed HIV status heterosexual couples were presented at the Eighth International AIDS Society Conference on HIV Pathogenesis, Treatment and Prevention in Vancouver, British Columbia in 2015.  According to Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases the study now makes it clear that when an HIV infected person takes antiretroviral therapy that keeps the virus suppressed, the treatment is highly effective at preventing sexual transmission of HIV to an uninfected heterosexual partner. According to the (Global AIDS Response Progress Report-GARPR 2014) 30,313 Jamaicans are living with HIV. Among men who have sex with men (MSM) HIV prevalence based on 2012 estimates is at 32%. HIV prevalence among female sex workers (SW) is at 4.2%. HIV prevalence among prison inmates is at 1.9% and among homeless drug users the prevalence rate is 4.0%. The time has come for the international community in general and Jamaica specifically to do more to close the HIV prevention gap which disproportionately affects lower and middle income countries more due to budgetary constraints. Unfortunately, more than 2 million are infected with HIV yearly. The international community should be mindful that now is not the time to easy off the pedal regarding HIV prevention campaigns. We have seen a resurgence of HIV in key populations and this should be taken as wake up call to action.  According to a recent report by Jamaica AIDS Support for Life (JASL) there is very little knowledge about the HIV prevalence among transgender women in Jamaica. However, the National HIV/STI programme estimates HIV prevalence rate of 0.4 and 0.5 per cent in adolescent boys and girls between ages 15-19 years. According to the United Nations as of 2013, 2.1 million adolescents were living with HIV. It cannot be business as per usual. It bears thought that given Jamaica’s strong Judea Christian custom many parents will without hesitation put out their transgendered children. Undoubtedly, these ‘trans’ individuals will be more at risk as they navigate the rough and challenging public space in an effort make a living. It is not uncommon for social issues such as homelessness, sexual abuse and depression to be high among this key population of any society making them more vulnerable to HIV/AIDS.
State Intervention
There needs to be more intervention programmes between the Ministries of Health and Education, Youth and Information to address adolescent pregnancies and the reproductive health of teenagers. The society was outraged recently at the news that  twenty (20) girls in 2 years from Kellits High School in Clarendon have dropped out of school due pregnancy. According to the news economic hardship was forcing many of these school girls into teenage pregnancy. This is a dangerous trend and has the potential to expose the girls to HIV/AIDS. While the society has made much positive strides in the attitude of health care workers towards those living with HIV, more needs to be done to remove the remaining discrimination which is still meted out to some persons living with the virus. Governments and Non-Governmental Organizations (NGO’s) must remain vigilant so as not to lose out on the gains made in tacking HIV/AIDS. Interestingly, the Caribbean region through Cuba is the first country to eliminate transmission of HIV from mother to baby. While is it true that we cannot legislate human sexual behavior we can in fact and must encourage a sense of sexual responsibility among the sexually active members within the society.  We all know someone who has died from AIDS-related illness or who is currently inflicted by the virus. The international community should be attentive with regards to the sustainable development goal (SDG’s) #3 which speaks about ensuring healthy lives and the promotion of well-being for all at all ages. Any society which is serious about sustainable development must also demonstrate this by implementing and providing a comprehensive health care programme to ensure their citizenry remains in good health. As a society we should not give into our personal fears which in most instances emerge as a result of our biases and lack of knowledge. We need to work assiduously to foster and engender a culture of zero-discrimination and care towards those who are impacted with HIV/AIDS, as well as strive towards empowering such individuals in their endeavours.  Let us also continue in educating the public so that the many myths about HIV/AIDS can be dispelled. On this World AIDS Day show your support by wearing a red ribbon which is the universal symbol of awareness and support for those living with HIV. 
In the words of Michel Sidibe, “now is the time to come together again and finish what we started. Let us seize this opportunity and join the fast track towards ending AIDS as a public health threat by 2030”.
Wayne Campbell is an educator and social commentator with an interest in development policies as they affect culture and or gender issues.