On Friday March 29, the Bureau of Gender Affairs launched their latest program to wipe out gender based biases and violence. The programme, entitled the Gender Ambassadors Programme (GAP) will see two students from each of the participating schools be gender focal points. Single sex schools will have one representative.
The programme was created as another arm of the gender mainstreaming that the Bureau has embarked on. Mrs. Sharon Cobourn Robinson explains gender mainstreaming to mean “Everything you do, you must have a gender component. Whether you are creating a policy, a programme, a plan, a project, you must consider how men and women, how boys and girls will walk away from that experience, taking something specific from that experience.” She continued to explain gender mainstreaming in the following way;
Mrs. Coburn Robinson went on to talk about violence in our schools and stated that one of the main reasons for this launch is to reiterate to students that at no time is violence “OK”. “Violence is totally unacceptable, unappreciated, and not tolerated at any place, in any time, at any point in the life cycle.” She continued to clarify that gender roles don’t put tags on tasks that have to be done by a boy or a girl. This way we train our boys and girls to be efficiently autonomous.
State Minister in the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information, Alando Terrelonge addressed the audience with a spirited, down to earth speech which easily resonated. He explained that the overall question of gender includes the representation of “both sexes in political, economic and social spheres.” He made sure to point out the social imbalance between men and women in our society. He also recognized that women have it twice as hard in our society than men. To make his point he highlighted that women have to deal with male chauvinistic attitudes, but they also have to defend themselves against women who buy into the stereotypes of the male chauvinistic society.
State Minister Terrelonge went on with his message supporting the launch of the programme as an important shot in the arm for breaking down unhealthy gender norms.
The Honourable Olivia Grange, CD, MP Minister of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport charged the Gender Ambassadors to think bravely about their responsibilities. From all angles, her speech was raw, focusing on the reality of becoming such an ambassador. She stated that it is not about using power to overcome someone else but about “working together harmoniously. “
The Minister’s message highlited that the activity of the Gender Ambassador’s Programme, keeps with the four guiding principles of the national policy of gender equality. The four principles are
- Gender equality and social Justice
- Political Leadership and Commitment
- Multi-sectorial approach and partnerships
- Participatory approach
She went on to express her confidence in the Ambassadors as being committed to making a positive difference in their schools and communities. She also charged the Ambassadors to challenge harmful gender ‘norms’ and stereotypes. She also commended each participant for taking the initiative of filling positions within the GAP.
The Minister left the audience and especially the Ambassadors with a quote from Michelle Obama. She wanted everyone to think about it and apply it to their own life; ” You may not always have a comfortable life and you will not always be able to solve all of the world’s problems at once but don’t ever underestimate the importance you can have because history has shown us that courage can be contagious and hope can take on a life of its own.”