Kingston, 1 February 2023 (Parliament Communications) – The Jamaican Parliament has established a Bicameral Caucus of Women Parliamentarians following Friday’s approval by the Senate of an amendment of the Standing Orders of the Senate to establish a Caucus of Women Parliamentarians as a Sessional Select Committee. This amendment brings to five (5) the number of sessional select committees of the Senate. This follows a similar move by the House of Representatives on December 14, 2022. The Senate Caucus will sit jointly with the House Caucus of Women Parliamentarians.
The measure was approved following rigorous debate.
In opening the debate in the Senate, Senator the Honourable Kamina Johnson Smith, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade and Leader of Government Business in the Senate, stated:
“The time is right to create a space to coalesce around women’s issues to focus on those that are important for us to thrive as citizens of this country …As women parliamentarians, a greater responsibility does rest on us to ensure that the needs of our girls and women in society are reflected in legislative work and we believe that a body of this nature will help us to meet this responsibility.”
Similar sentiments were expressed by Senator Gabriela Morris, Opposition Senator who stated:
“The caucus is necessary, it is a progressive move, not just for this parliament but for this country. It sends a signal that despite the competitive nature of the political sphere, we can come together for collective action towards a common goal and one of these common goals is Sustainable Development Goal #5 which speaks to the achievement of gender equality.”
For her part, the Honourable Olivia Grange, Minister of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport, who moved the motion in the House of Representatives, expressed her elation. Min. Grange stated:
“The amendments of the Standing Orders in both Houses which allows for this Bicameral Women’s Caucus shows that as leaders of this country we are committed to ensuring that the vulnerable groups in our society have a voice and that their issues are heard and addressed. I am elated that we were able to accomplish this feat, but this is but the first step towards the transformational work that will be accomplished through the work and representation of this women’s caucus.”
She continued, “I wish to commend my colleague women parliamentarians from both sides of the upper and lower house for their tremendous effort and commitment to this non-partisan women's caucus. I must also recognise and thank all the male parliamentarians who voted in support of establishing this Caucus as a sessional committee of parliament. It is truly historic.”
Minister Grange added, “I must also offer full respect to our male counterparts here in parliament for their support in all causes regarding the welfare of our women.”
The objectives of the Bicameral Caucus include facilitating networking, building solidarity, and promoting constructive dialogue on issues of importance among women parliamentarians across party lines and Chambers and providing Caucus members with professional development opportunities to further strengthen their leadership and their capacities to participate in the legislative process in a gender-responsive manner.