Commentary: Women making history in Jamaica

The year 2002 is already shaping up to be a watershed year in Jamaica. In the first instance, for the first time in the country’s political history, four political parties will be contesting the upcoming general elections, with not just one but two of these political parties headed by women!

For anyone who knows Jamaica’s often turbulent and highly tribalized politics, this is nothing short of an amazing state of affairs, given that throughout the political history of independent Jamaica, the country’s affairs have been dominated by two main political parties and all attempts at a third party have failed. Until now. The two women who are inexorably changing the face of Jamaica’s politics are Hyacinth Bennett, newly-elected leader of the six-year-old National Democratic Movement (NDM) and Antonnette Haughton-Cardenas, leader and founder of the newly-formed United People’s Party (UPP). Both women are featured in the February-March 2002 issue of Woman To Woman magazine. (

And to add more excitement to the mix, all this is occurring in an election year, when the electorate is expecting to go to the polls at some time yet to be announced by the prime minister (who has the only say-so, but who has committed to an election this year) even as the country observes its 40th anniversary of political independence.

This is undoubtedly an extraordinary confluence of events! It is for these and other equally significant reasons that International Women’s Day (IWD) 2002 will have special meaning in Jamaica. Already, the Bureau of Women’s Affairs has set things in motion with the world premiere in February of a feature film about domestic violence, called “Starting Over.” And, as usual on IWD in Jamaica as elsewhere, a host of activities will mark the day’s observance. You can read more about these in our News & Trends section of our online magazine.