Deepen the dialogue for people-centred development

A commentary by Women’s Resource and Outreach Centre

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

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Everymonth since June has brought our nation a horror story of a violent female killing. The gruesome details of these murders have left our collective psyche scarred with grief and disbelief. Times like these demand more from us than statements of empathy, or even outrage. These killings are a wake-up call for every agency and organisation, especially those in civil society, to get more strategic about how we implement programmes that push for positivechange.

Whether involved in the important work of violence prevention, integrity promotion, community development, maternal and infant health, gender justice, women's rights, LGBTQI advocacy, or parenting education, our seemingly separate agendas are inextricably intertwined and when combined, have the potential to achieve the broader goal of sustainable human development.

Being strategic demands that we connect the dots and forge the interconnections; it means building principled partnerships also with the public and private sectors, especially where our interests converge around the agenda for promoting human rights and development with equity in our nation.

Since its establishment, symbolically on International Women's Day, March 8, in 1983, the Women's Resource and Outreach Centre (WROC) has been championing rights of Jamaica's women and girls. WROC's mission remains grounded in human rights, promoting gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls through engagement in economic, social and political life in the family, community and nation.

However, we recognise that the Jamaica that existed at WROC's founding over 30 years ago, and the Jamaica we live in today are, in important ways, different landscapes; and despite many civil society efforts, the majority of people have not seen the far-reaching changes in our lives that we expected and hoped for.

This why we in the Friends of WROC family are convinced that the onus is on every well-thinking organisation to ensure our continued impact and relevance, not only by constant self-evaluation, but also by advocating the kind of development framework that will enable the fruits of our labours to be evident in positive changes in citizens' lives — a people-first development paradigm.

On August 16, 2018, WROC launched its Strategic Plan 2018-2021. Executive Director Nikeisha Sewell Lewis summed it up perfectly when she said, “This strategic plan represents promises that we have made to the community — and to ourselves.”

This strategic plan comes after much self-interrogation, and a renewal of our commitment to ensuring that the Jamaica of tomorrow will be better than the Jamaica of today. We want to see widespread positive governance and organisational transformation, resource and enterprise development, increased research, advocacy and communications, and community capacity building. And, of course, a sense of hope among more Jamaicans.

Our current projects include: a weekly senior citizens' club; a National Integrity Action-funded community capacity-building project focused on 'Strengthening the Culture of Integrity in Jamaica'; an advocacy development project under the PROMAC banner, funded by the EU and in partnership with the University of the West Indies, aimed at strengthening patients' rights in maternal, neonatal and infant health; and our ongoing general gender advocacy work.

We are doing our part, but we are very aware that we do not work in isolation. There are many civil society organisations in Jamaica doing work that is similar and complementary to our own. If transformation is to come, we must all synergise and synchronise our efforts.

That is why we are happy to start this column in theJamaica Observertoday. It is a medium through which we can raise our voice as a 30-year-old NGO, and a platform through which we can facilitate the voices of individuals and organisations from civil society in order to strengthen 'advocacy for women's rights and sustainable people-centred development'. There are so many topics to discuss, and so many ways in which CSOs must help chart the future forward for the people of this nation.

Such work and the discussion around it is the only way to ensure that the stories of Shanoya Wray, Khyhymn Campbell, Yetanya Francis and Kadijah Saunders can summon us to a resolve to talk and to act. This is why this column is relevant. Let the dialogue and learning, and the unified action move forward to a new stage.

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