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An important technological development to enhance food security by a group of 4 Jamaican university students has been touted by the EU Ambassador to Jamaica as an example of how technology-driven innovations could address gender inequities and enhance the lives of women and girls.
"In one display [the students] showed the world how diversity, inclusivity, innovation and technology could be transformative," stated Ambassador Malgorzata Wasilewska, Head, EU Delegation to Jamaica, at a symposium on March 8 to mark #InternationalWomensDay2019 at the Jamaica Conference Centre in Kingston.
Juleen Gentles, computing student at the University of Technology (UTech); Odain Brown and Joshua Thompson, computer science students at UTech; and Chinelle Miller, medical science student at the University of the West Indies, last year won at the 'Hack Against Hunger' Hackathon at the UN World Summit on Information Technology in Switzerland. Their map-based web application would allow farmers and other stakeholders to view the distribution of crops, diseases, pest infestation, praedial larceny among other issues.
Pointing to the students' work, Wasilewska told hundreds of mostly women participants drawn from several areas of national life including the essential services like the fire brigade and the police, that the such innovative work demonstrated the global theme of this year's IWD – "Think Equal, Build Smart, Innovate for Change" with the sub-theme, #BalanceForBetter".
"Consider that women are the primary farmers and producers in a large part of the world; in fact they make up approximately 43% of the agricultural work force. But their work largely goes unrecognised. Consider as well that an FAO study suggests that if women had the same access to productive resources as men, the production of their farms would increase by 20-30%," the ambassador asked.
Continuing, she said: Now, if women are farmers in large numbers, and in Jamaica in particular, are key providers dependent on farming – imagine the effects when their work is more recognised, and activities like praedial larceny are more effectively deterred? The benefits go to reducing abuse, education provision for children, increased bargaining power for women.
"Just this one development by the university students at the Hackathon has the potential for significant positive impacts," she added, noting that EU has been emphasising the #BalanceForBetter principle by including gender in all areas of cooperation with countries like Jamaica.
"We support the inclusion of gender in justice, gender in climate change, gender in public finance management, in human rights, civil society actions, poverty reduction, health and decades of action in agriculture,"Wasilewska said.
The symposium was organised by Jamaica's Bureau of Gender Affairs in partnership with the High Commission of Canada in Jamaica and the European Union.
Last year, the EU Delegation, in partnership with UN Women and the International Labour Organisation launched the Jamaica-leg of the 'Win-Win: Gender equality means good business' to promote gender equality through the private sector and increase women’s economic empowerment and leadership as the basis for sustainable, inclusive and equitable growth.
Speakers at the symposium related their different experiences in rising above barriers, urging the participants not to settle for less than they deserve. Julia Davis Buckle, who recently became the first assistant commissioner in the Jamaica Fire Brigade, albeit acting, said the brigade was an example of the gender mainstream. She commended the leadership of the fire service for implementing policies to support women.