An overwhelming crowd and exciting audience of peers and male supporters supported the official Launch of the newly formed not-for-profit organization, Jamaican Women of Florida, Inc., (JWOF) last Friday (Apr. 19) at a luncheon held at the Broward Convention Center, Fort Lauderdale.
“The best is yet to come” stated the President, attorney and community activist, Dahlia Walker Huntington, who spoke of the enthusiasm, dynamism and involvement of the almost twenty (20) founding members from the inception of the organization, last October. With a structured board of six directors for a two-year term, the JWOF group of dedicated women is moving forward with energized momentum and focus embarking on their mission to mentor, while providing avenues for youth education and career development, as they commit to improving the lives of our next generation.
Made up of women in all spheres of leadership and professional positions, “JWOF will also focus on taking care of ourselves” according to Walker Huntington, through networking and personal development on issues such as financial/retirement security, health and wellness, family enrichment, political empowerment and equally important, bonding and sisterhood.
Alluding to the timeliness of JWOF’s formation, President Walker Huntington boasted of the history of strong Jamaican women paying tribute to trailblazers including the nation’s only female national hero, Nanny. Then, she celebrated those presently in leadership including Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller, and Jamaica’s Consul General to the Southern USA, Sandra Grant Griffiths, followed by female heads of major Jamaican corporations in Florida, Jamaica National Building Society and the JN Money Transfer – Janice McIntosh and Carmen Bartlett; Suzette Rochester of Victoria Mutual Building Society (VMBS); Grace Kennedy and the GK Money Services - Joy Thomas and Hazel Maragh.
Guest speaker, also a trailblazer for the advancement of women’s rights, Beverley Manley Duncan electrified the audience with her message of hope and endurance. Social activist and gender specialist, Jamaica’s former first lady continues to champion women’s rights through her involvement with local, regional and international organizations.
With intent to empower Jamaican women, giving back to the next generation, pooling resources and talents, Manley Duncan reiterated that the women of JWOF and their supporters to pursue their goals as leaders, passionately, fearlessly and courageously, “using barriers as opportunities” she emphasized.
Citing from her own leadership experiences, Mrs. Manley Duncan, as a unifying force, said “we must not walk this journey alone, but be different together” as she inspired them to build stronger communities collaborating ideas, dreams and visions.
Described as a visionary, she became a leading advocate for women and children during her role as first lady, then as former wife to the late Prime Minister of Jamaica, Hon. Michael Manley. She was instrumental in the establishment of the Jamaican Bureau of Women’s Affairs, one of the earliest such institutions in the world; and the passing of legislation for Maternity Leave with Pay; and Equal Pay for Equal Work; and the changing of legislation that discriminated against women and children. Other successful outcomes on her part included the establishment of a Day Care Programme for Jamaican children, with the construction and operation of such a facility on the grounds of the Prime Minister’s official residence.
Consul General Grant Griffiths endorsing the team of women leaders, described JWOF as a service group which underpins philanthropy, volunteerism and “will undoubtedly be the beacon guiding the activism and commitment of the Jamaican women of Florida.”
As Honorary Chair of the newly established women’s organization, the Consul General said that the collective effort transcends and incorporates women who belong to a variety of social and professional groups knitting themselves into an organization that will make a difference in these very special times.
Wayne Golding, Orlando based attorney, and community advocate for the Jamaican Diaspora in the Central Florida region, paid tribute to the JWOF as he publicly lauded the efforts of the women he described as accomplished in their own rights, and simultaneously pledging the support of the comradeship of men folk in our community.
The lunch program was chaired by educator Heather Russell, Ph.D., English Professor, Florida International University (FIU). Other JWOF members participating in the program included Ms. Suzette Rochester, presenting the invocation while the acknowledgments were presented by banking executive, Ms. Lisa Narcisse and creative consultant Ms. Karen Vick.
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Cheryl Wynter (954-559-3955)