Katie Tanner, Political Science major at WCU, talked about the oppression of third world women in countries – specifically Jamaica – during her presentation of “Making a Difference for Third World Women” in the WCU Women’s Center on Monday, March 27, at 6 p.m. Tanner visited Yallahs and Morant Bay in Jamaica in June of 2005, with two current Temple University students and a Temple University alumni working with a program called the Center for Global Understanding. During their visit, they aided local groups in teaching local teachers how to use computers. The group also tried to donate at least one computer to each school or church.
School sessions were held in local community church buildings and mothers volunteered their time to teach students under the high school level. These mothers and other local women volunteered their time to educate children, but in most cases were never fully educated themselves. Women in Jamaica are socially excluded from the profitable job pool such as the market place and industry work. Much of Tanner’s discussion focused on the plight of these women.
“All of my personal experiences and facts are solely based in Jamaica. I don’t mean to undermine the plight of other women in third world countries, but I experienced this oppression first hand,” Tanner said.
For approximately 103 years, Jamaica has held the title of the highest pregnancy rate among teens aged 13 to 18. According to Tanner, for women in Jamaica, the only way to prove to parents and the community that a girl is an adult is to become pregnant, but once the school has found out that they are with child, they are expelled. Successful births are recorded as young as nine years old in Jamaica.
If a Jamaican teen mother wishes to further her education, her only option is to apply to a local women’s center where the yearly tuition is $1000. But even in the women’s center, girls are pushed towards learning work skills such as sewing, food service and cleaning instead of learning to read and write.
Public education isn’t free either: children’s families must be able to pay for uniforms, books and lunches. If a child’s family cannot afford lunch, the child sits in the corner while the others eat.
“When we visited one of the schools, I saw a group of maybe 30 kids sitting in a corner crying. When I approached them a little girl pulled on my pants and kept repeating ‘Miss, me hungry, feed me please,'” Tanner confirmed.
According to Tanner, marriage in Jamaica is not a strong institution and women are left to raise, on average, a household of three children. Women with no education and no work experience were left to walk 25 miles to a deep forest that locals referred to as the “Land of Look Behind” to hunt for mangos to sell in the market to raise enough money to return home with food.
Tanner ended her presentation with the images she remembers on her drive into the city. “I remember seeing garbage piled on the streets, kids chasing goats that they would later eat and the same kids bathing in dirty water puddles on the side of the road. Mothers would be standing outside of their one room tin shack with one hand on the roof so it wouldn’t blow away.” She continued in reflection by saying, “I never felt so fortunate to be what we consider an unfortunate American.”
Tanner has plans to return to Jamaica this summer to further her education about the women’s plight and also aid in any way she can.