by Howard Campbell
KINGSTON, Jamaica – Despite electing its first female prime minister, and appointing numerous private and public sector leaders, Tanya Stephens believes the Jamaican woman has underachieved.
The singer/songwriter made this observation as International Women’s Day is celebrated globally on March 8.
“We have grown individually nationally, but as a collective I don’t see much progress,” Stephens noted.
Since the dawn of the 21st Century, Jamaica has elected Portia Simpson Miller as prime minister. The top legal posts in the country (Attorney General and Director of Public Prosecutions) are currently held by women, so too the head of the stock exchange.
Yet, Stephens thinks there is no coalition to make the woman’s impact even greater.
“The Jamaican woman is and has always been the strongest social influence nationally. Our inability to approach our desired outcome pragmatically has stunted our growth,” she reasoned. “We have chosen to use our influence to strengthen and propagate the walls and ceilings given to us by patriarchy.”
The 46 year-old Stephens has written and recorded gender-inspired songs throughout her career which began in the early 1990s. They include Yuh nuh Ready fi dis Yet, which knocks an inadequate lover, and These Streets.
Her awareness of women’s issues was one of the reasons Stephens covered the Helen Reddy anthem, I am Woman, for Gangsta Blues, her acclaimed 2006 album.
As for the Jamaican music business, which remains dominated by men, Stephens says her ‘sisters’ can have more meaningful roles “if society stopped enforcing gender roles and coaching young girls to do girly jobs.”
In terms of her professional choices, there is not much she would change.
“My career has fluctuated as normal careers do. My peaks surround my releases and when I’m not releasing I pull back,” Stephens said.