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Portia Simpson-Miller Takes Over as Jamaica’s First Woman Prime Minister

Jamaica’s first woman prime minister was sworn in yesterday at a ceremony in Kingston, the nation’s capital. “The swearing-in of the honorable Portia Simpson-Miller as the seventh prime minister of Jamaica must certainly rank among the defining moments in the history of this country,” said Jamaican Governor-General Kenneth Hall, speaking to a crowd of 6,000. Simpson-Miller, Jamaica’s Minister of Local Government and Sport since 2002, takes the reins from Percival James Patterson, who defeated Simpson-Miller in her first bid for the position in 1992.

Women’s political advocacy groups such as the Jamaica Women’s Political Caucus (JWPC) are hailing Simpson-Miller’s victory because they believe she will work to wrest power away from the neighborhood gang leaders, called dons. Simpson-Miller promised to introduce anti-crime legislation and use a new statistical data system to monitor gang activity.

Under Simpson-Miller, the JWPC expects non-governmental organizations to play a greater role in attacking Jamaica’s social ills, such as rampant unemployment and violent crime. “What we want her to do is strengthen the partnerships between civil societies and government,” says Joan Browne, public relations officer at JWPC, in an interview with Ms. magazine. As Governor-General Hall remarked at the inauguration ceremony, addressing Simpson-Miller, “You are now the symbol of hope to many with noble expectations.”

Sources:

Webcast of Inauguration Ceremony, 3/30/06; Ms. magazine interview 3/30/06; Jamaica Gleaner 3/26/06

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