Some of the strongest and most inspiring women I have met over the past seventeen years are women who have been seeking justice for relatives who have been killed by members of the security forces here in Jamaica. Mothers, grandmothers, sisters, wives, baby mothers, girlfriends, daughters seeking justice for sons and grandsons, daughters and mothers, brothers and fathers, husbands, baby fathers, boyfriends, friends. More often than not their relatives have been shot and killed by the police; though sometimes they have been killed by soldiers and sometimes they have been killed other than by gunshots.
Women like Jenny Cameron, Leonie Marshall, Monica Williams, Millicent Forbes, Joan McKoy, Paulette Rose, Meloney Lewis, Paulette Wellington. Perhaps I shouldn’t have named any of the women, because in doing so, I leave out so many, many more who have also shown and continue to show tremendous courage and determination, through their grief, in the face of direct threats and intimidation, over years of navigating the frustrating justice system and often with an additional, lingering stigma when a relative has been killed by the police.
Many of these women have spoken out publicly, calling for justice for their relatives and also for other families. In a radio interview recently, Shackelia Jackson – whose brother was killed by the police in 2014 and who has become a strong activist since – spoke about the importance of the voices of family members. And this is so true. When victims and their families speak about their experiences, it carries a particular power and impact.
Today, on International Women’s Day, I want to acknowledge with respect all these women who have, in particularly difficult situations, shown such strength in their stand for justice.