Vickie Remoe Institute of Digital Communications

Dr Yakama Jones Promotes Gender Equity In Speech at Harvard

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Dr. Yakama Jones opened the Harvard Graduate School of Education’s “Critical Unlearning to Learn” event in the build up to International Women’s Day 2024 with SierraLeone’s First Lady, H.E Dr. Fatima Maada Bio. Delivering opening remarks that stirred an intense conversation on gender equality in education,

Dr. Jones analyzed societal norms that hinder the progress of gender equality, emphasizing the transformative power of critical unlearning. Her eloquent words urged us to shed biases and preconceived notions, fostering an environment where individuals can thrive regardless of gender.


“My own path, influenced by my parents both dedicated civil servants and educationists would have been starkly different without their investment in my education. Just three years ago, I was here at the Harvard Kennedy School, learning from Prof. Ricardo Hausmann, Prof. Matt Andrews, and other faculty about how to lead economic growth, make decisions on public finance in a complex world, and so much more. Today, I am a Project Leader and Country Head for Sierra Leone at Delivery Associates Ltd, a global consulting firm helping governments and social impact organizations transform their goals into tangible results for the people they serve. In our work, we also deliver the Harvard Ministerial Leadership Programme, a joint initiative of the Chan School of Public Health, the Kennedy School of Government, and the Graduate School of Education in collaboration with Big Win Philanthropy,” Dr Jones, reflecting on her own journey.

She highlighted the importance of challenging ingrained beliefs to create an inclusive educational landscape. Her emphasis on dismantling systemic obstacles resonated as a call to action, inspiring collective efforts to redefine perspectives and foster a more equitable society.

“However, gendered social biases and norms can negatively impact the level of investment, efficiency in implementation, and the behavioral change needed to accelerate delivery across these thematic areas. In the education and skills development space, early marriage and childbearing force girls to leave school early, limiting their educational opportunities and perpetuating cycles of poverty.  Some cultural norms prioritize marriage and domestic roles and undervalue women’s education, thus reinforcing gender inequalities. Some gender-based stereotypes promote the belief that certain subjects or careers are more suitable for men while undervaluing women’s capabilities in these areas. Gender social norms and biases in economic empowerment also restrict women’s access to economic resources such as land and financial services. I cannot even start to talk about the stigma surrounding women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights.”

She encouraged everyone to be more intentional about promoting gender equity and to be honest about the realities of women and girls globally.  “Be more innovative about the solutions, be more inclusive about the approaches. It requires a systems approach and continuous effort to bring more people, especially women.”

Shedding light on this year’s campaign, ‘ Inspire Inclusion,  she explained, ” 

“I am Amujae Leader at the Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf Presidential Centre for Women and Development. Amujae means ‘we are going up’- shifting the landscape for our girls and women and moving from a culture of tokenism to one that genuinely values women leaders. It is high time we commit to unwavering advocacy and innovation in gender equity and education. We owe it to every girl who, like Miss Seray, faces an uncertain future. We owe it to ourselves and the generations to come. For every woman who rises, the world ascends with her. This is the essence of ‘Amujae’—all of us must go up!

Dr. Jones’ presence at the event was a catalyst for change, lightening the path towards a future where education transcends gender biases. Her wisdom serves as a guiding light, propelling us toward a more inclusive world where the power of critical unlearning shapes the foundation of equitable education for all.

 

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