Seven powerhouse women making a difference

Keisha Hill
Keisha Hill

March 28, 2022

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Achieving gender equality and empowering women and girls is the unfinished business of our time, and the greatest human rights challenge in our world. However, history is filled with women who have defied the norms and persisted in claiming their leadership roles. So, here is a novel concept. What if we told you that these women are not allowing age or gender bias to stand in their way? Here are seven women who are leading the way, and they are not showing any signs of slowing down anytime soon.

Professor Celia Christie-Samuels

Professor of paediatrics (infectious diseases, epidemiology and public health) at The University of the West Indies (UWI), Mona campus, and senior consultant paediatrician, the University Hospital of the West Indies (UHWI)

When cases of COVID-19 were confirmed in Jamaica in March 2020, under the adroit leadership of Professor Celia Christie, the clinical outcome research team at the UHWI rapidly designed and conducted ambispective studies to understand and describe the clinical features of the disease among children and adults admitted at the hospital. The studies enabled improved clinical identification and development of best practices for COVID-19 in children and adults admitted at the UHWI and contributed to national policy in Jamaica and global health knowledge. Before COVID-19, Christie-Samuels collaborated with the Ministry of Health and Wellness to reduce perinatal HIV/AIDS transmission and established the national Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission programme. Her work in HIV, and now COVID-19, has gained international recognition.

Uki Atkinson

Research analyst at the Ministry of Health and Wellness’ National Council on Drug Abuse (NCDA)

Uki Atkinson was instrumental in developing mental health programming to arm over 150 Jamaican mental health professionals with the tools to treat dually diagnosed mental illness and substance misuse patients. She led the development of a public education campaign on COVID-19 and substance use, resulting in exponential increases in awareness and utilisation of drug treatment services during the pandemic.
As an advocate for preventive programmes, she has helped provide schools, counsellors, and parents with the knowledge and skills necessary to help prevent drug abuse among children. Through the NCDA, Atkinson has contributed to the Government’s efforts to prevent drug abuse among children and the general population.

Audery McNeil

Audrey McNeil is the coordinator of the international maritime security platform known as the International Ship and Port Facility Security programme, which is based on a code developed by the International Maritime Organization. This code is the shipping industry’s response to the ongoing threat of terrorism because of the 9/11 terrorist attack and its resulting effects on the airline industry. The PAJ is the designated authority responsible for ensuring all ports engaged in international trade are certified and remain compliant with the regulations. There are currently 21 ports certified under the code, and without this certification, they would not be able to trade internationally. McNeil’s role contributes to the growth of the shipping industry.

Chenee Russell Robinson

Manager, TIP Secretariat, Ministry of National Security

Chenee Russell Robinson coordinates the Ministry of National Security’s trafficking-in-persons efforts and has been an invaluable partner in achieving objectives under the United States Jamaica Child Protection Compact (CPC), a multi-year partnership to combat child trafficking.
She has ensured effective communication between CPC implementing partners and members of Jamaica’s National Task Force Against Trafficking in Persons. Robinson was instrumental in launching Jamaica’s trafficking in persons handbook and the first child-friendly space on the island.

Adenike Stephenson

Project manager, Positive Youth Transformation project

Adenike Stephenson was the hands and feet behind the successful Positive Youth Transformation project in Montego Bay, St James. Some 80 at-risk youth benefited from intensive interventions to reduce their risk of becoming involved in crime and violence, while affording them a livelihood.
Stephenson’s in-depth expertise in youth engagement and crime prevention facilitated a robust and rounded intervention strategy – youth benefiting from a suite of psychosocial interventions, balanced with vocational skills training, job placement and entrepreneurship development.
The results were astounding, with 90 per cent of the beneficiaries remaining in the project at closing, and 75 per cent reflecting significantly reduced risk factors; 17 youth securing permanent employment; and 19 youth successfully completing business development training and starting their own businesses.

Beverley Lashley

National librarian, National Library of Jamaica (NLJ)

Beverley Lashley is the national librarian at the NLJ, the first public library of its kind in Jamaica, which began operations in 1879 when the Institute of Jamaica was established for the encouragement of literature, science and art.
Lashley is a former deputy librarian at the UWI, Mona library and has served the profession unwaveringly for over 40 years. She leads and coordinates the Jamaica Libraries and Information Network and represents the NLJ locally and internationally, showcasing the NLJ programmes and services.

Kiran Maharaj

Co-founder of the Media Institute of the Caribbean and founder of the Caribbean Investigative Journalism Network

Kiran Maharaj is the president and co-founder of the non-profit Media Institute of the Caribbean and founder of the Caribbean Investigative Journalism Network.
Maharaj began her career in media as a freelance journalist with local newspapers and magazines in Trinidad and Tobago. Her passion for journalism eventually led her to become a freelance correspondent for CNN World Report for two years. She has also worked in film as a line producer and has experience with film production and scriptwriting. Now, with over 25 years of experience in media and entertainment, Maharaj is also the founder of the world’s first radio station for women, Heartbeat Radio 103.5 FM, located in Trinidad and Tobago. She is managing director of Caribbean Lifestyle Communications Media Network, which comprises Music Radio 97, Radio 90.5 and Heartbeat 104.1, Caribbean Lifestyle Productions, and VA Films and Production Company.
In 2006, Maharaj was awarded a fellowship in broadcast leadership and management from the National Association of Broadcasters in Washington, DC and remains the only non-US citizen selected to be part of their programme.

Keisha Hill


Keisha Hill


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