Jamaica: Earning a quick dollar in the ghetto makeover


Ria Bacon photographed these young women in December 2006 on Barbican Road in Kingston, Jamaica. As she explains on her blog:

In the week before Christmas, many of the poorer areas of Kingston get a quick makeover, as hundreds of local residents hack at overgrown pavements and daub the kerbs with whitewash. They are motivated not by a spontaneous burst of civic pride, but rather by the promise of a day’s work, usually paid for by the local politician. For some, it will be one of a few rare days of paid employment each year. It is noticeable, but not surprising, that most of the workers are women.

Although J$1,000 per day is surely welcome at this time of year, it does little to break the culture of clientelism and certainly falls short of providing long-term benefit to the individuals or the community.

As the Jamaican-Chinese proverb says:

Give a gyal a brush an’ she paint for a day. Give ‘er a heducation, a microcredit loan, a clean and safe environment

Ah man! Jus’ give ‘er de damn brush, y’hear?!

Parliamentary elections in Jamaica are due by October 2007.


  • jordan

    these women look happy but it seems like a kind of mafia set-up in which they have little choice but to participate in the civic activities…what are all the men doing?

    how did you get the jamaican-chinese connection for the proverb?

  • Jordan –

    The blogger is saying that these jobs are given out as a sort of hand-out to appease the members of poor communities — whether or not one wants to call that a “mafia set-up” probably depends on one’s point of view!

    She notes that it’s “not surprising” that the workers are women, because in the Caribbean (and many other countries in the “developing” world) women often tend to be the ones engaging in manual labour.

    I think the blogger means the Jamaican-Chinese proverb as a joke, but Jamaica does have a fairly substantial Chinese community.

  • It’s great to see the cleanup happening in kingston. I am proud of the people in Jamaica for the work they have done especially the woman.

  • testing comments

  • […] 原文:Jamaica:Earning a quick dollar in the ghetto makeover作者:Geogia Popplewell翻译:rungheng校稿:Portnoy […]

  • It’s not just the poorer areas of Kingston – it’s something that takes place across the island and happens every Christmas and when elections are nigh. It’s usually flimsily disguised as a “beautification program” but everyone knows exactly what it is.

  • Orrett

    I concur with Nigel. It happen the island over, however, not as much in the more affluent neighbourhoods, presumably because most of these are well-kept anyway. And, yes, we all know what it’s about…a really weak attempt by politicians to score points with the poor masses. Sad, sad state

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