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Jamaica: Earning a quick dollar in the ghetto makeover

Categories: Caribbean, Jamaica, Economics & Business, Governance, Labor, Politics, Women & Gender


Ria Bacon photographed these young women [1] in December 2006 on Barbican Road in Kingston, Jamaica. As she explains on her blog [2]:

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 [3] 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 [4] are due by October 2007.