We asked women: “How have you been using your own sphere of influence, and are rising to the challenge to create a space for your voice, as well as that of other women and girls, to be heard?”
SHARON DONALDSON, MANAGING DIRECTOR OF THE GENERAL ACCIDENT INSURANCE GROUP OF COMPANIES
Sharon Donaldson is credited with driving growth and overseeing prudent underwriting and risk management strategies within the company. Donaldson has been with the company for over 20 years, first joining as the financial controller in 1989 before becoming managing director in 2001.
In addition to her responsibilities at the company, Donaldson is a director of Musson (Jamaica) Limited and the current president of the Insurance Association of Jamaica.
Donaldson holds an LLB from the University of London, and an MBA from the University of Wales. She is a chartered accountant, a fellow member of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Jamaica, and an attorney at law.
How has she been using her own sphere of influence, and is rising to the challenge to create a space for women and girls?
“I’m someone from rural Jamaica, and I’m all too aware of the challenges faced by young people, especially women and girls, in building successful careers and families. I’ve been lucky to have some amazing mentors in my life, people who encouraged and supported me, at various stages of my own business journey. I put quite a bit of effort into educating and mentoring young Jamaicans, those who work with me, those I’ve encountered due to my long interest in sports and those I teach in the classroom. I’m still a teacher at heart,” she shared.
“All of us benefit from someone who believes in us and I try to be that person as often as I can. As for my voice, in my new role as president of the Insurance Association of Jamaica, I have set a goal to build insurance literacy. The insurance industry has not done a great job in communicating what an important role we play in national development, and I am hoping to change that.”
STACY-ANN SMITH, AUTHOR, SPEAKER, COMMUNICATIONS SPECIALIST & CEO, DANRAK PRODUCTIONS
“Life’s challenges are gifts that help to build muscles you wouldn’t otherwise have used; and I’ve been fortunate to have had several character developing challenges which have served to teach me invaluable lessons. From my platform as executive producer of the TV talk show It’s A Woman’s World, to my book Time Does Not Heal, I have been sharing some of those lessons over the last few years to empower and inspire women and girls to walk into their greatness.
Through my latest initiative – a programme called ‘Hello Beautiful, Be Amazing’, launched on International Day of the Girl in October 2022, I have been engaging high school girls to first of all inspire confidence and motivate them to embrace and strive towards their ‘amazing’, whatever that looks like for them. With partners from the Jamaica Constabulary Force who tell the girls how to stay safe, and speakers from the VM Group who promote financial literacy to power their goals, Hello Beautiful, Be Amazing has been championing a more rounded education for our girls rooted in the values of love, self-respect, faith and hope for an amazing future no matter their background or current prospects.
So far, we have impacted more than 1000 students at six schools across Kingston & St Andrew and St Catherine, who have engaged the content both in person and online. Harnessing the power of social media, Hello Beautiful, Be Amazing has reached more than 40,000 accounts on Instagram. Indeed, the programme has been embracing equity and championing the rights of women and girls to explore and pursue their full potential for not just their own personal growth, but also for the transformation of the nation.”
DR DEANNA ASHLEY, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF THE VIOLENCE PREVENTION ALLIANCE (VPA)
For the past 19 years, Dr Ashley has led the VPA and with a small dedicated team spearheaded several intervention programmes aimed at encouraging individuals to resolving conflicts peaceful.
Some of these VPA interventions include CAMP Cornwall, a child centred initiative at the Cornwall Regional Hospital, which is aimed at identifying children and youth with violence related injuries and seeking interventions for them that will support their emotional and mental well-being; the Child Resiliency Programme, which is geared to rescue ‘at risk’ children exposed to violence or who have behavioural problems; and the Drum Therapy, which was implemented in some children’s homes during the COVID-19 pandemic to reduce tension, anxiety and stress among wards of the state.
Dr Ashley is a retired director of Health Promotion and Protection Division at the Ministry of Health which she served with distinction from 1970-2006. She is a paediatrician and public health specialist and has worked as paediatric clinician, a parish medical officer of health, senior medical officer for maternal and child health and primary care, and principal medical officer for secondary and tertiary care. Her outstanding service in health was recognised with two national honours—the Order of Distinction (OD) 1983 for her work in the 1982 polio epidemic and the Commander of Distinction (CD) in 2005 for her contribution to the health services . She was recognised by the Women’s Leadership Initiative in 2012 as one of three women to make a significant contribution in shifting the paradigm and cultivating a systems approach to public health and violence prevention.
“As someone who believes in the importance of the development of children and youth, I invest my time to support many young persons through my work at my alma mater, St Andrew High School for Girls. As a director and former chairperson of the St Andrew High School Foundation, I have provided expertise to support the development of the students and the school’s facilities to ensure the provision of excellent education opportunities,” she shared.
“Although I have no children of my own, through my interest in children and young persons I have many ‘adopted children’ who I have nurtured and guided into well-adjusted adults, who are now giving back to help other children and youths to grow into responsible and productive adults.”