I am so distraught and upset at how all this has played out and I like many other older advocates and volunteers now feel we waisted our time in service just to watch poor management and unethical actions wipe out the results though incremental wiped out before our eyes as we have been set back psychologically some ten years, so much has happened in between the Bain issue and now in just one month exactly as it was May 18 that the former matter broke in the newspapers.
Jermaine Francis & Gary Spaulding, Gleaner Writers
With concerns mounting yesterday over the involvement of Jamaicans for Justice (JFJ) in an explicitly worded sex-education programme, the human-rights lobby's former executive director, Dr Carolyn Gomes, has resigned as a member of its board.
JFJ has also rushed to apologise for the inclusion of the controversial content in the training course it implemented in six private children's homes eight months ago.
Word of Gomes' departure came after a meeting with the JFJ board, which accepted her resignation.
When contacted yesterday for a response to the issues surrounding the sex education course, Gomes curtly replied in a text to The Gleaner: "I am not authorised to speak for JFJ."
In April 2013, Gomes negotiated and signed the Caribbean Vulnerable Communities (CVC) Coalition contract for the contentious programme in her capacity as JFJ executive director.
In this role, Gomes, who now heads the CVC, reportedly had responsibility for developing the programme's content; negotiating the partnership agreements with the Jamaica Family Planning Association (FAMPLAN) and with the children's homes' administrators; and rolling it out to the facilities.
She was also responsible for all the administrative functions the programme required.
Gomes supervised the programme until her resignation as JFJ executive director in December 2013.
The latest events, including the JFJ's apology, come nearly a month after the May conclusion of the controversial course.
It was previously believed that the course had been scheduled to be completed next month, leading Youth Minister Lisa Hanna to, on Monday, order its immediate halt.
The CVC Coalition, which serves as the umbrella group for the project, has also responded to the furore, which began with a Sunday Gleanerreport and continued when The Gleaner yesterday revealed elements of the course that were being taught to state wards age 12 to 18.
While it stressed that neither the Global Fund nor the CVC Coalition dictates the final training curriculum of any project, the organisation said in a release over the names of Veronica Cenac, a CVC board member, and John Waters, the group's co-chair, that the project was implemented by JFJ, with funding from the CVC under the PANCAP Global Fund Project.
"Neither the Global Fund nor CVC dictates the final training curriculum of any project," the coalition said in the release.
"The CVC component of the PANCAP Global Fund Project (Phase 1) has already been evaluated independently and adjudged to be of the highest standard in addressing the critical determinants among populations vulnerable to the HIV epidemic. The project has been commended for its work with vulnerable groups by the Office of the Inspector General of the Global Fund to Fight Tuberculosis, Malaria, and HIV."
JFJ ACCEPTS RESPONSIBILITY
Yesterday, the JFJ unreservedly apologised for the controversial material injected into the curriculum titled 'The Healthy Sexual Growth and Development in Marginalised Youth: Rights, Responsibilities, and Life Skills'.
"Following recent media discussions that JFJ has been providing age-inappropriate content to children in six children's homes … the JFJ Board of Directors accepts full and unconditional responsibility for not vetting the programme content and its release," stated the JFJ in a statement late yesterday.
The human-rights group said it has also extended an apology to its programme partner, FAMPLAN, which, it stated, was unaware of the inclusion of the controversial material.
"We also apologise to our other stakeholders for not first clearing with them the programme content prior to its release," the release stated.
JFJ claimed it acknowledged that a breakdown in its "usually scrupulous in-house vetting regime" had occurred.
"JFJ wishes to assure the public and its stakeholders that immediate safeguards have been reinstituted to mitigate against any recurrence of the kind," the release stated.
The JFJ said it was continuing an internal review of the entire matter and would, at the earliest opportunity, advise the public as to the result of the review and the remedial action that would be implemented.
Yesterday, civic group Jamaica Coalition for a Healthy Society said it was "incensed, but not surprised, at the recent news reports of unsolicited and unauthorised interventions by JFJ and the CVC in several Jamaican children's homes".
I am not authorised to speak for JFJ.
Yesterday's Gleaner Headline only sought to muddy the waters even further on "Indecent Exposure"
The story read in part
"THERE ARE signs emerging that the sexual education course introduced into six private children’s homes by human-rights group Jamaicans for Justice (JFJ) was hijacked by gay-rights promoters. The target group of the project was approximately 120 children aged 12 to 17 who are current wards at the Jamaica National Children’s Home, St John’s Bosco Home, Elsie Bernard Girls’ Home, Sunbeam Home for Boys, and Alpha Boys’ Home.
The programme, titled ‘Realising Sexual and Reproductive Health Responsibly: JFJ’s Pilot Intervention in Children’s Homes’, for which content was originally provided by the Jamaica Family Planning Association (FAMPLAN), was funded by the Caribbean Vulnerable Communities (CVC). Youth Minister Lisa Hanna has ordered that the six homes be told to end the course immediately. “Last year, JFJ applied for funding to support their work in children’s homes with the delivery of human-rights training in the area of sexual and reproductive health,” revealed St Rachel Ustanny, chief executive officer of FAMPLAN. “We were approached and we had an existing PowerPoint presentation laid out in an eight-module format with about six specific topics, including gender, interpersonal relationship, puberty, reproduction and advocacy – teaching young people how to advocate for themselves.”
Continued Ustanny: “There was a partnership between JFJ and FAMPLAN, and as part of that plan we made commitments to provide information and training to select personnel from within Jamaicans for Justice, who would be responsible for the implementation of the education programme within the homes.” The Gleaner has received copies of the course outline in which the wards of these children’s Indecent exposure Oral, anal sex acceptance sneaked into JFJ course in children’s homes were taught that “vaginal sex, anal sex and oral sex are forms of sexual penetration”, with no immediate reference to the fact that anal sex remains illegal in Jamaica. FAMPLAN has, however, distanced itself from some of the programme’s content, as two modules were added. These modules deal with the normalisation of anal sex and homosexuality.
“Clearly, there were structural and content changes that took place in terms of what was given to JFJ by FAMPLAN and what they eventually produced. “In terms of what we delivered to JFJ and what I reviewed on Saturday, there were clear insert ions. It demonstrated, too, that JFJ, as a funded organisation, was not only to deliver elements that we introduced to them ... but as a recipient of funds from CVC, they, too, would have complied,” Ustanny explained. “CVC has their own sexeducation curriculum which I think would be oriented towards their focus.”
The programme, which started last October, and was slated to conclude next month, saw the youngsters being introduced to three forms of sexual penetration and told that not all three are suited for everyone so they should discuss their preference with their partners. “Anal and oral sex have traditionally been frowned upon, but with time, these practices are becoming more accepted,” outlined the course manual as it urged the children to “use a condom and lubricant during anal sex”, to protect against HIV and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs). A Gleaner source, who wished to remain anonymous, said the course, which was undertaken without the knowledge of the Child Development Agency (CDA) or the relevant ministry, was modified and presented as a human-rights issue.
“These were never in the FAMPLAN information and, as a matter of fact, were not age-appropriate,” said the source who noted that the entity was a major advocate of school-based comprehensive sexuality education and the need for health professionals to understand and support youth-friendly services. “But it uses age-appropriate material and would not tell a 12-year-old that anal sex is normal,” added the source. Gender was defined in the material as “the way persons choose to act out their masculinity or femininity in society. For example, a person may be born with male sex organs but may have a feminine gender and even choose to live as a woman”. The wards in the six private children’s homes where the programme was introduced were also told that they “have the right to access contraceptives, but young people are hindered from doing so because of ... minority laws”. The youngsters were, however, advised that they can utilise the “withdrawal method, where the male removes his penis......"
JFJ had issues this text on June 5 via Facebook:
Let us stay focus despite the blows from outside as well as within the struggle.
UPDATE June 28 2014
JFJ Split Widens - Long-Time Members Demand Extraordinary Meeting As Human-Rights Group Seems Set To Implode
Former JFJ Head Carolyn Gomes Distances Self From Controversial Sex Ed Material