Jamaica’s Path to Inclusive Elections with a Focus on Key Population Representation 

By: Keren Danaway

Jamaica’s recent Country Coordinating Mechanism (CCM) elections were a turning point for the representation of key populations. These elections, facilitated by technical support from the Latin America and Caribbean Regional Platform, aimed to improve the inclusion of transgender women, gay men, and other men who have sex with men in Jamaica’s CCM decision-making processes.  

One of the main challenges was the absence of an updated list of key population organizations and their contact information, which interfered the initial outreach efforts necessary for an inclusive electoral process. The consultant, Tameka Clough, emphasized, “It was crucial to maintain and frequently review this list to ensure efficient decision-making.” This involved cleaning and updating the list, which now includes new organizations, current representatives, and accurate contact details.  Another challenge was the need for more time to ensure that candidates canvassed widely among key constituencies and constituents. To address this, the election process was made extremely transparent. Clough noted, “Participants had free access to the consultant for any clarifications, which helped mitigate fears and build confidence in the process.” All relevant information was provided to voters, committing to the transparency and integrity of the process. Jamaica’s relatively small population posed a unique challenge, influencing the electoral strategy. A smaller key demographic meant fewer organizations to represent it, potentially undermining the democratic nature of the elections. Clough explained, “This led to allowing individual candidacies, increasing the number of potential representatives and ensuring broader participation.” 

Based on the experience and lessons learned from the Jamaican CCM elections, Clough offered several recommendations for other countries in the region to develop democratic elections effectively. Educating the community about the importance of voting is crucial, especially in contexts where there is a poor voting culture at the national level. She highlighted, “Voter education can significantly impact policies related to healthcare and HIV/AIDS funding and support, making it essential to foster a strong voting culture within key populations”. Additionally, Clough recommended, “Encouraging people living with HIV to run for office or be involved in election committees ensures their voices are heard and represented in the democratic process.” 

The experience highlighted the importance of flexibility in project implementation by adapting to unexpected challenges and maintaining open dialogue between technical support providers and the JCCM were crucial for identifying areas needing adjustment.  

Adequate documentation of the election process, guidelines, and outcomes is important. Clough remarked, “Clear communication within the technical support team and with external stakeholders helps in understanding the challenges and milestones achieved.”  

The Jamaican CCM elections represent a significant step towards inclusive representation for key populations. The process, although with some challenges, was marked by strategic adaptations and valuable lessons that can guide future elections, however, continuous efforts are needed beyond the election to ensure meaningful contributions from key population representatives within the JCCM.