JMEA seeks to manufacture a stigma-free workplace Loop Jamaica

The content originally appeared on: Jamaica News Loop News

In a significant move towards fostering a more inclusive and supportive workplace environment, the Jamaica Manufacturers and Exporters Association (JMEA) has launched the ‘Beyond Labels: Building a Stigma-Free Workplace’ initiative.

The project, undertaken in collaboration with PEPFAR, CDC, UNAIDS, and JN+, aims to implement educational programmes addressing HIV awareness, transmission understanding, and prevention methods among JMEA employees and member companies.

Kamesha Blake, Executive Director of the JMEA, emphasised the significance of the project, stating, “This initiative transcends the specific issues related to HIV-related stigma and discrimination. It embraces an inclusive approach, recognising that stigma, whether linked to HIV, mental health, race, gender, sexual orientation, or any other factor, significantly undermines individual well-being, organizational productivity, and societal cohesion.”

Conceptualised in 2023, the project is scheduled to run for eight months, culminating in August of this year.

It aims to cultivate a workplace culture that values and respects diversity, ensuring equity and inclusivity at all levels. The project will include a series of workshops tailored for senior management, including human resource representatives, and employees.

It will also have a strong focus on capacity-building strategies to combat stigma and discrimination, legal aspects, and human rights considerations associated with the condition in the workplace, crafting comprehensive health policies, and dispelling common myths and misconceptions.

Sydney Thwaites, President of the JMEA emphasised, “The core mandate at the JMEA is focused on helping to advocate for and advance a thriving manufacturing and export-led economy, and such results is unattainable without a thriving workforce. Hence, our mandate encompasses not only the formulation of policies and interventions aimed at enhancing operational efficiency but also extends to initiatives that prioritize the mental and physical well-being of our workforce.”

Thwaites outlined that it was through research, the JMEA identified the prevalence of HIV-related stigma and discrimination within workplaces which overtime has led to the fuelling of a culture where individuals are reluctant to seek medical care and undergo relevant testing, specifically males.

He noted, “While there is encouraging news that 93 percent of Jamaicans living with the condition are aware of their status, a concerning statistic emerges that only 54 per cent of them are receiving the necessary treatment, with a greater number of females accessing treatment than males. Therefore, as the leading industry association, catering to the manufacturing and export community, supporting over 600 member companies which employ a workforce exceeding 84,300 individuals; it is only fitting that we, at the JMEA take up the charge to foster an initiative that will help to create a paradigm shift within the workplace.”

Dr Richard Amenyah, UNAIDS Multi-Country Director, Caribbean, commended the JMEA’s invitation to address workplace stigma and discrimination, stating, “UNAIDS’ call to action is ‘To protect everyone’s health to protect everyone’s rights.’ Therefore, we are fully aligned with JMEA because by going ‘Beyond Labels,’ we can create stigma-free workplaces and contribute to ending AIDS as a public health threat.”

Ambassador Nick Perry, United States Ambassador to Jamaica, lauded the JMEA for their goal to end HIV related stigma and discrimination in the workplace in Jamaica. He also acknowledged the Association’s efforts to reduce unnecessary suffering and loss of productivity for the nation as the United States “looks forward to seeing Jamaica progress towards the elimination of all forms of HIV-related stigma and discrimination. Ambassador Perry highlighted the United States’ commitment to (collaboratively) take on this journey”.

Through this joint effort, the organising entities aspire to cultivate a work environment that is more inclusive and supportive by shedding light on the far-reaching effects of HIV-related stigma and discrimination.