PROFILE ON KRISTAL TUCKER-CLARKE
Call her the superwoman of gender equality and human rights.
Kristal Tucker-Clarke is proof positive that a degree in social work can allow you to work in nearly any capacity. From serving as a policy analyst at the Bureau of Gender Affairs (formerly the Bureau of Women’s Affairs) to now serving at the Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries as the Social and Gender Specialist, Kristal Tucker-Clarke has seen her fair share of social work intervention from micro to macro levels.
We caught up with Kristal on the phone during a typically busy day for her as she drove through the busy streets of Kingston. Even while multitasking her bright personality shone through the phone as she generously shared her exciting journey.
SOCIAL WORK: A CHANCE ENCOUNTER TO A LIFELONG CALLING
Thanks to those huge career books at the library, Tucker-Clarke found her calling. She was merely flipping through the pages and there it was - the career that would allow her to impact the lives of many; social work.
“I saw social work and the description of a social worker. I liked what I saw and I said, ‘Okay, I am going to be a social worker.'”
She took that proverbial ‘one step’ in her journey and applied to the University of the West Indies (UWI) where she completed her Bachelor’s of Social Work degree, stating that her experience at the university was a fulfilling one as a result of exceptional lecturers.
“They made a difference. They were not only lecturers, they were like mentors and they were passionate about social work. I said, ‘Yes! I'm in the right field,’ so I really enjoyed that.”
MOVING UP THE RANKS
This savvy, sincere and selfless social worker started her career working in the social work field at the Bureau of Women’s Affairs, now the Bureau of Gender Affairs.
After sending out applications to various organizations in the blue section of the directory, she got called to an interview at the Office of the Prime Minister that landed her a job at the then Bureau of Women’s Affairs as a social worker.
“While at the bureau for that period I was mostly involved in what they call first-level intervention - which is basically micro-practice of social work, so counselling clients and of course we also did a lot of community work. So we go about in various rural communities across Jamaica sensitizing persons on gender-based violence which includes incest, rape, trafficking of persons, sexual harassment, as well as providing technical assistance to established women's groups such as Jamaica Household Workers and Women Inc.”
Tucker-Clarke honoured her social work standards of practice and the Jamaican government took notice. Because of the excellence she demonstrated in her work, she was recommended for the prestigious Australian Development Scholarship. Soon after, she was offered the opportunity to go to Australia to complete her Master's in Human Rights from Curtin University in Western Australia - an opportunity she couldn’t refuse.
“I came back from Australia and went back to my social work position [at the Bureau] and shortly after that I interviewed for the post of Rural Sociologist.”
While this job title may seem esoteric, it essentially entailed community work that engaged rural Jamaica in advocacy and consciousness-raising, working with women's groups, and working with NGOs for gender equality and gender mainstreaming.
But she didn't stop there. When the opportunity presented itself for her to apply for the post of Policy Analyst, she didn’t hesitate.
“So then I moved from on-the-ground implementing activities, casework, [and] community work and I moved into policy. I got the chance to do policy analysis, gender mainstreaming and gender analysis of different government policies, programmes and projects. Whatever the government is involved in, we were supposed to ensure that gender [was] mainstreamed.”
Tucker-Clarke served in this capacity for about two years. When her then supervisor left on retirement, she was asked to act as the Community Liaison Director and later appointed in the post. This role saw her formulating and developing programmes to implement government policies and plans. She also supervised two (2) social workers, one (1) sociologist, and often times an international volunteer.
Soon enough she was asked to act in the position of the Director of Policy and Research - the next step on the proverbial ladder in the Bureau. “So I have pretty much done all the roles at the Bureau except for the Senior Director of the Bureau of Gender Affairs,” Tucker-Clarke said.
During her time at the Bureau she contributed to the government’s 10-year “National Strategic Action Plan to Eliminate Gender-based Violence” and described her period of service as “very rewarding.” She continued stating that “some of it [was] challenging, but the organisation I've worked with allowed me to grow and develop. I have over 10 years of experience, progressive in different roles.”
NEW LEVELS FOR NEW IMPACT
May 1, 2019, marked the end of a great tenure at the Bureau but also the beginning of something even greater; she was appointed as the Social and Gender Specialist on a Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) project in the Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries.
She is currently working on a Caribbean Development Bank/United Kingdom Caribbean Infrastructure Partnership Fund (UKCIF) agriculture development project being implemented in Essex Valley and also on the Southern Plains Agricultural Development Project in St Catherine and Clarendon.”
“I'm doing gender mainstreaming from my gender background at the Bureau of Gender Affairs to ensure that persons with disabilities, women and girls and [other] persons have access to the benefits of the project. Also in the infrastructure that is being developed, persons with disabilities are able to access it and they're also able to access employment from things that are to be developed in the community to ensure that when trainings are happening those in the agricultural sector, both men and women farmers, are able to benefit equally from what the project is doing.”
Though her role seems quite demanding she simply places that ‘S’ on her chest and is quite strategic about achieving her objectives.
“So far I have been visiting the project area, reading up on what the project is about, my expected outcomes and putting together my work plan [of] what I will be doing for the next two years to ensure that I will be able to achieve the deliverable methods in my terms of reference.”
When asked how the post had been treating her, she said, “It's been pretty good so far. The team is excellent; it's a small project team but it's been good.”
While social workers often work in multidisciplinary teams, many may find this one to be unique as it includes engineers, marketers and agricultural specialists. And to ensure a gender-balanced result, gender and social issues are integrated across the entire project.
For those that aren’t sure how a social worker would be suited for such a position, Tucker-Clarke had this to share: “Don't look at the title of the job. Look [at] the competencies that they're looking for. They may not call it “social work.” They may not call it the terms you're used to in social work practice, but if you read through it, it's something you have been trained for, so just do it. Take it on and you run with it. You cannot put social work in a little box because having studied social work you have been given so many skills.”
SETTING GOALS FOR EXCELLENCE
Gender equality and human rights are the driving force behind Tucker-Clarke’s relentless ambition.
“For the past couple of years I've been setting goals and I've accomplished most of them. I've had progressive experience. My goal is to do exceptionally in this post. I want to achieve all my deliverables or overachieve on my deliverables that I have set out now. That's my main goal right now.”
In making the connection to social work impact she stated, “I believe everybody has a right to access whatever is there and it should be equally distributed and equally accessible to all and that most motivates me.”
A MESSAGE FOR SOCIAL WORKERS
She borrows her message to social workers from Chronixx and admonishes them to “do it for the love.”
“There's no hype, you just have to do what you're doing for the love of it and for the benefit of those vulnerable people. So if you're working with the poor, women, children, [or] the LGBT community, you are doing it for the love of it, not for the hype of it. And whomever you're working with, you do the best you can and you offer the best and most professional service you can. You do not discriminate. You do not judge.”
She went on further to say, “It's not about going out and taking pictures; social work is not about that. You're the last person to ever be thanked but you must know that [the] personal fulfillment that you get from it, or the contribution that you're making to society and the contribution that you're making to your nation and community, that is most important.”
To follow this extraordinary social worker you can find her on LinkedIn at Kristal Tucker-Clarke.
( 876 866 8637
Jamaica Association of Social Workers
University of the West Indies
Social Welfare Training Centre
Mona, Kingston Jamaica