After eighteen years working for Banana Link, our National Coordinator, Jacqui Mackay recently left the organisation to take up a new challenge in community theatre.
Her contribution to our organisation and to improving the lives of plantation workers and small farmers in her time with Banana Link was immense, and by way of thanking her, we have collected the tributes below from colleagues and partners who had the privilege of working with Jacqui.
Windward Islands Farmers Association and Chairperson of the Executive Board of the World Banana Forum
AN EXCEPTIONAL WOMAN, MOTHER, SISTER AND COLLEAGUE
Normally, when someone leaves an organisation or institution to which that person had played a monumental role in its building, one speaks of “Big boots to fill”. In the case of our beloved Jacqui Mckay, it is not just “big boots” left to fill, but a massive crater, given the scale and scope of her contribution to EUROBAN.
Given the very nature and composition of civil society organisations, it is an extremely difficult task to just keep it together much more to ensure its smooth and effective functioning. In the case of EUROBAN, a relatively loose though focused alliance of European organisations working on banana and tropical fruit issues, the task is somewhat more challenging and becomes complex when the outreach goes global, to banana workers and small farmers in Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa and Asia.
Jacqui was at the heart of all this. A more committed, compassionate, warm understanding and cooperative colleague would be hard to find in any set of circumstances. Jacqui possesses all the interpersonal skills which made her equal to the task. In addition her strong personal understanding and commitment to the rights of women and children had a distinct imprint on EUROBAN’s expressed gender sensitivity and concern for the welfare of women and children in the banana industry.
She will be sorely missed but there is no doubt that her massive influence will impact on her successors to keep the flame burning.
An exceptional woman, mother, sister and colleague!
Jacqui (with the big hair) at a meeting of EUROBAN in 2011, with Renwick Rose (second left) and Iris Munguia (second right)
Coordinating Body of Latin American Banana and Agro-industrial Unions (COLSIBA)
Carmen Banegas Yunga
Adviser to the SINUTRABE Women’s Secretariat, Ecuador
Coordinating Body of Latin American Banana and Agro-industrial Unions (COLSIBA)
Working with Jacqui inspires responsibility. I remember that many times after the work meetings we continued to work with her in the hotel. She was a very responsible colleague in her work, for me it was an excellent opportunity to work with her as coordinator of Euroban.
One of the main experiences I remember was the meeting of women in the banana industry that took place in Bonn, Germany in 2015. Jacqui, with her colleague Sue Longley of the International Union of Foodworkers (IUF), moderated and we managed to get the objectives we had set and thus build lines of work for the third conference of the World Banana Forum (WBF). We were able to get several recommendations from which I mention these four:
- Contribution to the ILO debate towards a new Convention on Gender-based Violence in the Workplace.
- Developing a strategy on sexual harassment and the broad implementation in the industry of the Chiquita/COLSIBA/UITA Sexual Harassment Clause (to be used as an example of best practice for others to adopt)
- Strengthening women’s participation and leadership in their organisations; sharing materials that raise awareness among organisations/countries, promoting solidarity and exchange of experiences among women leaders, creating regular spaces and platforms (local, regional and industry level) for women’s training programs and leadership workshops
- Promoting education and training of women in the workplace; sharing education and training materials and knowledge among organisations/countries, sharing ideas for funding local education programs and supporting dialogue among businesses to encourage the provision of education and training to women.
The Foundation for Agrarian Reform Cooperatives in Mindanao (FARMCOOP)
When my I first met Jacqui at the World Banana Forum in Switzerland, it was remarkable to see her seamlessly create participatory discussion groups that were very inviting and inclusive, especially of women who were new to the group and the process. It has been an honour to have had the opportunity to work with her and learn from her. I have always admired her balance and grounded presence, her wit, warmth, humility, brave candidness and her ability to genuinely connect with people even in her most busy times. Jacqui is truly inspiring in many ways. I will surely miss working with her in Banana Link.
Banana Link Director, former International Officer of the GMB and Director of the Workers Beer Company
Jacqui, it has almost become a cliche in sporting circles to say that no one player is bigger than the team, but without disrespecting any of the other marvellous people who have worked and continue to work for Banana Link, you will be an extremely hard act to follow. It is rare indeed to find people who possess the combination of skills and abilities that you have displayed during your 18 outstanding years at Banana Link. I marvel at your patience in dealing with the cheats, charlatans and chisellers that infest the tropical fruit supply chain from top to bottom and am full of admiration for your dedication to the cause. I feel sure that whatever you do will be a resounding success and I wish you well in your future endeavours.
Jacqui (centre) with Bert (right) and Michael and Emily Eavis (left) receiving a cheque for money raised by the Workers Beer Company at Glastonbury Festival in 2007
Executive Director, Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI)
I have worked with Jacqui as a member of ETI for Banana Link over a number of years. Jacqui has always impressed me with her never ending commitment to working for workers; it is always so evident that this is what motivates her and she demonstrates both her temerity and tenacity in the pursuit of ensuring workers access their rights.
Furthermore in working through some very complicated issues for workers in the Fyffes supply chain, I was impressed, not only with her tenacity but also the willingness to be flexible and focus on finding solutions that would work for workers.
She will be missed and all at ETI wish her well for the future.
Most of the pleasant cooperation with Jacqui developed within the context of the Euroban network, wherein my organisation BanaFair is a member, as well as Banana Link. Jacqui led the office of the Euroban secretariat and I will keep an inspiring memory of her engagement, characterised by friendly collegiality, competence and convincement.
Women Working Worldwide
I only met Jacqui a few years ago through the ETI NGO Caucus. I can honestly say that we instantly ‘clicked’ professionally recognising a similar passion for equality and fairness in global value chains. She was, and still is, an inspiration and a force for good in a world that is not perfect. Working on gender equity with Jacqui in Kenya, added another dimension, that of friendship. I don’t think I have laughed so much on a field visit for many years and I am proud to now call her a friend. Banana Link will be a quieter place with out her and she will be sorely missed there, and at ETI, and at all the other forums. Banana Link will continue with its great work and Women Working Worldwide look forward to strengthening this relationship.
Jacqui (right) with Caroline (left) on a visit to Kenya in 2019
Jacqui has contributed to make our relationship with Banana Link even more dynamic and fruitful. Her being straightforward, understanding and professional, has helped our teams on the ground, particularly in Africa, to look at working conditions within our business units with a bright new lens.
We are particularly happy to pursue and develop the project on gender issues within our farms, which Jacqui helped set up and monitor.
International Union of Foodworkers (IUF)
l started working with Jacqui in the early part of 2008. Jacqui is a good negotiator and a great lobbyist. She is also a team player. Always achieves good results in her line of work. I learnt a lot from her. She is brilliant always there to offer a support for a successful programme.
I wish her the best in her new career.
Jacqui and Adwoa (right) at a workers training session in Ghana in 2015
Trade union tutor and current Chairperson of Banana Link
I have known and worked with Jacqui for the last eight years, mostly on the project working with unions, and particularly women in Cameroon and Ghana. Jacqui drew me in to the organisation – first as a volunteer and gradually with more responsibility to be the Chair of Banana Link. I have enjoyed and learned an enormous amount from her and been inspired by her enthusiasm, irreverence, wit and determination to support workers and particularly women workers in the banana industry.
Her work on the gender project, in partnership with comrades in IUF, has helped to move things forward a great deal. I shall miss her company and intelligence in our work at Banana Link and all the laughter and fun that we had, she will leave a big hole in the organisation and I will miss being challenged by her.
Jacqui helping to facilitate training for trade union representatives in Cameroon 2015
Banana Link Project Coordinator
I have worked with Jacqui for over 15 years, first as a volunteer at Banana Link and then as a staff colleague. Jacqui’s permanent commitment to grass roots organising and action and the empowerment of workers and small farmers – in particular women – has always been a source of inspiration. Over the years Jacqui has played an important role in ensuring that this commitment remains at the heart of Banana Link’s activities, and also further afield by working collaboratively with our trade union and small farmer partners to raise their concerns and take action within EUROBAN, the World Banana Forum and the various other fora in which we play a key role.
I have personally learnt a lot from Jacqui’s expertise on, and passion for, participatory and interactive education methods which have been essential to the positive impacts of training activities within Banana Link, with the UK trade union movement, with civil society partners in producing countries (especially in Ghana and Cameroon) and also with other industry actors.
Jacqui’s departure is of course a great loss for the organisation, but her years of excellent coordination work has left us in a strong position to continue her legacy.
Banana Link Director and former Chairperson
For me working with Jacqui Mackay, was a great pleasure as she was always supportive to me, when I was Chair and to Banana Link which she worked so hard to support. She had worked for us for 18 years starting as an enthusiastic young women who wanted to change things, which she did in whatever role she played in the organisation. She helped change the way we worked, developed our links in Europe, with BanaFair, then Make Fruit Fair, then in Africa through the Comic Relief funded education project which she helped us secure after other funding dried up. She raised the issue of women’s equality and participation to the top of the agenda. Her work with partners was challenging at times, but she stood her ground and was respected. Her belief that our work with Trade Unions was vital showed her commitment to BL and the staff who she helped over the years.
The movement will, like me, miss her but she will be helping others to achieve in her new role here in Norwich. We wish her well for the future.
Jacqui with former staff member, Liz Day, in the Banana Link office in 2011 (photo: Norwich Evening News)
Banana Link – Translation
Coordinator and former Project Officer
As someone at the beginning of my career, Jacqui proved herself to be an incredible role model. Her ability to seek, design and facilitate change alongside her passion for capturing worker-voice are skills and values I not only admire but aspire to demonstrate in my own practice. Thank you for your solidarity and unwavering support.
Banana Link International Coordinator and Director
Jacqui’s strength of purpose, sense of organisation and wisdom of character are exceptional. Her leadership and co-leadership have made what Banana Link is today: as one evaluator once put it “an organisation punching well above our weight”.
Arriving shortly after the founder left for France (that’s me!), she picked up everything to do with the running of a new and dynamic organisation. She had the gift of always keeping Banana Link dynamic, responsive, caring as an employer, and “doing what it says we do on the packet”.
Her sense of justice, humour and proportion are a rare combination that no job description could satisfactorily describe, but are part of the legacy that Jacqui has bequeathed to this organisation. If we can collectively continue in that spirit of always being demanding on ourselves and of others, but also being grateful for what is possible and knowing what we can change, then we will live up to her legacy.
Moved on, but never forgotten. Move on up, mighty mother, sister in non-violent arms!
With love and admiration.
Jacqui has now taken up a position with a theatre company called Frozen Light which creates exciting and original multi-sensory theatre for audiences with profound and multiple learning disabilities.
Their gain is the banana industry’s loss.