Woman power

Patricia Hackett-Codrington

The power to ensure Government keeps gender issues at the forefront is in the hands of women.

Director of Gender Affairs, Patricia Hackett-Codrington told a workshop of mostly women leaders this morning that over the years the number of women going up for elections had been small, but there had been a steady increase and others were taking decisive steps.

She was speaking at a workshop by the Caribbean Institute of Women in Leadership, the National Organisation of Women and UN Women on Transformational Leadership and Gender Justice at UN House.

Hackett-Codrington said a study by the Pew Research Centre in 2008 on social and demographic trends had shown that women scored higher in areas of honesty, intelligence and a few other traits, than men.

“This same survey showed that in an era when women had made sweeping strides in educational attainment and workforce participation, relatively few had made the journey all the way to the highest levels of political or corporate leadership,” she added.

“It also shows that gender discrimination, resistance to change, and a self-serving ‘old boys club’ were the reasons for the relative scarcity of women at the top.”

Women, she said, were shown to stand up for principles in the face of political pressure, were able to work out compromises, keep government honest and represent the interests of their constituents.

“Women have within their power the ability to encourage other women to fight against oppression. As women they have both affluence and influence but most of all they have the power of persuasion. They have the capacity to ensure that governments fulfill their international agreements and to ensure that gender issues are kept in the forefront,” said the Director.

Acting Director of UN Women, Joan French told participants that the promotion of change towards gender equity was fundamental to strengthening the democracies of the Caribbean.

“Despite democratic traditions characterised by regular elections, peaceful transfer of power and relatively high levels of voter participation, women continue to struggle for basic human rights and the full implementation of international and national commitments to gender equality, including laws and programmes for protection from gender-based violence. Reproductive health and rights of women constitute an ongoing challenge in many Caribbean countries.

“In the economic area the contribution and recognition of women’s labour is limited, and women still encounter discrimination in access to the facilitating mechanisms for economic empowerment and trade. Yet sustainable development can only be adequately promoted and assured through the full participation of all citizens in governance and national decision-making,” she said.

The workshop, she said, was the first in a series to be held here, and similar events were scheduled for Grenada and Trinidad and Tobago. (LB)

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