Act now on gender

UNDP Resident Representative Stephen O’Malley.
UNDP Resident Representative Stephen O’Malley.

Hailing the current two-day gender equality forum as a definite step forward, a local women’s advocate is hoping that there will be more action coming out of the discussions.

President of BPW Barbados, Marrianne Burnham, who is among regional ministers of gender and social care, civil organisations and gender-related bodies from 13 Caribbean countries at the UN-Women hosted meeting, said the meeting was certainly timely.

“This conference looking at the post-2015 agenda is very strategic right now. It focuses on women’s economic empowerment, gender-based violence, all these things from a wholistic view and it is very strategic to have this conference right now bringing together all of the heads in this area from the various countries, the crisis centres, the ministers from various Caribbean countries, Gender Affairs and leaders in this sector, bringing them together not to have another talk shop but actually find solutions and ways to deal with this issue is very timely,” she said.

The event, which opened yesterday at the Hilton Barbados is titled “Caribbean Forum on Gender Equality and the Post 2015 Agenda”, and Burnham stated that women’s economic empowerment was a crucial factor for the region.

“When we look at the number of single parent households that are headed by women, when we look at the impact the woman has on the family and society, it is quite strategic, it is quite essential to categorise and look at women. Although the Caribbean might not be in the position of certain Middle Eastern countries in terms of the status of women, the status of women in the Caribbean is still very important to the overall development of the region.

“Gender-based violence has a very serious impact on the economy and when women do well the country does well, in fact whole families do well. So to have this conference to find solutions to strategies, to bring together these heads is timely in light of what has been happening in Barbados and in light of the plans we have as a country moving forward in terms of the promotion or implementation of the Domestic Violence Act, giving the police more power to act in cases of gender-based violence, even in terms of what we are doing with the Family Law Council, in terms of the children and the laws to better support children. This whole thing is timely, strategic and necessary,” she said, with slight reference to the stabbing death of Caroline Forde on Monday.

“We would like to see action come out of this session. This session comes on the heels of other work that has been done in December with the Caribbean rule of Law on Gender-based Violence. Some of the same faces at that conference are here and work has been done since that time.

“So we want to see momentum continue to be built and more action come out of this session. Everybody here is working within their groups, their ministries or NGOs, and the work has produced real results and that is why these people would have been selected in the way that they have.

“So what we want to see is a clear statement, policy, or procedure on how we address women’s economic empowerment in the Caribbean or how we address gender-based violence and how all of this affects the development of the Caribbean as a whole, not one country but the development of the Caribbean as a whole and the sharing of information is key because Grenada has done some things that Barbados hasn’t done. Jamaica has done a lot of things the Barbados hasn’t done.

“So in terms of sharing information from country to country, we are strengthening each other, so the outcomes would be strengthening and action,” said the woman whose organisation heads the island’s crisis and women’s shelter as well. (LB)

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