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Efforts being made but progress slow

A lack of budget for gender issues in most ministries of Government has been identified as one of the major weaknesses in the fight against gender inequality in Barbados.

And the recommendation is that Government start allocating funds to aggressively tackle the issue.

The highlights were noted in the recent Country Gender Assessment 2014, which was presented to stakeholders at the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) today.

According to the 116-page document, the Bureau of Gender Affairs was tasked with “mainstreaming gender throughout agencies of Government, but has to rely on its own limited financial and human resources to achieve this”.

“Other Government departments have not been allocated resources for the achievement of gender inequality initiatives, and this may affect the ability and willingness of staff within these ministries to conduct the work necessary to make gender equality a reality,” it said.

The document said there was need to move beyond training initiatives to implement specific measures whereby budgets can be allocated to gender equality initiatives, especially in the Ministry of Finance and Economic Affairs.

The report also stated that with only seven staff and a relatively small budget the Bureau of Gender Affairs should not be expected alone to effect the scale of change necessary for national gender equality.

“Resources should be sought or reallocated to support the development and implementation of strategies for gender mainstreaming in key ministries, especially the Ministry of Finance and Economic Affairs. Identified gender focal points should be provided with budgets and specific skills for implementation,” it added.

Other weaknesses identified included limited capacity among non-governmental organizations due to their dependency on volunteers and project funding and a lack of office or equipment in some instances. It also suggested that more linkages be formed between the CDB, the Ministry of Finance and Economic Affairs and individuals and organizations in the business community.

The document also highlighted a number challenges including the lack of decision taken to factor in gender aspects of migration into policymaking. It said there was also a general lack of data separation by sex.

“Routine data collected by agencies on clients, beneficiaries and staff should be disaggregated by sex and presented in publicly available reports,” it said.

It added that there was need to build capacity to use and analyze existing quantitative and qualitative data and research to inform strategies for gender equality, in partnership with higher education institutions.

The findings showed that there was still a gap in a number of areas including occupational roles and poverty.

There was also a recommendation that political and institutional leadership should be exercised in placing gender at the centre of development concerns and developing policy accordingly across a broader range of strategic areas that currently exist.

Despite the weaknesses and challenges, however, the report said there was a provision of gender training, there were strides in legislative reform and development of services on gender-based violence, especially with regards to domestic violence and human trafficking, as well as progress in the involvement of men in gender initiatives.

According to the executive summary, “while the average gender inequality index for countries at the ‘very high human development level’ was 0.193 in 2012, Barbados’ figure was 0.343 in 2012. Achievements of girls with regard to secondary education are offset by low female representation in Parliament, relatively low labour force participation and high rates of maternal mortality and adolescent fertility. Overall human development has not been accompanied by concomitant reduction in gender inequality”.

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