There is need for better accountability for women’s empowerment and gender equality since despite the gains in the region many gaps still exist, Caricom Secretary-General Edwin Carrington said in a message on the occasion of International Women’s Day.
He acknowledged, however, that Caricom countries generally have made significant strides towards the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) related to women and are on track to meet the targets of gender equality and women’s empowerment.
Carrington pointed out though that “for many women, poverty and violence are realities of daily life as they struggle to gain equal rights in employment, participation in public life and public decision-making, as well as equal access to public resources and services,” and the current global economic crisis is likely to exacerbate this situation.
Against that background, Carrington called for a fundamental change in approach to seriously address the gaps and challenges, and he added that greater accountability was required from governments and private institutions with respect to their gender policies.
The Secretary-General also suggested that positive incentives should be provided for honouring and penalties for not honouring commitments to women’s rights.
Meanwhile, Carrington contended that a “critical test of gender accountability will be the reduction of violence against women, particularly domestic violence. In this regard, the United Nations theme this year of “Women and Men United to End Violence against Women and Girls” is particularly relevant.”
And Carrington asserted further that “the increased incidence of violence against women in this region, especially sexual assaults, which are generally subject to under-reporting, must be of concern to all.”
He observed too that while this occasion draws attention internationally to the gender injustices that still exist, the region must strive for progressive policies to promote gender equality and women’s empowerment in order to achieve “meaningful change for equality, participation, peace and development not just for some, but for all.”
And to that end, he urged, “Let us also resolve to promote better accountability for women’s empowerment and gender equality, thereby translating the commitments by our member states under the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and their endorsement of the Beijing Platform for Action (BPfA), into significant progress for women’s rights, empowerment and gender equality.”
In saluting the women and girls of the Caribbean community on the occasion of International Women’s Day, Carrington pointed out that the annual celebration presents “a special opportunity to reflect on the achievements on the path towards gender equality and women’s empowerment.”
Acknowledging that the torch was lit 101 years ago by the protests of the female garment factory-workers on the streets of New York demanding shorter working hours, better pay and voting rights, he asserted that the Caribbean had certainly benefited from the pioneering work and dedication of its own women’s rights advocates.
The Secretary-General noted that among these were Nesta Patrick, social worker and advocate for the recognition of the mentally challenged; Joycelin Massiah, a scholar who shaped the regional agenda on women and development; and the late Ambassador Lucille Mathurin Mair, who fought for women’s rights, representation, justice and empowerment.
“These pioneering advocates and others, have made an indelible mark on the field of women’s rights and paved the way for a generation of younger women to further enhance the legacy and blaze new trails,” Carrington said.
Over the years, he added, the region has honoured these and other women by bestowing on them the Caricom Triennial Award for Women, and the most recent was Professor Barbara Bailey, educator and advocate of gender equality and equity in the Caribbean Community.
Carrington also noted that women and girls from all walks of life have been excelling in several fields in the region and recalled the historic feat of three Jamaican women crossing the finish line ahead of fierce competition in the 100 metres, at the 29th Olympiad in Beijing, China, while in politics, one third of the elected members in the Parliament of Trinidad and Tobago are women.
And pointing to the 2008 Global Gender Gap Report – a report which assesses gender equality in various countries and is published by the World Economic Forum – he commended Trinidad and Tobago and Barbados which were at 19 and 26 respectively out of a total of 130 countries.