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Push for gender equality as world celebrates women

Saturday, March 08, 2014    

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WOMEN hold less than 30 per cent of the political positions in the Caribbean, a situation which Caricom Secretary General Irwin LaRocque says must be changed if the region is to progress.

"At present within the Community, women's participation in Parliaments continues to be less than optimal, falling short of the target of 30 per cent," LaRocque said in a statement issued on the occasion of International Women's Day, being observed today under the theme 'Equality for Women is Progress for All'.

"Special efforts need to be increased to involve young women in leadership and decision-making roles to gain experience and confidence so they can, in due course, aspire to and gain political office," he continued.

"Women have an important contribution to make not only in Parliament but as movers of skills, knowledge and capital across the region, using the Caricom Single Market and Economy to expand opportunities and secure a better quality of life. But the principles of equity and access can only be achieved if the arrangements are respected and applied fairly and without favour."

That, the secretary general stressed, requires a "people-centred approach" hinged on "unimpeded access to education, health and other social services" for women and children.

LaRocque named persistent and acute poverty and inequalities as the factors which continue to render women and girls vulnerable to domestic and sexual violence, both of which increase their risk of early pregnancy, sexually transmitted infections in addition to physical and emotional trauma.

Meanwhile, on the subject of violence against women, the Government of the Bahamas has said it intends to develop a strategic plan to deal with the scourge by June this year.

"Hundreds of women in The Bahamas face situations that cause serious distress, pain and frustrations to them and their children and households, generally," minister responsible for women's affairs, Melanie Griffin, told Parliament.

She said the Perry Christie Government does not condone violence against women "in any form and from any one" and that since 2012, the government has sought to improve the conditions for women in the country.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, meanwhile, said highlighting the importance of achieving equality for women and girls is not simply a matter of fairness and fundamental human rights, but one of progress since so many other areas depend

on it.

"Countries with more gender equality have better economic growth. Companies with more women leaders perform better. Peace agreements that include women are more durable. Parliaments with more women enact more legislation on key social issues such as health, education, anti-discrimination and child support," said Ban in a statement for International Women's Day.

"The evidence is clear: equality for women means progress for all."

He said that although important gains have been made towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals in respect of access to primary education for girls and political representation by women, "progress remains far too slow and uneven".

"We have a common obligation to ensure (a woman's) right to live free from the violence that affects one in three women globally; to earn equal pay for equal work; to be free of the discrimination that prevents her from participating in the economy; to have an equal say in the decisions that affect her life; and to decide if and when she will have children, and how many she will have," the UN head said.

"I have a message for every girl born today, and to every woman and girl on the planet: Realising human rights and equality is not a dream, it is a duty of governments, the United Nations and every human being.

"I also have a message for my fellow men and boys: play your part. All of us benefit when women and girls - your mothers, sisters, friends and colleagues — can reach their full potential," he said.

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