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Women groups propose ways to improve gender equality in region

Tuesday, July 12, 2011    

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PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad (CMC) — Caribbean women are calling for adequate maternity and paternity leave for parliamentarians and increases in women's representation in cabinets, parliaments and local governments to a minimum of 30 per cent.

These are among some 17 recommendations to regional and global governments in a document from regional women leaders which also asks that political parties include a minimum of 40 per cent of either sex on their lists of candidates for parliamentary and local government elections and senatorial appointments.

The document, entitled the 'Port of Spain Consensus on Transformational Leadership for Gender Equality' was drafted at the Caribbean Regional Colloquium on Women Leaders as Agents of Change conference held here two weeks ago.

The women leaders are also recommending that governments and political parties develop and implement initiatives that facilitate women's full participation in all internal party policymaking structures, appointments and electoral nominating processes and a review of the criteria and processes for appointments to decision-making bodies in the public and private sectors to facilitate increased women's representation.

They are also recommending gender-sensitive leadership training programmes for men and women, including young people who are preparing to assume or are in decision-making positions in the public and private sectors and that resources are made available to national gender/women's machineries "so they can effectively implement, monitor and mainstream commitments on gender equality".

The outcome of the conference here will be presented at a fringe meeting of global women leaders on the eve of the UN General Assembly in New York in September and the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in Australia in November.

The document noted that while women's political participation is now recognised internationally as a key element in social progress there are less than 15 per cent of women elected to Caribbean parliaments.

"Despite high levels of participation by women as voters and campaigners, relatively few women are selected by political parties for leadership positions or as candidates to contest parliamentary elections, and even fewer are elected as members of parliament," it stated.

"There is a similar inequality in women occupying ministerial positions and seats in public and private sector boardrooms.

"As a result, the Caribbean lacks a critical mass of women political leaders committed to promoting gender equality in areas such as women's economic empowerment and security, ending gender-based violence, advancing sexual and reproductive health and rights, equal pay for work of equal value, and shared family responsibilities."

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