Webster highlights challenges affecting Caribbean women at international conference

Minister of Human Services and Social Security, Jennifer Webster

[www.inewsguyana.com] – Guyana’s Human Services and Social Security Minister, Jennifer Webster says that within the Caricom trade bloc, women are still marginally represented in politics when compared to their male counterparts.

She made the statement while highlighting a slew of other challenges faced by Caribbean women at the 59th Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) Conference, which is currently being held in New York, United States of America.

Speaking on behalf of CARICOM, Webster said one of the successes in the Caribbean over the past three decades has been the establishment of National Women’s Machineries to operationalise programmes and policies to advance the status of women.

“In spite of these significant gains, there are areas which continue to negatively affect the advancement of women and girls. These include poverty, violence against women, and the lack of equal political representation,” said Webster.

She went on to say that the Beijing Platform for Action recognized that the political empowerment of women and the commitment to promoting gender equality in political representation at the national level are critical to national progress.

“Achieving balance in this area would accurately reflect the composition of society, strengthen democracy and leverage the integration of the gender dimension in government policy-making to ensure that the interests of women are well represented,” she contended.

It was also noted that during the past three decades, the Caribbean has had four female Heads of Government- Dame Eugenia Charles inthe Commonwealth of Dominica, Janet Jagan of Guyana, Portia Simpson Miller of Jamaica and Kamla Persaud-Bissessar of Trinidad and Tobago.

She reported that female contribution to the growth and development of Caribbean economies is receiving greater attention by Caribbean governments, however, in spite of this, women still face many barriers to their attainment of economic empowerment.

Webster also pointed out thatone of the areas of major concern in the Caribbean is the issue of gender based violence.

She pointed to a 2012 Caribbean Human Development Report which states that, “while women are less likely than men to be victims of crimes generally, their vulnerability to sexual assault and domestic violence is dramatically higher than men’s.”

Webster said that almost all Caribbean countries have developed legislation and public policy to protect victims, sanction perpetrators and criminalise various acts of physical, psychological and sexual violence.

Albeit the challenges outlined, the Human Services Minister said that there is no doubt that there has been progress in the advancement of women in the Caribbean.

“Despite two decades of gender mainstreaming many persistent challenges remain including understanding the linkages between gender perspectives and sustainable development. In this regard, CARICOM wishes to reiterate that a significant factor which affects the ability of Member States to meet their goals and targets relates to adequate resources,” said Webster.

She noted that it is therefore necessary for developed countries to fulfil their commitments made with regards to official development assistance with increased priority to gender equality and the empowerment of women.