COHSODPress ReleasesStatements and Declarations

Gender Equality A Priority For CARICOM

(CARICOM Secretariat, Georgetown, Guyana) Deputy Secretary-General of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), Ambassador Lolita Applewhaite has made a strong call for women and men to be treated equally in Regional development policies. Ambassador Applewhaite was at the time delivering remarks at the opening of the Twelfth Meeting of CARICOM's Council for Human and Social Development (COHSOD). The three-day Meeting opened in Georgetown on Wednesday, 27 April under the theme “Gender As A Cross-Cutting Theme In Human And Social Development Issues.”

The Deputy Secretary-General told the Meeting that the “well-being of society is dependent on taking account of the roles of men and women alike, their demands, entitlements and access to resources and services.” She stressed the importance of gender equality in this context, and pointed to existing gender biases in the CARICOM Region in labour, politics and the social system that continue to favour men.

Ambassador Applewhaite added that gender inequalities in the Region are reflective of women's continued poor remuneration in relation to men, and poor female representation at senior decision-making positions. Referring to a study conducted by the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (UNECLAC) in 2002, the Deputy Secretary-General said, “the Region is characterised by poverty, and there is disproportionate impact on women, ” and added, “Generally the poorest of the poor are women.”

Antigua and Barbuda's Minister of Health, Youth and Sports, Honourable Winston Williams, also Chairman of the COHSOD, described the Meeting as important and stated, “Gender is not all about women, but it is also about men. Therefore, we must ensure that not only women, but men get the opportunities for development as well.”

The Minister added, “The women of this Region have toiled not only to be recognised, but for equal participation in decision-making. However, as the women rise, the men should not be left in the background. Instead, men and women should walk together towards human and social development.”

Guyana's Minister in the Ministry of Labour, Human Services and Social Security, Honorable Bibi Shadick made a strong plea to her colleagues to ensure that the theme of the Meeting is earned through the formation of real policies and programmes that can impact the men and women of the Caribbean. She urged them to pay particular attention to the “invisible inequalities.”

“Guyana takes the issue of women very seriously,” Minister Shadick emphasised. She noted that the greatest challenge of gender equity is in social relationships and stressed, “women are the child-bearers, child-rearers and child-carers.” Minister Shadick added that apart from these major social responsibilities, women are also expected to undertake prominent positions in the work-place.

Assistant Secretary-General for Human and Social Development at the CARICOM Secretariat, Dr. Edward Greene, spoke of the challenges posed in establishing a Regional human and social development strategy that takes into account all the relevant and cross-cutting issues. He noted the importance of the inter-sectoral approach to this area of work, and said, “there is no better way to promote equity than through gender.”

Gender equity he said is important to achieving social and economic development, and he urged the Ministers to ensure that social policies reflect that imperative. “Any policy or action that fails to take into consideration the issue of gender equity will have limited effectiveness and will be a serious cost to society,” Dr Greene posited.

The COHSOD is tasked with reviewing and resolving social sector policies that promote equity and social justice.

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