I am honored to be appointed as the CARICOM Advocate for Gender Justice. Gender is about both men and women and it is fitting that this initiative is launched on March 8th, International Day of Women. This may seem to be a contradiction, but it is not. Women have always been in the forefront of the struggle for equality, justice and peace for all. However, because of gender inequality, their contribution is often neither recognized nor remembered. How many of you present today know of the work of our own Claudia Jones? In recognition of her global contribution to the struggle for equality justice and peace, Claudia Jones is buried next to Karl Marx in London. Claudia Jones was born in Trinidad. How many of us have ever heard of her? Gender justice requires that we pay more than lip service to gender equality. My advocacy begins with a focus on eliminating violence against women.
We cannot and will not make progress in addressing the downward social slide in our societies and the growing violence in our schools and communities until we address violence against women. Violence against women is a cancer which is destroying lives of women, children, boys and girls and spreads out to the schoolyards and communities. According to the UNECLAC report, “The ripple effects of violence commence with the victim, radiate outwards to families and the wider society adding to the burdens of the health care and judicial systems. The loss of productivity incurred ultimately has repercussions on the GDP.” According to a recent World Bank Report, violence, crime and economic development are intricately linked. According to the report, in a study encompassing nine countries, 30% of all women experienced physical violence at the hands of an intimate partner. Gender Based violence stands out as a systemic and systematic violation of human rights and as an obstacle to economic, social and democratic development in all countries.”
It is recognized that any successful approach must be inter-sectoral.
As a consequence of the movement for gender equality and the advancement of women, there have been important advances. Within the last three decades there has been progress in strengthening the legal, institutional and policy instruments at the international, regional and national levels to address the problem of gender discrimination and its integration into mainstream human rights issues.
Violence against women has been one of the priority areas of concern for the international community and the region. Within CARICOM, the issue was addressed at several meetings and recommendations made for a regional mechanism to facilitate a more coordinated approach to addressing violence against women. The Twelfth Meeting of the Council for Human and Social Development (COHSOD) in 2005 also reinforced this priority. Some progress has been made and we need to celebrate areas of progress. CARICOM has drafted model legislation against domestic violence and developed action plans. Core indicators to guide member states have also been identified. The health programme has acknowledged the burden on the state of interpersonal violence. The CARICOM Social and Development Crime Prevention Plan of Action has also incorporated violence against women because of the recognition of the linkages.
Despite the tremendous achievements in making violence against women visible through the work of the women’s movement and legislative and institutional reform, violence against women and children appears to be on the rise. There is a widespread perception that violence against women is on the increase. Significant numbers of women are being killed by their partners.
My mandate seeks to bring greater political visibility and action to address the issue of violence against women. The aim of this project is to:
• conduct specialized studies on gender based violence in the Region.
• raise awareness of the need for further action to develop and strengthen integrated responses, which address the judiciary, law enforcement and social services for the purposes of prevention of gender based violence, protection of victims and the provision of services to victims and perpetrators. (It should be noted that perpetrators often come from households in which they have experienced gender based violence from a very young age.)
• identify specific recommendations aimed at enhancing Member State compliance with their international and regional priority obligations.
I will be collaborating closely with governments and civil society in the region as well as the United Nations agencies and other international bodies. I will also coordinate action research in select CARICOM Member States focused on “Youth, Masculinity and Violence.” This cross-cutting theme will address both young men and women and will provide clear policy recommendations.
Based on the research findings I will
Recommend ways and means to prevent Gender Based Violence.
Propose ways of development or enhancement of policies for the promotion and protection of the rights of women and access to justice for survivors of violence as well as the general harmonization of national legislation.
Engage in awareness raising and sensitisation;
Encourage the participation of women and girls and men and boys as agents of change; and
Collaborate with relevant actors responsible for the promotion and protection of the rights of women internationally, regionally and nationally.
A technical advisory panel comprising of experts in the area of gender and development and masculinity studies will be established to support this work. I have already approached one outstanding Caribbean expert in this regard.
I look forward to working with the CARICOM Secretariat, the governments and people of the region and international partners in taking this agenda forward and achieving results.
I thank you again for this honour.