THE ISSUE: Key factors creating barriers for women
THE ISSUE: Is enough being done to ensure gender equality in Barbados?
ACCORDING TO THE UNITED NATIONS Population Fund (UNFPA), gender equality implies a society in which women and men enjoy the same opportunities, outcomes, rights and obligations in all spheres of life.
Equality between men and women exists when both sexes are able to share equally in the distribution of power and influence, have equal opportunities for financial independence through work or by setting up businesses and enjoy equal access to education and the opportunity to develop personal ambitions.
UNFPA points out that despite many international agreements affirming their human rights, women are still much more likely than men to be poor and illiterate. They usually have less access to medical care, property ownership, credit, training, and employment. They are far less likely than men to be politically active and far more likely to be victims of domestic violence.
The international agency notes that in nearly every country, women work longer hours than men even though they are usually paid less and are more likely to live in poverty. Poor women do more unpaid work, work longer hours, and may accept degrading working conditions during a crisis just to ensure that their families survive.
“Women’s lower access to resources and the lack of attention to gender in macroeconomic policy adds to the inequity which, in turn, perpetuates gender gaps.
“For example, when girls reach adolescence they are typically expected to spend more time in household activities, while boys spend more time on farming or wage work.
“By the time girls and boys become adults, females generally work longer hours than males, have less experience in the labour force, earn less income and have less leisure, recreation or rest time,” UNFPA states.
So where does Barbados stand?
According to the August 23 WEEKEND NATION, violence, inadequate access to reproductive health and the over-representation of women in poverty were among the threats to successful gender equality in Barbados and the Caribbean.
These areas were pinpointed by Minister of Social Care, Constituency Empowerment and Community Development Steve Blackett as he delivered remarks during the opening ceremony of the two-day Caribbean Forum On Gender Equality And The Post-2015 Agenda, hosted by the UNDP Barbados and the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States.
The forum sought to foster a common understanding of the global, regional and national discussions on the post-2015 agenda, and it is expected that it will assist in developing a common Caribbean statement and advocacy strategy in order to ensure that gender equality issues are fully addressed in the post-2015 framework.
According to the minister, as the deadline for achieving the Millennium Development Goals approaches, gender inequality remains an issue for women even though more women have access to education, work and enjoy the opportunity to participate in elective government.
“Constraints on women’s socio-economic mobility due to cultural, legal and labour market barriers and women’s lack of decision-making power are all contributory factors which act as barriers to women being able to benefit fully from development interventions.
“There is therefore a need for a comprehensive approach if we are to meaningfully address the structural issues in relation to gender equality,” he said.
Blackett said one area of focus in the discussion should be the implementation of strategies to address poverty among women, which not only impacts upon their families but also upon their children’s future and, by extension, the full development of countries.
“In this connection, we need as a region to agree on policies and initiatives that would transform the social landscape of the region through the empowerment of the most marginalized and excluded people.
“However, it must be borne in mind that such transformation cannot happen without tackling the underlying causes of gender inequality and removing the barriers to women’s empowerment,” he said.
Meanwhile, in the June 8, 2010 DAILY NATION, then Acting Prime Minister Freundel Stuart said men must be included in any policy initiatives aimed at achieving gender equality in the region.
He said although the focus was on the impact of the economic situation on women, “we cannot let our vision be tunnelled into solutions that directly impact on women and girls alone”.
Stuart called for groups representing men’s issues to be engaged to ensure a “collaborative approach in seeking solutions” to gender equality.
Although he spoke on the “commendable success” achieved by the Caribbean region in promoting gender equality and the empowerment of women, he noted that there was still work to be done.