Secretary- General of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), Irwin LaRocque believes the picture of gender equality in the region is a “mixed one.”
In his International Women’s Day speech, published today by the CARICOM secretariat said ” We now have more women entering and succeeding in secondary and tertiary education than two decades ago and more women in positions of public office. Yet, women still earn on average 19% less than men and a high proportion are concentrated in low paying jobs. In addition, in a Region where nearly half of all households are headed by women, there are consequences of trying to juggle work and home demands such as less time with their children and higher stress levels.”
Pointing to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) emphasized that CARICOM takes its commitment to these targets seriously, hence he called for the region to embrace a bolder and more transformative approach.
“We must strengthen our support for those organizations working tirelessly on gender equality issues, such as the National Gender Bureaux. We must step up our engagement of men and boys in the promotion of gender equality. And we must expand and increase our linkages with the private sector and civil society organizations,” Mr. LaRocque urged.
More specifically, The CARICOM SG highlighted that the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development provides a tremendous opportunity to make a difference in the “lives of those most vulnerable and who are at further risk of being “left behind” as the Region strives for increased economic, social and cultural prosperity and becomes a unified and competitive force in the global arena. ”
Last year, he pointed out, the world galvanized attention to this new 15 year journey following a review of the earlier framework, the Millennium Development Goals or MDGs.
It was further cited that “despite evidence of progress, for example reducing by half the number of people in the world who live in extreme poverty, lessons have pointed to the need for increased action. To this end the SDGs aim to accelerate progress by establishing stronger links between economic growth, social inclusion and environmental sustainability and placing gender equality as both a distinct goal and crosscutting theme.”
He stated that since the onset of the MDGs, the Region has boasted success in reducing infant and maternal mortality and the spread of HIV, particularly mother-to-child transmission which has almost been eliminated. “Poverty, however, is significant among single mothers, elderly and disabled women.
Women who live in poverty experience additional vulnerabilities, such as higher infant mortality rates, higher likelihood of early pregnancy, lower school enrolment, lower employment rates and increased likelihood of experiencing violence,” LaRocque posited.
The Secretary-General deemed these as “unacceptable circumstances” that must be addressed if the region is to achieve the Caribbean Community vision where every citizen is secure and has the opportunity to realize “his or her potential with guaranteed human rights and social justice.”
International Women’s Day was celebrated yesterday (March 8) under the theme Planet 50-50 by 2030: Step It Up for Gender Equality.