International Women’s Day – Step it up for gender equality

Date: Friday, March 6, 2015

Step it Up for Gender Equality

Step it up for Gender Equality is the call to action as globally International Women’s Day is observed 08th March.

The year 2015 marks a significant milestone – the 20th anniversary of the Fourth World Conference on Women and adoption of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action that set out a roadmap for ensuring women’s rights and realising gender equality.

The Beijing Platform for Action (BPfA) focuses on 12 critical areas of concern, and envisions a world where each woman and girl can exercise her choices, such as participating in politics, getting an education, having an income, and living in societies free from violence and discrimination.

Many countries including the Caribbean have created institutions that address gender inequality. Many have passed laws against gender-based discrimination. Many have made domestic violence a crime. There has been some progress in the last 20 years – but it has been slow and uneven. Today, not one single country has achieved gender equality as outlined in the BPfA.

One critical element for moving ahead to achieving gender equality is engaging men and boys in redefining gender power relationships between women and men. Beyond a symbolic involvement of men, the Beijing framework envisions active male engagement as a necessary means to challenge the structures, beliefs, practices, and institutions that sustain the inequalities between women and men.

In the Caribbean, women’s participation in the labour market is comparatively high when compared to the global averages, but is predominantly in the public sector. Conversely, men continue to dominate the highest levels of the labour market and tend to earn more than women irrespective of levels of educational attainment. Violence against women and girls continues at an alarming rate, and women-headed households while seen as more resilient, are conversely more likely to be economically vulnerable with limited access to social protection, which includes assistance such as cash and non-cash support in times of financial hardship.

Making clear the reality of the inequalities, is not to create an argument about “either/or” between the sexes, but rather to recognise that young women and men face equally pressing but different risks and challenges.

In observance of International Women’s Day 8 March 2015, and under the framework of its gender equality and masculinities work, the UN Women MCO Caribbean in partnership with the Government of Canada is hosting a town hall meeting to examine the opportunities and challenges within the Caribbean context in mobilising men and boys to work with women and girls to achieve gender equality.

The global UN Women HeForShe Campaign, will also be launched in Barbados at this IWD event. HeForShe calls on men and boys to work together with women and girls to end gender based discrimination, and within that, the most egregious violation – gender based violence.

Through aligning with the HeForShe campaign men and boys will signal their commitment to working to realise gender equality in their homes, schools, workplace, communities, places of worship and fields of play, ultimately in all of their social spaces.

Through the town hall meeting UN Women is seeking to reach non-traditional voices and views not generally engaged in formal gender-discussions and planning. Broadening the discussion about how gender norms affect both women and men helps us to better understand the complex ways that rigid gender norms and power relations burden our society, and to more effectively engage men and boys in reflections about inequalities and change.

The meeting will be moderated by the CARICOM Advocate for Gender Justice, Dr. Rosina Wiltshire, with a small panel including a representative from UN Women MCO Caribbean partner in the area of masculinities, the regional Caribbean Male Action Network (CariMAN), a women’s NGO, men’s NGO and a religious leader.