Caribbean Office Celebrates the Launch of UN WOMEN

Date: Friday, March 11, 2011

UN Women Caribbean SRO Regional Programme Director Roberta Clarke
The Caribbean Sub Regional Office recently celebrated the launch of UN WOMEN together with partners drawn from the Government, non-governmental and civil society organisations, UN sister agencies and other development partners.

Regional Programme Director Roberta Clarke told the morning ceremony:

"This agency, UN WOMEN became operational in January 1 2011 under the leadership of the Under-Secretary General, former President of Chile, Ms. Michelle Bachelet. Her perspective, as expressed at the launch of UN WOMEN on February 24, is that  the Millennium Development Goals can only be achieved if we do better in tapping into women’s strength, women’s industry, and women’s wisdom.

"The long title says the mandate quite eloquently. The short title, UN WOMEN has been met by some scepticism. In thinking about the name of the agency it is certain that member countries were guided by the reality that 70% of the world’s people who live in extreme poverty are women and girls; by the reality that women own 1% of the world’s land; by the reality that 66% of the world’s working hours are worked by women; by the reality that gender-based violence is responsible for most of the deaths of women between the ages 15-44; and by the fact that 18% of the parliamentary seats are held by women.

"And so, we affirm that eradicating inequality will require explicit and targeted attention to gender relations that are also harmful and constraining for men and boys. Yet there can be no denying that the advancement of equal opportunities and access to resources and political decision-making for women is at the heart of the larger global social justice and development agenda.

"Here in the Caribbean, where our disparities may not be as profound, we stand with the global aspiration of a world free of discrimination against women. But we too are self-interested in the work of UN WOMEN.

"The region’s gender agenda is incomplete. Whether we speak about gender-based violence, or women’s economic insecurity and disproportionate burden of care for children, or the paucity of women in elected parliamentary processes, it is clear that a culture of gender inequality stubbornly persists."

UN WOMEN will work in partnership with governments, civil society and the UN system to contribute to solving the issues that bedevil our beautiful space; whether crime and violence, or economic insecurity; environmental degradation; reversing the spread of HIV or social alienation. In all of these areas, ending discrimination and releasing women’s potential is not only morally right, it is instrumental to solutions.

Now we leave behind the name of UNIFEM with some feelings of nostalgia and pride. When the history is written, it will show that with little, much was accomplished. The plenty which UNIFEM had in stock was the passionate clarity of vision shared by its partners. And this good will and passion is the inheritance of UN WOMEN. I wish to acknowledge the presence and thank Professor Joycelin Massiah, the first Regional Programme Director, for her contributions to the work.

As we move on to the promise of a UN WOMEN and a UN system delivering coherently on gender equality goals, I share with you the inspiring exhortation of the Secretary-General, Mr. Ban Ki Moon, “True gender equality should be our shared legacy in the 21st Century.”

"UN WOMEN RPD Roberta Clarke, UNIFEM Caribbean Office first RPD Professor Joycelin Massiah, Madam Justice Jacqueline Cornelius; Senator Irene Sandiford-Garner - Parliamentary Secretary in the Ministry of Health and Barbados Representative to CIM; Dr. The Honourable Esther Byer-Suckoo, Minister of Labour Barbados and Ms. Michelle Gyles-McDonnough Resident Coordinator Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean and UNDP Resident Representative Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean.

UN Resident Coordinator for Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean Ms. Michelle Gyles McDonnough stressed that in this centenary year, one hundred years after the first commemoration of International Women’s Day, and on the occasion of the establishment of UN Women – a comprehensive gender entity to drive and lead change for and with women: "We look to a world where women live in peace, where women are valued and respected, have access to opportunities, and the freedom to exercise all the rights that we are all entitled to as human beings and to reach the potential as defined by the individual woman.

"We know that UN WOMEN will continue to promote and advocate the rights of women and support the adoption of policies that lead to the fulfillment of these rights.UN WOMEN will play a lead role in the coordination of gender equality programming and, as Resident Coordinator, I look forward to UN Women’s leadership, partnership, and action at the normative level, and operationally, and to working closely with all of you as partners to tackle the multiple and complex development challenges that this region faces. "