Gender Equality Today for a Sustainable Tomorrow - Joint IWD Statement by the United Nations in Jamaica
Inundated communities. Trees and telephone poles scattered everywhere. Muddy roadblocks leaving rural areas cut off due to devastating landslides. Cars submerged in water. Empty lots where houses once stood or structures barely hanging on coastlines due to sea-level rise. Farmlands devastated and crops destroyed. These images are all too familiar for those residing in the Caribbean, depicting our island nations battered by a tropical storm or hurricane with high winds, heavy rains, severe flooding and life-threatening storm surges.
Women and girls around the world are leading the charge on climate change adaptation, mitigation, and disaster response. In solemn recognition of this reality, the United Nations, under the lead of UN Women, commemorates International Women’s Day (IWD) 2022, with the theme, “Gender equality today for a sustainable tomorrow.” This year, we are highlighting the impacts of global warming on women and girls right here on our Caribbean home and recognizing their outstanding contributions in the response to and fight against climate change.
To build a more sustainable future for all, we must acknowledge the critical importance of gender equality. A full understanding of the ways in which all people are affected differently by natural hazards and the unique ways in which gender diversity contributes to effective and comprehensive responses. Gender equality is not just a standalone Sustainable Development Goal, but a catalyst to achieving all 17 goals of the Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development. For example, in Jamaica, the United Nations Country Team has undertaken programmes to eliminate gender-based violence (GBV); supported the design laws and policies, in collaboration with the national government and civil society organisations and establish a gender perspective when addressing climate change adaptation to accelerate gender equality and contribute to the advancement of women’s economic security and autonomy.
The theme for IWD 2022 comes in the middle of a global crisis that highlights that women are more vulnerable to climate change impacts than men. Women constitute the majority of the world’s poor, and are more dependent on the natural resources that are most threatened by climate change. This is also true in the Caribbean context. UN Women highlights in the policy brief, Gender Inequality of Climate Change and Disaster Risk in Jamaica (2021), commissioned under the EnGenDER Project, that “more than 80% of the population are at risk because they live in coastal communities, with further evidence of sex and age vulnerabilities - more than 50% of the population are single-parent, female-headed households, and more than 70% of households below the poverty line are also female-headed.”
With Jamaica’s high risks of experiencing not only hurricanes but also flooding, earthquakes, droughts, tsunamis, heat waves and health hazards (as seen presently with the COVID-19 pandemic), there is an urgent need for action plans to embed both gender and age considerations across all sectors. With women far more likely to work in high-risk sectors such as tourism and food services, the impact of disasters endangers their economic security and further contributes to the unequal distribution of unpaid care and domestic work. Disasters also increase the prevalence of all aspects of citizen insecurity including GBV, specifically violence against women and girls which adversely affects all the dimensions of sustainable development in Jamaica. Job losses, limitations in movement and reduced access to support services and to sexual and reproductive health services all contribute to increasing the vulnerability of women and children, making them more susceptible to violence.
Solutions need to be developed using a gender lens, understanding the different, but equally important needs of men, women, boys and girls in order to achieve sustainable development. All agencies of the United Nations System, including UN Women, have worked collaboratively to ensure that gender equality is threaded through all projects, whether it be projects to address the impacts of climate change and support disaster resilience, or projects on economic empowerment and citizen security.
The Spotlight Initiative in Jamaica - a global European Union and United Nations initiative to end all forms of violence against women and girls - continues to engage all relevant stakeholders to eradicate family violence by addressing the factors that perpetuate GBV and creating an environment in which women and girls who experience violence can access quality multisectoral coordinated and a continuum of care, including long term recovery. These factors include economic insecurity, inadequate legal provisions to protect women and girls, unsafe and unstable environments for children and, unequal power structures that promote the value of one sex over the other.
Additional initiatives to advance gender equality in Jamaica have been undertaken by UN Agencies and its partners, such as the Caribbean Sheroes Initiative led by the United Nations, Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the Institute for Gender and Development Studies (IGDS) of the University of the West Indies which brought together young people from Jamaica and 15 other countries in the Caribbean to provide tools and strengthen capacities for project planning and advocacy in the areas of human rights and gender equality. Likewise, through the EnGenDER project - an initiative funded by the Governments of Canada and the UK- UN Women supported over 500 women in craft markets in response to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on their livelihood and ten (10) women entrepreneurs in the agribusiness sector to receive stipends valued at $100,000 Jamaica Dollars to scale their businesses under the Women’s Entrepreneurship Support (WES) Project, in partnership with the Ministries of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sports and Industry, Investment and Commerce. Through the Spotlight Initiative, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) partnered with the Jamaica Constabulary Force to expand the JCF’s Domestic Violence Intervention Centre (DVIC) network to six additional police stations and partnered with the Ministry of Heath to bolster Jamaica's capacity to track injuries arising from incidences of violence against women and girls with equipment. Spotlight Initiative, working through UNDP, also supported 60 community women to launch small businesses with a view to lessening their financial dependence on violent partners.
Additionally, the United Nation Population Fund (UNFPA) in collaboration with the Ministry of Health (MOHW), the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM) and key actors of the civil society organizations are planning to get ready to guarantee a Minimum Initial Service Package (MISP) for Sexual and Reproductive Health (SRH) in crisis situations, before the 2022 hurricane season. That will contribute to prevent sexual violence and respond to the needs of survivors, prevent the transmission of and reduce morbidity and mortality due to HIV and other STIs, prevent maternal and new-born morbidity and mortality, prevent unintended pregnancies, and plan for comprehensive SRH services integrated into primary health care.
On this International Women’s Day, 8 March, 2022, the United Nations, reaffirms its commitment and support to the Government of Jamaica, the Jamaican civil society and its organisations, and the private sector in implementing initiatives that positively impact the lives of women and girls in Jamaica and promote greater gender equality for a more equal, equitable and sustainable future based on respect for the lives of all Jamaicans.