President Weekes: Women's rights struggle not over
Although examples abound of women in the Caribbean who appear to have “blown the metaphorical glass ceiling to smithereens,” the advancement of women’s rights is far from over, according to Trinidad and Tobago President Paula-Mae Weekes.
President Weekes’ delivered the lecture to mark International Women’s Day on the topic ‘Realising Women’s Rights in the English-Speaking Caribbean – Mirage or Actuality?’' It was hosted by CIBC FirstCaribbean International Bank and the University of the West Indies Institute for Gender and Development Studies: Nita Barrow Unit.
She told attendees while the region can boast better statistics for female advancement when compared to the rest of the developing world, she questioned whether it was "mere window dressing".
“We have bucked the world-wide trend of declining female participation in the labour market and, along with Latin America, have the second highest rate of female entrepreneurship in the world. With the highest rates being found in Caribbean countries, among them St. Vincent and the Grenadines and Grenada.
‘Is the conspicuous placement of women in high places mere window dressing? Does their prominence serve as any indicator whatsoever of tangible progress in the realisation of women’s rights in the twenty-five years since the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action of 1995 committed governments, ours among them, to take strategic action in twelve critical areas of concern for women?"
President Weekes noted the current United Nations Women’s Generation Equality campaign has reduced the previous 12 areas of concern to five, focusing on: equal pay; equal sharing of unpaid care and domestic work; an end to sexual harassment and violence against women and girls; healthcare services that respond to women’s needs; and, equal participation in political life and decision-making in all areas of life.
“As individuals, institutions, governments and societies, we must continue to identify both the obvious and subtle inequalities that militate against us fully realising women’s rights and in so doing missing out on our true national potential. Only when women become equal partners with men in every sphere of endeavour would we capture a strategic point from which we Caribbean people can launch an invincible offensive.”
Despite recent UN studies that suggest it could take more than 90 years to reach gender equality, Weekes expressed optimism that she would see women’s rights reach the benchmark in her lifetime with education playing a central role in addressing the issues.
Pro-Vice Chancellor and Principal of UWI-Cave Hill Campus Professor Eudine Barriteau and Acting Head of the Institute for Gender and Development Studies Dr Letnie Rock also contributed brief remarks during the event.