The specific challenges facing Caribbean women were at the center of attention during the 57th meeting of the Presiding Officers of the Regional Conference on Women in Latin America and the Caribbean, which was held from 30-31 July 2018 at ECLAC’s headquarters in Santiago, Chile.
Among the obstacles faced by Caribbean women, countries noted the serious constraints faced by Small Island Developing States (SIDS), due to their middle-income country status, highly indebted situation, heavy dependence on tourism, and vulnerability to climate change and environmental hazards, that negatively impact policies and programmes aimed at advancing women’s autonomy.
In fact, despite efforts made by Caribbean countries, serious obstacles still remain in the subregion, including high rates of gender-based violence and the fact that gender occupational stereotypes and discriminatory practices in the labour market, often reinforced by the lack of recognition of the value of their domestic and care work, still characterize the labour market in the subregion.
These were some of the points raised by the Honorable Samantha Marshall, Minister of Social Transformation, Human Resource Development, Youth and Gender Affairs of Antigua and Barbuda, as she addressed a Caribbean panel at the 57th meeting of the Presiding Officers of the Regional Conference on Women in Latin America and the Caribbean in Santiago, Chile on 31 July 2018.
Minister Marshall noted that in an effort to ensure that the conditions are favourable to eliminate inequality and provide all women with the opportunity in to make their own decisions, enjoy all human rights and to participate and contribute to socioeconomic development as equal citizens, “we need to advance a radical transformative agenda, that promotes transparent governance structures, improves the ease of doing business within our economy, lessens restrictive regulations, promotes an effective tax structure and tax collection that is well targeted, strengthens investment in public services, and fosters diversification of our economies with the aim of contributing to a more stable economic environment and social development” she stated.
The Directors of the National mechanisms of the Advancement of Women in Saint Lucia and Suriname, respectively, Ms. Janey Joseph and Ms. Judith Karijodrono, added value to the discussion by sharing their major achievements while acknowledging challenges in their countries, in particular issues concerning women’s participation in the political and decision-making processes, unbalanced sharing of responsibilities between women and men in the care economy and unpaid domestic work, the existence of weak regulatory and monitoring frameworks and the need for the collection of disaggregated data that will provide evidence-based approach to assess further progress and obstacles.
One of the major outcomes of the meeting was the creation of a Regional Fund in support of Women’s and Feminist Organizations and Movements, with the incorporation of Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Equator and Panama, as the first members of the Board of Directors of this fund.
The meeting’s outcome also included requests from governments, including those of the Caribbean, to receive technical assistance for building the capacity of gender focal points in specific areas. These include the design and implementation of gender equality policies, the mainstreaming of gender equality into national development plans through multi-stakeholder participatory processes and the strengthening of national statistical systems through the production of gender indicators, including through the measurement of time use and unpaid care work and violence against women.
The meeting was inaugurated by ECLAC Executive Secretary, Alicia Bárcena, who recognized the advances made on achieving gender equality in recent years, and encouraged member state to continue on this path. Bárcena also reiterated ECLAC’s call to action “Caribbean First” aimed at giving focused attention to the special needs of the Caribbean in all the work of the Regional Commission.
Climate change will be among the key themes addressed by the next Regional Conference on Women, which will take place in November 2019, in Santiago de Chile. The impact of extreme weather events on the economic autonomy of women in the Caribbean will therefore be discussed. Several preparatory meetings will take place in the Caribbean in order to ensure that the voices of all Caribbean women are heard.