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JIS News

Monday, July 11 will be observed as World Population Day, under the theme: ‘Gender Equality’. Manager of the Social Development and Gender Unit at the Planning Institute of Jamaica (PIOJ), Mary Clarke explained to JIS News that, “equality is important for national development”.
Assessing the status of women in Jamaica, Miss Clarke said that with the ratio of men to women being approximately 50:50, it was important for women to have “equal opportunities (and) access to services and resources to contribute to total national development”.
“If half of the population is at a disadvantage, then the whole of national development will be affected. It is going to affect the balance scale nationally,” she said.
Articulating the plight of Jamaican women, Miss Clarke pointed out that the recent Survey of Living Conditions noted “a great decrease in the consumption of female-headed households by as much as 14 per cent, in contrast to male-headed households, whose consumption fell by 1.7 per cent in 2004”.
She added that the statistics revealed that the participation of women in the labour market has consistently been lower than males. She said that males represented 58 per cent of the employed labour force, while the unemployment rate for women was almost twice the rate for men.
In examining the statistics for domestic and gender-based violence, Miss Clarke said women were the main victims. In the area of health, she pointed out that although more men were infected with HIV/AIDS, “females in the age groups 10 to 19 and 20 to 29 are now more likely than males to be infected (with the disease)”.
She noted that the area of “most blatant disparity” was in power and decision-making at the highest level. “In our Parliament, we have 11 per cent women. Out of the Members of Parliament, there are 7 women and 53 men, while in the Cabinet, the percentage is about 10 per cent representation of women,” she added.Nevertheless, she said the Gender Development Index of the Jamaica Human Development Report revealed that women were doing well on three indices. “These are life expectancy, education and income, to certain degrees”.
However, she pointed out that when it came to gender empowerment, which included the share of parliamentary seats, professional, technical and managerial positions; “we found that we were not as successful”.
Miss Clarke said that although there were grounds to cover in attaining greater gender equality, there had been significant improvements. “Locally, women have made great advances in recent years, with the most outstanding being our advances in education”. She noted that at the tertiary level, the ratio of women to men was 70:30.
Whilst this was good news in terms of the advancement of women, she said that there was “great concern” about the inequality in relation to males in this area. She added that research was currently being done to determine the causes.
Highlighting other developments, she cited the establishment of the Gender Advisory Committee. “This committee is now well underway to developing a National Gender Policy for Jamaica,” Miss Clarke said, adding that great strides were also made in the enactment of laws such as the Domestic Violence Act, the Family Property Rights of Spouses Act and the Child Care and Protection Act.
“Plans and programmes, especially of government, are becoming much more sensitive to gender issues,” she noted.
Assistant Representative at the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), Dr. Leith Dunn noted that this year’s celebration of World Population Day would coincide with the 10th anniversary of the Beijing Conference on the Convention for the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). She said it also coincided with the fifth anniversary of the Millennium Development Goals agreed on by 189 countries in 2000 to, among other things, promote gender development and to empower women.
As such, she pointed out that efforts would be made to review accomplishments and to determine the outstanding areas in which gender equality should be achieved.
Dr. Dunn stressed that this year’s observance of World Population Day would aim to sensitise the public on gender equality, while gearing for the launch of the State of World Population Report 2005 in London on October 12.