This year, International Women’s Day March 8, marks 100 years of observance of the day. As Minister with responsibility for Women Affairs and Gender Issues, I am honoured to pay tribute to all women across the world. Of course I must specifically acknowledge the contributions made by Jamaican women to the social, cultural and economic development of our nation.
International Women's Day reminds us that women play an integral role in the development of a country and when we ensure that our women are empowered we are moving towards the achievement of gender equality. While we take note of the hardships and struggles that this nation has faced as a people, we must also highlight the achievements and progress that have been made so far.
The theme for this year’s International Women’s Day is “Education and Training: Decent Work for Women.” Most recent statistics from the Economic and Social Survey of Jamaica highlight that although Jamaican women matriculate and graduate from tertiary institutions at higher rates than men, they are twice as likely to be unemployed and are employed in sectors that are low paying.
In many instances women are breadwinners and primary care-givers. They also contend with issues of sexual harassment and discrimination in the workplace. This year’s theme highlights the continued struggle of Jamaican women to participate equally and productively in society.
At this time I am pleased to say that the National Policy for Gender Equality has just been approved by Cabinet. This will improve the participation of women in all sectors of the society and facilitate greater coordination and sustainability in the gender mainstreaming process.
Indeed the National Policy for Gender Equality will seek to facilitate a national strategy towards addressing the specific needs of both men and women. The implementation of the policy is crucial to the attainment of Jamaica’s development goals; to regional goals as well as the Millennium Development Goals and other commitments to gender equality and women’s empowerment. A major aim of the policy is to make national policy-making and implementation more gender aware. This will take into account the different barriers which inhibit both sexes from realising their full potential.
Today I take great pleasure in announcing the Way Out Project which is being implemented through the Bureau of Women's in partnership with the Dispute Resolution Foundation. The full title is, 'Jamaican Women's Political Empowerment: The Way Out Project.’ This is being done with assistance from the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women) through its fund for gender equality. The programme is being conducted over a period of 32 months.
It will offer leadership training and development to women from all walks of life. It will increase their capacity and knowledge and encourage participation in the decision-making spheres of the country. The Way Out Project is also designed to support and promote the implementation of the recently approved National Policy for Gender Equality and its gender mainstreaming goals.
People at all levels of the public service will receive training in gender mainstreaming, collecting sex disaggregated data, gender responsive budgeting, gender responsive planning and mediation. It will also target key entities in the private sector to promote gender awareness and train individuals in those entities to use gender mainstreaming as a tool. These would include non-governmental organisations, faith based organisations, community based organisations, political organisations, labour unions and other such agencies.
Our women are change agents and as we celebrate the 100th Anniversary of International Women’s Day we must ensure that more and more women are given opportunities to be active agents of change in the society.
Moving forward, I invite all sectors of society to partner with us so that the goal of empowerment of women and gender equality will be achieved. I specially invite all concerned women and men to work with me in mobilising the support from all sectors. Let's work together to ensure gender equality for all.
In commemorating the Centenary of International Women's Day, we also recognise that 2011 has been declared the International Year for People of African Descent by the United Nations. I want to acknowledge the contribution of women of African descent to the development of not only the African Continent and the Diaspora, but the world. Let us pay tribute to these women both past and present who have overcome many hurdles to achieve much success.
Today I call upon Jamaicans from all walks of life, women and men, boys and girls, old and young, rich and poor to celebrate not only the Centenary of International Women’s Day but the achievements of Jamaican women and the strides we have made as a proud nation.
As we boast the motto ‘Out of Many One People’ I celebrate the women of the world.
And let us move forward with great pride towards a common goal of equity for all.
Olivia Grange, MP
Minister of Youth, Sports and Culture
With Responsibility for Women’s Affairs and Gender Issues