March 08, 2008 we pay tribute to our women around the world and hold them as examples of hope, strength and compassion. It is indeed my privilege to honour the courage of our women worldwide, but most significantly our Jamaican women who have played transformative roles in our society. International Women’s Day reminds us that the empowerment of our women is tied to the safety, security and prosperity of the world. Women are essential change agents.
It is a day that focuses on the raising of awareness on issues relating to women and girls all across the globe. It aims to honour the achievements of women and promote women’s rights. As we commemorate this day, we give recognition to the outstanding achievements and contributions of Jamaican women in the local, regional, and international arenas.
In 1978, International Women’s Day (IWD) was celebrated in Jamaica for the first time. This year’s observance is of special significance, as it serves a dual role of highlighting the achievements of women in all areas of the society, as well as mark the celebration of the 35th Anniversary of the Bureau of Women’s Affairs.
This year’s theme “Honouring the Past, Celebrating Women: Embracing Gender Equality” highlights the work that has been done and the many hurdles past. As a nation we can now celebrate our women and these efforts which enable us to look forward to a future where persons will not be discriminated on the basis of gender.
Many decades of lobbying and advocacy by women’s organizations across the world have resulted in the global recognition that women make to social and economic development and of the costs to societies of persistent inequalities between men and women. The success of our efforts is evident in some of the conventions and protocols that the Government has signed over the past two decades. International framework for the pursuit of gender equality is provided by the Beijing Platform for Action, the Millennium Development Goals and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Violence against Women. By signing these documents the Government has a responsibility to promote gender equality, empower women and eliminate gender-based violence.
As Minister with responsibility for women issues, I see this day as an opportunity for all of us as women and men to unite and embrace each other and call for partnership with Government, public and private sectors, civil society and the community. Women’s empowerment is a condition for building better lives for all globally. It is important to understand that gender equality and human rights for all is essential for the advancement to development, peace and security. Our women and children continue to be abused, undervalued and disrespected. But today as we celebrate International Women’s Day let us reflect on change.
For this the Bureau of Women’s Affairs, the national machinery for women affairs, must be commended. For thirty five years they have advocated for women’s empowerment and gender equality through:. The establishment of women’s Parish Advisory Committees (PACs). Skills training and literary programmes for women and girls. The establishment of a Women’s Centre for Teen Mothers. Non-traditional skills training in woodwork, construction, plumbing and electrical work among others. A National Policy Statement on Women
. Legislative amendments and enactment for gender equality
. Policy formulation and implementation
. The establishment of Gender Focal Points in government ministries and agencies
. Research including the collection of reliable gender disaggregated data to compare the situation of women and men so that gender based disparities can be identified and addressed
. Public education and training on gender issues
. Project Planning and Monitoring
. Development of a National Gender Policy
In the 35th year on the Bureau of Women’s Affairs it is time for transformation. This day, International Women’s Day as we have come together to celebrate our women let us move into the future with a positive attitude to work for the enduring change for gender equality.

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