Since 1975, International Women’s Year, the United Nations has celebrated International Women’s Day on March 8. Each year on that day Jamaica joins with nations all over the world in recognizing the roles of women in nation building, human rights and social justice. It is primarily an occasion for envisioning potential opportunities, acknowledging accomplishments, assessing past challenges and focusing greater attention on women’s rights and gender equality.
This year’s theme is “Empower Women, Empower Humanity: Picture it!”
Over the years, Jamaica has made considerable progress towards empowering women through improved access to quality education and training, improved participation in high-level decision-making, facilitating the growth of small and medium enterprises, expanding health care and services for women and girls and through poverty reduction programmes, among many other initiatives.
We celebrate Jamaica’s ranking in a recent International Labour Organization Survey as having the greatest proportion of women managers and business leaders.
I wish to acknowledge our women and men of Jamaica who continue to support and promote the work and value of women and girls in our educational institutions, homes, churches, communities and business places.
No Jamaican man, woman, boy or girl can remain indifferent to or disengaged from the challenges we face as a country in relation to violence against women and girls, and in relation to gender-based violence. I appeal to everyone to play their part to cause an end to all acts or practices of violence against women and girls, and gender-based violence, even as we seek to ensure a society that is safe and secure for all.
While we mobilise individual and community action in this regard, the Government of Jamaica, through the Bureau of Women’s Affairs, and with support from UN Women has crafted a draft National Strategic Action Plan to Eliminate Gender-Based Violence in Jamaica. This action plan is a comprehensive multi-sector plan and provides specific priority areas towards eliminating gender-based violence, and allocates responsibilities to key players for achieving these.
Women’s full participation in decision-making and economic life across all sectors is essential to building sustainable livelihoods, a stronger economy and improving the quality of life for all in families, communities and the wider society. The Government is working assiduously to ensure that our women and girls are empowered to participate in every area of our society and contribute holistically to the development of our nation.
Jamaica has also prioritized a number of initiatives to empower and protect women whilst promoting and expanding gender equality at all levels.
One such initiative is the implementation of Gender Action Plans in Ministries, Departments and Agencies. The Bureau of Women’s Affairs which is leading this exercise, has conducted a series of capacity building and sensitization sessions among staff in the public sector to support this programme.
This year marks an important milestone in the international community as we celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action (BPfA). Over the years, the BPfA agenda has contributed to bringing about worldwide visibility to the situation of women and girls and provided guidance on the improvements of the status of women and gender equality.
On this International Women’s Day, I urge my fellow Jamaicans to end all forms of discrimination against women and girls and to eliminate all forms of violence against women and girls.
Let us all recognise the fact that women’s inalienable right to participate fully and equally in all spheres of society is an important step towards building a society which understands and values the inextricable link between the empowerment of women and sustainable national development.