Women of Jamaica, my sisters, I salute you on this important day.

This year's observance of International Women's Day takes on added importance as our nation observes its 50th anniversary of political independence – a journey on which our women have played an active and significant role. Over this period, we have made significant progress toward gender equality and women's empowerment through targeted policy interventions, determined advocacy and practical programmes of action. Our women today not only dominate many areas of national, social and professional endeavours but they do so with merit, competence and distinction.

While we can take some pride in the overall progress made we must also be very mindful of the fact that a significant number of Jamaican women still struggle against the barriers which keep them poor and marginalised. Many of these women live in rural communities across the length and breadth of this country. It is within this context that we join the global community in supporting the United Nations theme for this year's observance – Empower Rural Women: End Hunger and Poverty. The sad reality is that more and more women, the majority in rural communities are becoming poorer which is impacting on their life chances and that of their families.

The empowerment of rural women and their role in poverty and hunger eradication is therefore an urgent priority and increased efforts must be made to provide them equal access to the productive resources and increased opportunities necessary to reduce hunger and poverty.

As we have done in the past, my government stands ready to play its part in raising levels of awareness and implement the action necessary for our women to fully achieve their potential. We have come a long way, but the job is not yet complete until we overcome all remaining challenges to the economic and political progress of our women.

I encourage the men in our society to join hands in celebrating the Jamaican woman. Together, let us move forward as one united people, one Jamaican family, charting our way to another progressive 50 years.

I wish all our women a happy International Women's Day!

The Most Hon. Portia Simpson Miller
Prime Minister of Jamaica

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