The need for gender-responsive, inclusive approaches, laws and policies that address gaps in early childcare services, and a men and boys platform for peace and action, are some of the robust responses needed to address the worsening issue of gender inequality in the Caribbean according to a panel of experts who posited their views at a seminar entitled “Solutions on All Sides: Addressing Multiple Crises to End Gender Inequality”, hosted by the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) at their Annual Meeting held recently in Saint Lucia.
The seminar was staged to find solutions to counter the setbacks from recent challenges and crises which slowed progress on gender equality, social equity, and access to justice. A Virtual Solutions Room, featuring key professionals, provided innovative solutions to the issues raised by the panel of experts that included Ms Judith Wedderburn, board director of Women’s Media Watch Jamaica, Ms Nicole Pitter Patterson, international trade and gender expert, Dr Halimah Deshong, Head and Senior Lecturer at the Institute of Development and Gender Studies at the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill, Ms Michele Irving, President of the Belize National Women’s Commission, and Ms Tamara Huggins, Director of Women’s Voice and Leadership Equality Fund Caribbean.
Lack of involvement of women in leadership at the public and private sectors, occupational segregation, a widening gender pay gap than that of many developed countries, exclusion of indigenous women and vulnerable groups from decision-making, and waning motivation to find funding for human rights matters were some of the issues raised.
Marissa Hutchinson, Environmental Justice Programme Officer at the International Women’s Rights Action Watch – Asia Pacific, said that the COVID-19 pandemic had raised awareness of the need for gender-responsive approaches in relief and grant-based funding.
“It is likely to address and accommodate the unique needs of women and girls and other vulnerable groups, and this is important in preventing them from further marginalisation,” Ms. Hutchinson said, adding that investing in community resilience was also important.
Ms Ashlee Burnett, founder of Feminitt Caribbean, said prevention through evidence and age-based comprehensive sexuality education for young people was one means of addressing gender-based violence across regional development sectors.
“Whilst there is push-back against implementing Comprehensive sexuality education and a lack of political will to find alternatives, we can also commit to an interim strategy that focuses on out-of-school training and engagement for young people and this also provides an opportunity to engage parents and guardians in programming,” Ms. Burnett said, adding that a whole of community approach would be necessary for the strategy to be effective.
“This allows for brave spaces for women and girls and the LGBT+ community to really understand and challenge gender norms and stereotypes which causes street harassment, sexual violence, and domestic violence to be kept alive within this region,” she added.
Ms Kavell Joseph, consultant with the World Bank’s Latin America and Caribbean Gender Equality Action Lab, addressing the question of how to put research into practise to recognise the fullness of women’s economic participation, stated that a three-pillared childcare policy was needed to address gaps.
“An adequate childcare policy should have (sic) availability, affordability, and quality. To ensure convenience, childcare laws should regulate the hours of operation that should at minimum, accommodate the needs of parents working full time,” she said.
She also suggested solutions that Caribbean governments can accommodate, including direct government provision, financial support through tax breaks, incentives for non-state provision, and employer-supported childcare.
Deputy Director, Bureau of Gender Affairs, Trinidad & Tobago Mr Amilcar Sanatan suggested a Caribbean boys and men platform for peace and action to address the need for partnership in gender equality in the government, development agencies, and academia.
“It must apply a gender-transformative approach to peace and security in support of the declaration of the Heads of Government on crime and violence as a public health issue. The Caribbean Boys and Men Platform for Peace and Action recognises that gender inequality is one of the root causes of crime and violence in Caribbean societies at social and structural levels,” Sanatan said.
He added that the Platform aligns with three action pillars in the CDB’s equality policy and operational strategy: economic empowerment for all, education, and training for all, and eliminating gender-based violence for all.