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Minister Jonas demands gender equality and female empowerment

Minister of Social Transformation Dean Jonas has called on his colleagues and counterparts in the United Nations to continue the fight towards achieving gender equality and female empowerment.

His call came during his address at a meeting of the Commission on the Status of Women held virtually on March 15.

“We may have different cultures and national realities, however we are united in our desire to see women and girls play a greater role in global development, and to be decision makers contributing to a more just and inclusive society.

“Let us continue our work, despite the pandemic. I am confident that this conference will be the start of a rejuvenated collective global drive,” Minister Jonas stated.

The theme for this year’s Commission on the Status of Women Conference is ‘‘Women’s full and effective participation and decision-making in public life, as well as the elimination of violence, for achieving gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls.”

Minister Jonas said that the theme is fitting and appropriate.

“Even as we have seen a positive evolution in regard to the outlook that many people have on women’s role in public life and leadership, there are still widespread and deeply rooted misconceptions and harmful perceptions that need to be addressed,” he said.

“Additionally, worldwide, we have seen that the multiple forms of gender based violence still persist and act as an impediment to achieving gender equality,” Minister Jonas noted.

He told the conference, “The government of Antigua and Barbuda is pleased to be represented … as we mark a milestone by being able to again use this platform as a vehicle to mainstream gender considerations into global policy and legislative frameworks and to engage in sustained and high level advocacy on pressing and prevalent issues affecting women and girls.

“We are in precarious times as we continue to navigate the Covid-19 pandemic, and the disproportionate effects that the pandemic has on women and girls and vulnerable groups is another reason why this conference is of the utmost importance.”

Minister Jonas described the round table event as a unique opportunity to critically assess and examine the progress member countries have made in achieving gender equality, and more specifically what steps they need to take in the future to ensure ample opportunities for women to play a greater role in leadership and decision making. 

Additionally, he said the issue of gender based violence is one that governments must continue to dedicate resources, time and effort towards.

“Women and girls have a basic and fundamental right to live free from violence. Anything short of this would be a massive failure and we must prioritise their safety, and develop policies and frameworks that will ensure they are adequately protected,” Minister Jonas noted.

“It is undeniably important for us as policy makers and civil society to be at the forefront of the gender equality fight, however, if we fail to engage with our people and to sensitise them to the lived realities of women and vulnerable groups, we will be fighting an uphill battle.”

Minster Jonas added that a number of issues have arisen out of this pandemic that will require continued and sustained advocacy, as well as programming and policy in order to reduce the harmful effects it is having on many women’s economic autonomy, physical and mental health, as well as the threat of gender based violence.

“Antigua and Barbuda will continue to be guided by commitments made to the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women, as well as to the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action. “These overarching policy frameworks continue to hold us accountable in our efforts to strengthen our institutional capacity and provide a roadmap towards achieving gender equality and eliminating discrimination, gender based violence and inequality,” Minister Jonas concluded.

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