International Women’s Day 2017
Statement by the Minister with responsibility for Gender Relations
Dr. the Hon. Gale T.C. Rigobert
Minister of Education, Innovation, Gender Relations and Sustainable Development
Castries, March 8, 2017 – I am honoured to convey my best wishes to all the women and girls in Saint Lucia on the occasion of International Women’s Day 2017.
As we continue the tradition of this annual observance we recognize the sterling contributions of our women and girls, we celebrate their achievements and we take the time to reflect on progress made in our quest for gender parity. The theme selected for this year’s observance ‘Be Bold For Change’ challenges each one of us to make the changes that are necessary for creating a better, safer and more secure environment that will enable women and girls to reach their full potential as positive change agents.
It is also a time to reflect on long standing as well as emerging issues that continue to confront us as we strive to create a more gender inclusive society. Notwithstanding the many milestones achieved, women continue to face major challenges. Persistent and acute poverty, violence in both public and private spaces, gender stereotyping and discrimination and other new or emerging challenges such as the impact of climate change, the hazards of natural disasters and the uncertainties of world economies on their livelihood.
We are all challenged to “Be Bold For Change” and confront “bias and inequalities” for a more inclusive society, campaign against the devastation of violence on women and children, champion women’s advancement by legislating change and advocating for equity in leadership roles, especially at the highest levels of decision-making, recognize women’s achievements and promote them as role models and to encourage more women and girls to pursue studies and more lucrative careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).
According to UNWomen… “In 2015 world leaders adopted the Sustainable Development Goals, placing gender equality and empowerment of all women and girls at the heart of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Achievement of the goals, including ending poverty, promoting inclusive and sustainable economic growth, reducing inequalities within and between countries, and achieving gender equality and empowerment of all women and girls, rests upon unlocking the full potential of women in the world of work.”
The Government of Saint Lucia remains committed to closing gender parity gaps and will keep women’s and gender issues on the top of our development agenda. We must be “Bold For change” and quantify the tremendous contribution of women’s unpaid work to the economy, implement policies and legislation that challenge stereotypes and discrimination. We must also educate our boys and encourage men to share the burden of care that is usually seen as the responsibility of women.
Another hindrance to gender equality and women’s empowerment is gender-based violence. Violence against women and children continues to be a major national issue. Despite the significant amount of resources that is spent annually on providing social support services to victims and survivors and the rehabilitation of perpetrators, the reports of such cases continue to reach the various agencies, and sadly sometimes the outcomes are fatal. We must “Be Bold For Change” and continue to educate our youth about positive relationships, so that they can break the cycle of violence, even when they have been subjected to witnessing such violence in their formative years. We must “Be Bold For Change” and challenge any customs and practices that perpetuate the violence. We must also continue to encourage victims to speak out and perpetrators to seek help. We must review and strengthen legislation and take all the necessary actions to build on past efforts to increase the reach of victim services because we cannot afford to lose any more lives.
Let me take this opportunity to convey my sincere condolences to the family, friends and loved one of those who have lost their lives as a result of violence in Saint Lucia.
The annual observance of International Women’s Day provides us with an opportunity to not only acknowledge and celebrate the achievements of women past and present, it is also a time to recommit to the principles of social justice and equality for all. The call is for all of us to “Be Bold For Change” to be and encourage others to be change leaders.
On behalf of the Government of Saint Lucia, and in particular the Ministry of Education, Innovation, Gender Relations and Sustainable Development, I salute all women and wish you a happy and memorable International Women’s Day 2017.