It is a distinct honour and pleasure for me to celebrate our women and girls across the Caribbean Community on the occasion of the 107th Anniversary of International Women’s Day. International Women’s Day affords us the opportunity to reflect on gender equality and the advancement of women and to continue to #PressForProgress as this year’s theme and call to action suggests.
This year’s celebration is being observed in the wider context of significant global movements for women’s rights, justice, equality, development and peace, as well as movements against domestic abuse, sexual harassment and femicide.
These movements for change provide opportunities to combat sexual harassment, and gender-based violence and when linked with the Sustainable Development Agenda 2030, additional gains such as good health and well-being, quality education and increased political participation may be realised. The global community is on a mission to close the gaps that hinder such achievement and leave some behind.
According to the World Economic Forum which measures gender equality on a global scale, “2017 was the first time in more than 10 years that the gender gap began to widen again.” The Report indicates that it could still take “another 100 years before the Global Equality Gap between men and women disappears entirely. A gender pay gap persists across the globe and women are still not present in equal numbers in business or politics.”
Women across the world remain an underutilised resource in the labor force. Participation rates according to the International Monetary Fund in 2015 averaged around 80% for men and 50% for women. Therefore, nearly half of women’s productive potential remains untapped compared to one-fifth for men.
Latin America and the Caribbean saw the largest gains in female labour force participation in the world during the last two decades. Women in the Region are closing the gap with men, and catching up their counterparts in advanced economies at an impressive rate. Since the research shows that approximately half of the women in Latin America and the Caribbean are not in the labor force, increasing female labour force participation stands out as one of the under-tapped engines of growth. The share of women with a college education now exceeds that of men in several Latin American and Caribbean countries and their productivity and contribution to GDP is increasing. Yet women’s pay and employment opportunities still lag behind that of their male counterparts.
On International Women’s Day, women across the world come together to highlight the many inequalities, especially those experienced by groups such as rural women and girls, who will come into sharp focus as the Sixty-Second Session of the Commission on the Status of Women convenes at the United Nations (UN) in New York later this month. These women continue to till the soil and produce the food that feed their families, communities and nations. Yet UN Women reminds us that on almost every measure of development, because of deep seated gender inequalities and discrimination, rural women fare worse than rural men or urban women. They constitute less than 20 per cent of landholders worldwide and while the global pay gap between men and women stands at 23%, in rural areas it can be as high as 40%. The Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) Country Gender Assessment Synthesis Report 2015 reminds us that in our region, the agricultural sector remains male dominated in relation to land ownership, access to credit and other means of production.
People around the world, especially women, are mobilizing to press for a more just society, but women cannot do it alone; men and boys must become involved as we too have a shared responsibility in achieving gender equality.
On March 8, please join me and concerned citizens of the Caribbean Community and rest of the world to celebrate women and girls, but above all to PressForProgress!