National Gender Policy To Be Developed

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Minister of Youth, Family and Sports, Dr. Esther Byer Suckoo (right), in discussion with Roberta Clarke, Regional Programme Director of UNIFEM. (Image: A. Miller)
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Government’s Bureau of Gender Affairs will soon take on the task of developing a National Gender Policy.

This disclosure has come from Minister of Youth, Family and Sports, Dr. Esther Byer Suckoo, who described the policy as "timely" for Barbados.

Her comments came today while delivering the feature address at the opening of the round table discussion on Gender Responsive HIV/AIDS Prevention Strategies at the United Nations House. The workshop is part of the Mainstreaming Gender Analysis in HIV Programme (Phase 2), organised by the Bureau of Gender Affairs and the United Nations Development Fund for Women and sponsored by the Department for International Development Caribbean.

Explaining that gender mainstreaming sought to integrate its perspective into all policies, programmes and activities, Dr. Byer Suckoo said the strategy had many successes. She highlighted the work of the National HIV/AIDS Commission in this regard, when it moved HIV/AIDS out of the single sector of health, and developed a multi-sectoral response that heightened awareness of the disease in the planning and programmes of all ministries and sectors.

She lamented that some people, even at the policy-making level in this country, were not aware of gender equity and its significance. "Some will argue about the relevance of the gender agenda in a 21st century in Barbados, when compared with some African, Eastern European and Middle Eastern countries, where women’s rights are not as advanced.

"Some will say that women have arrived and they have achieved everything that they possibly hoped to achieve in Barbados. So, we need to sensitise persons at all levels as to what the gender agenda is and why [there is a need for] gender equity. To that end, the Gender Management System is certainly an approach we will try again … [even though] there have been tremendous challenges in trying to establish it," she disclosed.??

??But, Dr. Byer Suckoo stressed that the relevance of the gender agenda was seen when gender was placed within the framework of HIV/AIDS programming. "When we do that," she contended, "we move beyond issues of risky behaviour. We begin to identify issues of vulnerabilities as consequences of role assignments; vulnerabilities because of expectations, power and access to resources.

"When we place a gender analysis in building a response to HIV/AIDS, our response takes on a human face. Our clients become men and women with specific histories, stories and circumstances that may have contributed or still be contributing to their vulnerability. We begin then to construct responses that are free of value judgments and responses that embrace every aspect of the rights of human beings."

The Family Minister argued that when gender mainstreaming and human rights were used as a prevention strategy, some of the stigma and discrimination issues which were identified as a cause and consequence of HIV and AIDS would be removed.

saustin@barbados.gov.bb

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