Work Progressing on National Policy on Gender

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Director, Patricia Hackett-Codrington (FP)

The draft framework outlining how the National Policy on Gender will proceed has been completed and work on the document will begin in earnest.

That is the word from Director of the Bureau of Gender Affairs, Patricia Hackett-Codrington, who said the consultant had done all the desk work and interviewed a number of key persons. "She has prepared and submitted the framework and so there will be continuation of the work in terms of preparation of the document around the 12 thematic areas."

The Caribbean Policy Development Centre has been awarded the consultancy to develop the policy which should be completed by September 2013.

Mrs. Hackett-Codrington pointed out that the National Advisory Council on Gender would be part of a soon to be set up Project Advisory Committee, which would work with the Bureau to make technical input into the draft document. "The Project Advisory Committee will assist the Bureau in engaging the public for formal and community-level opinions and help us to monitor the preparation of the policy.?? Once it has been prepared and accepted, the Committee will turn its attention to its implementation," she explained.

She added that some of the focal points from the Ministries which have direct impact on the thematic areas, such as Health, Education and Labour, would be brought on board to contribute to the policy. "If we do it this way," she continued, "it will not be separate and distinct from other policies, but it will flow into what is going on in other areas."

The 12 thematic areas to be addressed in the policy are: crime and violence, poverty, education, employment (including unwaged work and paternal leave), power and decision-making, health, family life, housing, sexuality, disaster risk mitigation, legislation and culture, language and religion.

Mrs. Hackett-Codrington stressed that after the collection of information on the various themes, strategies would be developed "to deal with areas which may make one sex more important and valuable than the other so that people benefit…

"When the policy is developed, it will be given to the Bureau and it will have a number of strategies which must be implemented… It means that some of our partners may have to do something to achieve a particular goal. For example, the Ministry of Education may have to do something to promote gender equality. But, the Bureau, working with the National Advisory Council on Gender, will be able to advise its stakeholders on how to implement plans and policies which will provide gender equality," she stated.

The Director stressed that timelines would be included in the policy to ensure the proposed strategies were implemented, so Barbados could develop gender equality in the society.

According to her, gender looks at the social construction of masculinity and femininity, how society allocates roles to men and women, how these roles are valued, and how, by playing these roles, a person is advantaged or disadvantaged. She believes that using gender to analyse various areas would assist planners to better implement their programme.

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(FP)

She said: "So, for example, when you look at unwaged work, women are the ones who do and are expected to do housework, which has significant value. If you had to pay or measure it within the context of the gross domestic product, you will see the value of women’s work to the society as a whole.?? Care-giving is part of unwaged work, and maybe if it could be valued, men would more willingly participate in it because it would take on a different look."

Underscoring the importance of the National Policy on Gender, Mrs. Hackett-Codrington stated that Barbados had signed on to a number of international conventions that spoke to the issue of gender equality, and it must, therefore, meet its obligations. "And, if you are going to look at endemic problems of power and control and inequality, then you have to understand what exists and what needs to be done in order to implement the correct programming to deal with the problems," she suggested.

She noted that some men and women were disadvantaged in a number of instances and it was necessary to put systems in place to improve their situation.?? "Government’s belief is that all should benefit equally from whatever happens in the society. I would agree that women, generally speaking, are the most disadvantaged group. But, I would argue that there are cases where we need to do things to improve the fate of certain groups or categories of men who are disadvantaged. If we really want to provide an equal and equitable society, then we cannot just focus on one sex," she maintained.

The Policy’s objectives include incorporating the gender mainstreaming process as a strategy to achieving gender justice, while promoting it in all sectors of government and civil society. It also aims to strengthen relations between the sexes, particularly in understanding traditional gender roles, and emphasises the need to change these roles and responsibilities in response to differences in this island’s social and economic relations.

As work on the policy continues full steam ahead, Barbadians will have an opportunity to make a contribution to the document. It is hoped that we will all take advantage of the chance to participate in the townhall meetings and share our views on gender issues, in an effort to improve relations between both sexes, thus ensuring that all citizens, both male and female, go forward together.

sharon.austingill-moore@barbados.gov.bb

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