Achieving gender equality will help to address a number of fundamental problems that are plaguing the Caribbean.

This view was shared by Minister of Social Care, Constituency Empowerment and Community Development, Steven Blackett, as he addressed the opening of the 7th Regional Men???s Forum and the 4th Women???s Conference, hosted by the Barbados District of Christian Union Church of the Caribbean, last Friday at the Dining Club, Newton, Christ Church.

Mr. Blackett stated that both men and women must work together to address the impacts of ???gender-based exclusion???. He believed that with gender equality, the Caribbean would see a decrease in a number of problems which affect individuals daily.

He continued: ???Gender equality contributes to poverty reduction, as it will achieve higher levels of human capital for future generations and improve the development and effectiveness of public investments.??Women and men need equal opportunities, resources and responsibilities in order to realise equality.???

The Minister pointed out that in the English-speaking Caribbean, men were often viewed as protectors and decision makers, but some men were unable to live up to these standards and expectations.

???Research throughout the Caribbean has identified men as strong, breadwinner, protector, leader, decision maker, ruler of his world, controller, within the household and in public, as well as heterosexual and sexually successful. Consequently, we teach and transmit these qualities to our young men and boys through the schools, on the street, through the media, in our communities and in families.

??????Experience has taught us that no man can fully live up to this ideal, especially when men are placed into the reality of societies, whose foundations are shaken by the negative experiences of economic and global recession. Economic recessions have a tendency to exacerbate existing tensions between men and women, who are now being viewed as advancing faster than men and in some cases taking over from men, as some women have been able to transcend the patriarchal obstacles to their development,??? he suggested.

The Social Care Minister said that during the past 15 years, the CARICOM Secretariat has supported its member states in collecting and analysing data gathered from the perspective of gender equality. He stressed that in order for governments to truly gauge how gender equality would benefit their country, as well as to shape policies, they must continue to collect and analyse of socio-economic data on a regular and organised basis.

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