Director of the Bureau of Gender Affairs, John Hollingsworth (right) listening attentively to??the proceedings at the Women of Excellence Caribbean Conference.

The Church must become one of Government’s partners in the fight for gender equality.

This view was expressed last night by Director of the Bureau of Gender Affairs, John Hollingsworth, who was speaking on behalf of the Minister of Youth, Family and Sports, Dr. Esther Byer Suckoo. He was addressing the opening ceremony of the Eighth Annual Women of Excellence Caribbean Conference, under the theme "Break the Silence…Break the Shackles – Embrace Freedom", at the Sanctuary Empowerment Centre, Country Road, St. Michael.

Mr. Hollingsworth told the gathering that HIV and AIDS, poverty, gender-based violence and decision-making were gender issues which affected females from all walks of life. "Therefore, we cannot see a specific set of women as being vulnerable, but must recognise that all women are impacted. We must continue to work together if we are to address those fundamental issues that affect women," he surmised.

According to him, global changes usually affected women negatively, regardless of their education, skills and family size. He, therefore, suggested that regional governments must ensure and adopt a more holistic approach as they sought to confront the new emerging patterns and processes of development and empower women to meet those challenges.

"There are many opportunities that are available to women. Through education, they have the opportunity to move away from the traditionally assigned roles and to participate in several aspects of economic activity, thereby improving their economic viability. Through the work of organisations like yours, women can amass the tools and skills that would enable them to reach their full potential," the Director said.

He noted that since the 1970’s, Government, working along with non-governmental organisations (NGOs), had sought to empower women through various pieces of legislation to ensure their economic, social and political improvement.

Mr. Hollingsworth commended the NGO movement, stating that despite its many challenges and limited resources, it had fought over the years to improve the lives of women. He stressed that Government had now moved away from a focus of catering to the provision of skills and improving women’s health needs, to addressing the underlying causes that promoted gender inequality.

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