Barbadian women should use their knowledge and skills within their communities to contribute to improving gender sensitivity and equality in Barbados and the global community.

These words of encouragement were delivered by the Minister of Social Care, Constituency Empowerment and Community Development, Steve Blackett, during his feature address at the International Women???s Day Triennial Awards Ceremony.

The ceremony, held last Saturday, at the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus, was dedicated to recognising and honouring 11 women, one from each parish, who made outstanding contributions to their communities, as well as one young woman between the ages of 18 and 30.

The awardees were Marion Corbin, St Andrew; Merlene Ross, Christ Church; Maria Eversley, St George; Judy Sobers, St James; Brenda Bartlett, St John; Ava Yvette Griffith, St Joseph; Urla Cottle, St Lucy; Jennifer Reid, St Michael; Sybil Leacock, St Peter; Verona Seale, St Philip and Joycelyn Hunte from St Thomas, while Shamelle Rice was the youth awardee.

During his address, Mr. Blackett stated: ???The continued existence of strong gender inequality makes the role of women in community development even more critical???women can help shed light on glaring inequalities, and by so doing find ways to better the lives of other women in the global community.???

While the Minister acknowledged the ???significant strides??? that the island has made towards achieving gender equality, he noted that more must be done.?????There is still however much more that can be done to increase women???s equal access to leadership positions particularly at the political level,??? he said.

Mr. Blackett added that women???s involvement in community organisations would assist in making crucial strides toward eliminating gender inequality around the world, as it brought the focus onto the plight of women in areas ???where they are not permitted to have a voice???.

The Minister complimented the Community Development Department and the Institute for Gender and Development Studies for their collaboration to host the awards ceremony.

He also congratulated the awardees and reminded the audience that whilst paying tribute to these women, they should ???remember those women of the past, who have worked to help us reach the level of equality we have in our society today???.

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