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Director of the Bureau, Patricia Hackett-Codrington. (FP)??

Approximately 100 of the Bureau of Gender Affairs’ stakeholders will get their opportunity to influence the content of this island’s National Policy on Gender when a consultation is held on Monday, March 18, at the Savannah Hotel.

And, the participants, who will be drawn from faith-based groups, women’s and men’s groups, schools, and various Government Ministries, are being encouraged by the Director of the Bureau, Patricia Hackett-Codrington, to attend and bring fresh, new ideas to the discussion.

Mrs. Hackett-Codrington continued: "We will have focus groups in the afternoon and we expect them to share ideas and make recommendations so the consultant can begin formulating the policy. Of course there will be further group meetings, town hall meetings, and focus groups so the consultants could prepare and then fine-tune the final document which would be presented to Cabinet."

Underscoring the importance of the conference, she said: "We can gather the information for the policy using a top down approach, where the technocrats sit and determine that there are certain sets of needs and recommend how to deal with them. Or we can get a set of recommendations and then bring together the people in the wider community and use the bottom up approach. However, we are trying to merge the two approaches to come up with a document which would be reflective of some of what we know at this level and what the community wants at their level."

There are 12 thematic areas – crime and violence, poverty, education, employment, power and decision-making, health, family life, housing, sexuality, disaster risk mitigation, legislation and culture, language and religion – and the Director explained that they would be discussed during the consultation. "After intense discussions and a lot of research we will reduce the thematic areas for the policy to five," she explained.

Giving the rationale for the National Policy on Gender, Mrs. Hackett-Codrington stressed that it would create an enabling environment in Barbados for social and gender justice. "We hope to enhance the quality of life of all our citizens, improve their interpersonal relationships and certainly facilitate social harmony in terms of economic and social development between men and women. Therefore, we have to involve as many people as possible in this process.

"The policy is necessary because our mandate now is to ensure that all national plans and programmes take the concept of gender into consideration. Men and women are distinctly different and they have different strategic and practical needs. Therefore, we cannot continue to plan our programmes and activities neutrally because in doing that we are not going to meet the needs of the target groups. So, as the agency for gender mainstreaming we have to create the platform which would inform other agencies about how to plan for the population, taking into consideration the needs of men and women," she suggested.

The National Policy on Gender should be completed by August and those persons interested in contributing to the document should email genderbureau@barbados.gov.bb or send written submissions to Bureau of Gender Affairs, 6th Floor, Baobab Towers, Warrens, St. Michael.

sharon.austingill-moore@barbados.gov.bb

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