With predictions that the global economic crisis will worsen before it gets better, Barbadian employers are again being urged not to lay-off their female staff.

This time the plea is coming from Acting Director of the Bureau of Gender Affairs, Patricia Hackett-Codrington, who said a significant number of households were female-headed and these women needed to “hold on to their jobs in order to maintain the social fabric of their households”.

Mrs. Hackett-Codrington pointed out that research had shown that those poor families which were female-headed were sometimes larger households, thus compounding the problem. Stating that those children would still have needs, she opined that some would “become involved possibly in activities that are not wholesome” and that would lead to other issues.

“For example, people sometimes engage young women and men, or older women in transactional sex, that is, to get money to meet their needs. This can result in the obvious possibility of contracting sexually transmitted diseases and HIV/AIDS. So, we want to encourage persons to keep their female employees employed for as long as possible so that we don’t open persons to other activities that are not positive,” she added.

Her comments come as Barbados joins the rest of the world to observe International Women’s Day on Sunday, March 8. The international theme of the day is “Women and Men United to end Violence against Women and Girls”, while Barbados’ sub-theme is “Our Women – Our Nation”. The commemoration of the day is a tradition
that started in 1909 after some female workers in New York experienced hardship and it represents at least nine decades of struggle for equality, justice, peace and development.

The acting Director noted that many women across the globe still did not have basic human rights, such as education, decent salaries, and the right to vote. She stressed that even though Barbadian women had achieved a lot, it was necessary for all to remember others were still struggling and needed support.

“Women have risen to positions which were formerly occupied by men and they have succeeded in a number of areas, so women have done quite well in Barbados at this point. However, there are still lots of women, 42.2 percent, who are single heads of households, who are numbered among the most poor and who still need to be brought along…,” she said.

But, Mrs. Hackett-Codrington noted that there were still a number of issues facing Barbadian women, including the HIV/AIDS disease which is affecting young women in the 15 to 29 age group. She listed the other areas of concern as poverty, domestic abuse, sexual harassment in the workplace, and the view of some that women should be at home “minding the children”, so they had to take what they got when they entered the workforce.

She said the Bureau of Gender Affairs had put systems in place to deal with some of the issues and promised that it would continue to raise the consciousness of Barbadians through public education. She added that research was currently being undertaken on the prevalence and demographic characteristics of domestic violence
and the findings would help Government to determine the level of domestic violence in the island so specific strategies could be formulated. This report should be completed by mid-April.

“Work is to come on stream in relation to HIV/AIDS  which will help us make recommendations…, the Sexual Harassment Bill…, a National Advisory Council on Gender has been set up which will advise the Minister, and we are working on a National Gender Plan,” she stated.

So, on the eve of International Women’s Day when the world takes time out to reflect on the contribution and advancement of women, the backbone of society, Mrs. Hackett-Codrington has reminded all that it is not a day to “disregard men”, but to celebrate women outside of their role as mother.

She expressed the view that Barbadians “cannot just look at what we have achieved, but plan how we can go forward in a positive way to achieve more for our women folk because our women are our nation”.

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