Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Senator Maxine McClean, is of the opinion that there should be an increase in the availability of comprehensive education and material on sexual and reproductive health for young persons.

She made the declaration at the recently held Caribbean Meeting on Population and Sustainable Development, which came off at the Hilton Barbados Hotel, Needhams Point, St. Michael.??

According to Senator McClean, research and evidence indicate that this is an area which must be given some priority.

???As regional representatives, we are aware of the increased priority that must be placed on adolescents, especially on very young adolescent girls, in national development policies and programmes. I believe the research and evidence, in our territories, indicate that this focus should fall on increasing the availability of comprehensive education and material on sexual and reproductive health.

???In a similar vein, we [must] remain committed to promoting gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls, while seeking to address the specific needs of our men and boys. This is the only sustainable course that we can take,??? she urged.

Minister McClean also encouraged participants at the meeting to focus some of their efforts on a search for solutions to the challenges confronting the region and to see the workshop as a way to harmonise their national, regional and international strategies.

Some of the challenges she mentioned included poverty and inequality; the welfare of the family; gender empowerment; universal access to health care, including reproductive health care; and the welfare of vulnerable groups like the youth, elderly and disabled persons.

The Minister explained that at the local level, government had, over the years, enacted several pieces of legislation, formulated policies and developed programmes to deal with emerging issues. ???There has been consistent action over many decades in the area of reproductive health and population issues.

Government continues to allocate a significant portion of the national budget on social services – free health care, free planning services and free education,??? Ms. McClean stated.??She added that as a result of such an investment this country had progressed significantly.

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