Minister of Family, Dr. Esther Byer Suckoo??

Government is focusing much of its attention on women and poverty, gender and HIV/AIDS, violence against women, namely domestic violence, and women in power and decision-making.

This disclosure came today from Minister of Family, Dr. Esther Byer Suckoo, as she addressed the 54th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women at the United Nations Headquarters, New York.

Dr. Byer Suckoo told her audience that tremendous progress had been made to control the dreaded HIV/AIDS pandemic. She stressed that through an aggressive care, protection, prevention and control strategy, declines had been recorded in the number of AIDS deaths and mother-to-child transmission had been eliminated by the universal provision of anti-retroviral treatments

"One remaining concern, however, is the concentration of new infections in the cohort aged 16 to 24, particularly among girls. Our focus has now been adapted for this group, incorporating a behaviour change approach and increasing awareness of the gender dimensions of HIV," Dr. Byer Suckoo stated.

Turning her attention to women and poverty, she noted that there was no up-to-date information in that area, and there had been poor monitoring of programmes and evaluation of the social safety nets. The Minister of Family pointed out that a Country Assessment of Living Conditions was launched to provide empirical information on poverty in Barbados. ??According to her, the data would facilitate the formulation of policies and services that would effectively address poverty and provide a baseline in measuring the usefulness of programmes.????

Dr. Byer Suckoo revealed that Government’s resolve was to end violence against women. She continued: "We have just completed a survey on the prevalence and demographic characteristics of domestic violence in order to create a national policy to eliminate the practice…

"Our challenge lies in our ability to change the cultural norm that accepts domestic violence as a private affair. We have begun a media campaign, along with other public actions, which we must sustain, though these will demand tremendous resources."

She said her Ministry had facilitated the establishment and support of a non-governmental organisation for victims of domestic violence. The Family Minister added that through collaboration with the National Advisory Council on Gender and the United Nations Development Fund for Women, they were improving strategies for treating perpetrators, which would include rehabilitation to prevent recurrence.

The Minister maintained that Government was committed to the goal of equal participation of men and women in decision-making, since it would not only strengthen democracy, but optimise the human resource capacity of the nation and aid development.

"Within recent years, women have attained positions in critical areas of decision- making in all spheres. Although the last General Elections saw a reduced number of women elected to Parliament, my Government has added women to the Cabinet, Senate, Statutory Boards and companies, including as Chairpersons," Dr. Byer Suckoo observed.

During her speech, she reaffirmed Barbados’ commitment to the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), the Commonwealth Plan of Action for Gender Equality 2005 – 2015, and other instruments aimed at ensuring the human rights of women.?? saustin@barbados.gov.bb

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