???Gender bias is not only morally deficient but is also economically inefficient.???

This view was expressed by High Commissioner for Barbados to the United Kingdom, Guy Hewitt, as he delivered the keynote address to a large audience gathered at the Commonwealth Headquarters in London for a panel discussion to mark International Women???s Day.

The theme of the March 8 event was Sustained Education of Women and Girls for their Economic and Political Empowerment.

Participants heard that in the post-independence period, many developing countries treated education as an essential right and the major enabling factor for development due to its contribution to economic growth, social mobility and cohesion.

The presentation underscored the indelible mark made by women in their efforts to conquer the limitations of past eras which ???located women in the kitchen, bedroom and informal economy???. High Commissioner Hewitt stated: ???There are powerful examples of women who have achieved much in business, politics, education, arts, sports and other professions.???

The Barbadian envoy emphasised, that, ???notwithstanding these gains, the struggle for gender equality remains???. He challenged those who held to the ???old patriarchal zero-sum game??? that marginalises women whom he noted ???make up more than half the global population, and perform two-thirds of the hours worked, but only receive one-tenth of the salary and only own one-hundredth of the property???.

Mr. Hewitt queried whether in the absence of resolving gender inequality, they could hope to combat issues such as climate change, poverty, debt, food security, radicalisation and armed conflict.

The High Commissioner asserted his conviction that with more women as leaders and decision-makers, businesses would be more profitable, governments more representative, families stronger, and communities healthier.

He added that there would also be more peace, stability and sustainability. ???Empowering females ultimately is about improving outcomes for all,??? he told the gathering of high commissioners, diplomats, staff and gender equality advocates.

He based his premise on the fact that women often experience life differently and, according to him, that experience informs the way they see problems and think about solutions. ???Studies show that women communicate and lead differently than men. They often listen, encourage dialogue, and build consensus. They are more likely to be collaborative, inclusive and team-oriented,??? he suggested.

The High Commissioner was joined on the panel by the Commonwealth Secretary-General, Kamalesh Sharma; former UN Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women Professor, Rashida Manjoo; and UK Shadow Minister for Housing, Dr. Roberta Blackman-Woods, MP.

In delivering the opening remarks, Commonwealth Secretary-General, Kamalesh Sharma, noted the achievements made by the Commonwealth to advance gender equality, such as the establishment of the new Women???s Forum at the Commonwealth Heads Summit and the selection of The Rt Hon Patricia Scotland, the first female Commonwealth Secretary-General, which he described as ???a watershed moment???.

The Secretary-General outlined the barriers faced by some women and girls, including violence and discrimination, child marriage, female genital mutilation, inadequate maternal and child health care and lack of access to education and training.??

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