Acting Director of the Bureau of Gender Affairs, John Hollingsworth (FP)????

Preparations for the 9th Commonwealth Women’s Affairs Ministers Meeting are at an advanced stage. This was stated recently by Acting Director of the Bureau of Gender Affairs, John Hollingsworth.

According to him, the various committees were hard at work so as to ensure Barbados hosts a successful meeting, to be held from June 7 to 9, at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre (LESC).

Mr. Hollingsworth continued: "The relevant steering committees and sub-committees are in place, accommodation has been arranged for delegates, the agenda is in the final stages of development and other infrastructural arrangements are being finalised. We are looking forward to a successful event that will showcase Barbados and the Caribbean’s capacity to plan and contribute to international policy discourses."

The theme of the meeting is "Gender Issues in Economic Crisis: Recovery and Beyond – Women as Agents of Transformation"; while the sub-themes will address the areas of governance, finance and the Millennium Development Goals.

For the first time, Ministers of Finance, Central Bank Governors and finance officials have been invited to the forum, so there will be dialogue with these individuals who are responsible for national finances and budgeting.

Prior to the Ministers’ meeting, civil society, lawyers, judges, parliamentarians, young people and the private sector will gather at the LESC for a Partners Forum on June 4 and 5.

Emphasising the importance of the high-level ministerial meeting, Mr. Hollingsworth said it would seek to address some of the issues that were of major concern to females. "Many women are experiencing tremendous challenges, whether they are limited access to health and educational resources, little or no economic status, or vulnerability to the HIV virus.

"In times of economic depression, like what we are experiencing now, women, particularly single women, suffer most. The outcome of this conference should benefit women, including those in the Caribbean, where the largest percentage of single parent households are female-headed and over 60 per cent of them live below the poverty line," he suggested.

Mr. Hollingsworth pointed out that during the conference, officials from the Commonwealth would seek to identify those best practices which have been adopted by various countries during the current economic crisis.

He further stated that the meeting would allow the Bureau of Gender Affairs to continue focusing on particular issues affecting women. "We recently submitted a response to the Commonwealth Gender Plan of Action 2005-2015 and it identified our progress in meeting the targets outlined in the document.

"The overall report, to be presented at this meeting, will indicate where the shortcomings of this region are and what needs to be done to achieve those targets. The ministers will review the report and identify strategies, make pledges and identify forms of assistance that would be given to improve the circumstances of women who are affected by these economic challenges," the official explained.

Mr. Hollingsworth disclosed that Barbados had made significant progress since the last WAMM meeting in Uganda in 2007 and outlined some of the key areas which were addressed such as domestic violence and human trafficking. He noted that a national policy was being created for domestic violence, while legislation was being developed to combat human trafficking.????????

WAMM meetings have been held triennially since 1985. They provide strategic opportunities for ministers, senior officials, civil society organisations and partner agencies to discuss critical issues in advancing women’s empowerment and gender equality, and contribute to Commonwealth and global agenda-setting processes.

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