While women across the Commonwealth have made tremendous strides in social and professional spheres, there are several issues which must be addressed if these gains are not to be eroded.

This is the view of Executive Coordinator of the Caribbean Policy Development Centre, Cecilia Babb, who said chief among these concerns were the threat of domestic violence, the HIV and AIDS pandemic, economic security and the impact of the global recession on women and their families.

Ms. Babb was speaking ahead of the 9th Commonwealth Women’s Affairs Ministers Meeting which will be held here from June 7-9 at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford.

The meeting will be held under the theme, "Gender Issues in Economic Crisis, Recovery and Beyond: Women as Agents of Transformation".

According to Ms. Babb, women have a greater financial vulnerability, since their position is very closely linked to the economy.

The majority of working women in the region, she observed, are employed in sectors where they earn low wages and they have the added responsibility of family care.

"In eight CARICOM countries women are in the elementary occupations…many women, about 85 per cent, are in the services sector in about six CARICOM countries, meaning that they are in low wage-earning areas of the economy…so they have those vulnerabilities around income and the capacity to provide for themselves and their families…" she pointed out.

Ms. Babb stressed that while economic security is a significant concern in Barbados, however, the issue of HIV and AIDS also had serious implications for women.

"The [primary] caregivers of persons living with HIV and AIDS, because of the role of the female as the family provider, are women. So, whether they are infected and living with it or as caregivers to the infected, women are seriously affected by this issue which has several spinoffs, the official explained.

Ms. Babb suggested that during tough economic times special measures should be put in place to ensure vulnerable groups, including women, are protected and the family unit maintained.

With regard to the 9th WAMM Meeting, she indicated that one of the main areas of discussion would be the mid-term review of the Commonwealth Plan of Action for Gender and Development 2005-2015.

However, the Executive Director noted due to the ongoing financial crisis, its projections may have to be retailored to respond to these challenges effectively.

"What it means is that the achievements which may have been made in the first five years of this plan may not be increased or expanded at the rate that was previously expected…so, therefore, the review of that gender plan of action in terms of its achievements and preserving the gains as well as mapping a way forward…for the Caribbean, is going to be fairly important," Ms. Babb concluded.??askeete@barbados.gov.bb

Author: Andr?? Skeete

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