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Minister of Family, Stephen Lashley

The crucial role women play in a country’s economic development has been underscored by Minister of Family, Stephen Lashley, who believes that an economic plan should not be packaged without taking their views into consideration.

Mr. Lashley is of the opinion that women’s views are informed by a plethora of practical issues which confront families and organisations.?? "… therefore, you would be acting less than prudent if their views are not factored into economic development," he suggested.

The Minister’s comments come as Barbados prepares to host the 9th Commonwealth Women’s Affairs Ministers Meeting which will be held from June 7 to 9 at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre.

According to him, this forum would provide the officials with an excellent opportunity to "put our collective thoughts together" and find practical solutions to critical issues which were impacting women across the world.

"The Barbados Government has always been a major supporter and advocate for women’s affairs, ensuring that women are at the table of decision-making… We have made sure that women are at the forefront of our initiatives. They are policy makers and implementers … so, we do not only talk about women’s empowerment, but we have done it," he assured.

Mr. Lashley pointed out that there were a number of important concerns facing developing countries, and he listed them as including poverty, the HIV and AIDS scourge, and gender equality.

He admitted that Barbados was still grappling with issues of poverty, but not to the same extent as other countries across the world.

In the area of HIV and AIDS, Mr. Lashley said this country had rolled out a "very effective response" to the disease, mainly in relation to education. "We do have a way to go in relation to getting the kind of response [we want] to behaviour change and the HIV/AIDS Commission is actively considering new ways in which we can seek to get changed behaviour by altering our messages and trying to come up with innovative ways of reaching the Barbadian population. This is crucial because … we have to find ways to get people to change their lifestyles," he maintained.

The Minister also identified gender equality as important and stressed that government was seeking to ensure fairness across the board and that both sexes received a listening ear.

Mr. Lashley maintained that the issue of domestic violence was also a growing concern for the Government and conceded that an intervention was required. He indicated the current legislation would have to be reviewed, so as to ensure the island’s domestic violence reporting system was modernised.??saustin@barbados.gov.bb

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