Women need to re-examine their self-expectations and beliefs about their competence to achieve certain tasks and goals, since negative attitudes can act as barriers to change and impede their ability to overcome difficult situations.

That is the word from Director of the Bureau of Gender Affairs, John Hollingsworth, who was speaking on behalf of the Minister of Youth, Family and Sports, Dr. Esther Byer Suckoo, last night during the opening ceremony of the Eighth Annual Women of Excellence Caribbean Conference, at the Sanctuary Empowerment Centre.

The theme of the forum is "Break the Silence…Break the Shackles – Embrace Freedom".

Mr. Hollingsworth said it reminded him of the country’s fight to reduce or even eradicate gender-based violence. "We need to speak out against this, whether the violence is being perpetuated by a male or female. If we do not break this silence, the cycle will continue and many persons, as well as the family and society, will suffer.

"Gender-based violence is one issue that negatively impacts on the empowerment of women, as it leaves them feeling defenceless and erodes their self-esteem. Too many of our women are disempowered as a result of this issue which exposes them to physical, psychological, economic and sexual abuse. Sometimes the scars are so deep that it takes years to reverse the damage that the trauma created," he told his audience.

The Director pointed out that another issue which adversely affected women was their inability to determine control of their bodies and suggested it had led to their vulnerability as it related to HIV and AIDS. He also opined that society had tried to determine specific behaviours and roles for women and men, and as a result, some were still unwilling to share information about their status because of the threat of stigma and discrimination associated with the virus.

"We must continue our efforts in encouraging women to protect themselves from contracting this disease, since statistics have shown that women in the 15 to 19 age group continue to outnumber men in the same age group and there is an increase in the incidence of women in long term relationships contracting the disease," Mr. Hollingsworth observed.


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