Minister of Youth, Family and Sports, Stephen Lashley (FP)??

A call has been made for those organisations which focus on women’s issues to intensify their membership drive and advocate more for change to practices that adversely affect the welfare of women.

Minister of Youth, Family and Sports, Stephen Lashley, made the appeal today at the one-day national consultation for Civil Society Organisations and Non-State Actors at Barbados Workers’ Union Headquarters, Solidarity House. Decisions from the meeting will be fed into the Partners’ Forum, which will precede the 9th Commonwealth Women’s Affairs Ministers’ Meeting, to be held in June this year.??

Mr. Lashley told the gathering that new membership would bring new ideas and fervour to those who had not been frustrated by the slow pace of change.?? "Advocacy itself can be a trying experience, but once your cause is just, legitimate and seeks to address a critical need, you will receive support. You also need to educate women about their rights, and build their self esteem and confidence to aspire to leadership positions," he suggested.

According to him, the women’s movement must also go beyond the social realm and direct some of its energies to non-traditional areas of focus. The Family Minister continued: "Some of the highest paid individual personalities are in sport and entertainment, an area, in my view, that needs to attract more women. The same applies to other forms of artistic expression and to occupations traditionally identified as male. There must be a conscious effort to change the mindset that women’s space is in the domestic sphere and concentrated in care and service activities."

The Minister expressed the view that more must be done by women to assist with community intervention programmes, specifically targeting young females. He also urged his audience to seek to resuscitate dormant community groups, clubs and associations.

Stressing that the civil society organisations had, and would continue to have a significant role to play in the formulation of government policy, Mr. Lashley promised dialogue would be ongoing on in an effort to develop policy initiatives that seek to address social issues facing the country.

Mr. Lashley pointed out that Government was conscious of the plight of dependent women and their vulnerability to incidents of domestic violence, the HIV virus and circumstances that placed them at the mercy of some unscrupulous landlords and employers who demonstrated a lack of understanding.

Therefore, he asserted, Government had sought to address those issues. "Our focus on housing, for example, is a response to this untenable situation; our policy in keeping people employed is in response to the prevailing economic climate and we know it will impact on women more severely.

"The commissioned study on domestic violence was the first step in addressing this issue and will culminate in a national policy against domestic violence; and the shift in focus from awareness to a behavioural change approach, is Government’s partial response to the growing incidence of HIV among girls, ages 16 to 24," Mr. Lashley explained.

The Family Minister added that the development of a National Policy on Gender would further alleviate the plight of women and move this country to a society that was more mindful and appreciative of the need for gender justice.

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