Empowering Women, Empowering Humanity: Picture it!

Mar 8, 2015


Statement on International Women’s DayEmpowering Women, Empowering Humanity: Picture it!
March 8, 2015

Arun Kashyap
UN Resident Coordinator
Jamaica, Bahamas, Bermuda, Turks & Caicos and Cayman Islands

As we celebrate International Women’s Day on March 8, the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women will, in the same week, commemorate the 20th anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action which remains the wold’s best blueprint to achieve gender equality and empowerment of women. It was the Fourth World Conference for Women in Beijing in 1995 that provided us with a visionary roadmap to ensure the rights of and opportunities  for women and girls.  The review of this landmark declaration is also an opportunity to strengthen our commitments to achieve gender equality.

In supporting the call  “Empowering Women, Empowering Humanity - Picture it!” which is this year’s theme for International Women’s Day 2015, the UN in Jamaica urges all Jamaicans to join us in advancing the promises we made in Beijing 20 years ago. Their fulfilment will help us to realize Vision 2030 Jamaica in which every woman and girl has the opportunity to fulfil her potential and enjoy equal rights and status.

Representation of women in public leadership has improved, both nationally and regionally. Despite this progress, the Women in Politics Map 2014 introduced jointly by the Inter-Parliamentary Union and UN Women underscores the continued existence of a glass ceiling for women at the highest levels.  While having a Government headed by a woman Prime Minister is a source of pride and achievement for all of us, only 12.7% of the Members of Parliament, 20% of Cabinet members, and 28.6% of Senators are women. Jamaica and its CARICOM neighbours are not expected to reach the target of 30 percent female representation in government by 2015 as is outlined in the Millennium Development Goals. UN Women’s strategic programme to strengthen women’s political leadership in Jamaica hopes to contribute to achieving this target.

While Jamaica has made progress in enhancing women’s employment and earnings, it is uneven. The presence of 62.3% of Jamaican women in the labour force is a reason for celebration. In line with this year’s theme we should now strive to ensure that we will create opportunities to advance women from the low paying jobs in which most of them are employed. Recently the International Labour Organisation reported that Jamaica has the highest percentage of women managers globally and that most of these women are in middle-management.  There is an  opportunity to reduce the under-representation of the women in top positions, including in the boards of companies. Women own less than 5% of the businesses they manage.

Over the past two decades some progress has been made in maternal health and women’s access to family planning services. Fertility rates have steadily declined and 2014 figures show a total fertility rate of 2.3 children per woman. Fewer women are dying in pregnancy and childbirth. Jamaica’s maternal mortality rate of 89 per 100,000 live births, while lower than the global average, is still high. The Ministry of Health estimates that nearly 18 percent of live births occur to teenage mothers and teenage pregnancy carries high social and economic costs to the mothers and their children.  It is a source of intra-generational poverty. The UN commends the Government of Jamaica as it prepares to implement Programme to Reduce Maternal and Child Mortality.

As we commemorate International Women’s Day in Jamaica, we must act to eliminate gender based violence perpetrated against women and girls by men and boys. We are aware that we lost a young girl recently to a brutal and senseless murder. Jamaica’s Reproductive Health Survey indicates that nearly twenty percent of Jamaican women report being forced to have sex. Jamaica is among the top ten countries in which reported cases of rape are higher than the global average.  Such atrocities which spark national outrage must be converted into action by prosecuting all crimes against women.  We must renew our pledge to combat this menace that destabilizes communities and the country.

UN Women has supported the Government of Jamaica’s efforts to establish a National Strategic Action Plan on Gender Based Violence. UN Jamaica is preparing to implement a Joint UN Programme on Gender Based Violence. UNICEF is supporting the “Break the Silence” campaign of the Office of the Children’s Registry to promote more reporting of child abuse, including sexual abuse. The UN Women and UNDP will continue to support the Government and Jamaicans in the reform of sexual offences legislation.

The UN affirms that empowerment and autonomy of women and the improvement of women's social, economic and political status is central to the achievement of inclusive, equitable and sustainable development. The objectives of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action cannot be achieved by women alone. It is necessary to have the active involvement of men. The UN in Jamaica plans to launch the “He For She” programme in 2015- a global solidarity movement which sees men actively articulating their support for women’s rights and equality.

The UN Secretary General has highlighted that “the world will never realize 100 per cent of its goals if 50 per cent of its people cannot realize their full potential.  When we unleash the power of women, we can secure the future for all.”  

The UN in Jamaica will continue its strong collaboration with government, civil society, the private sector and all other Jamaicans. It remains committed to contributing to advancing the quality of lives of women and girls and achieving Vision 2030 Jamaica. Let us celebrate International Women’s Day, and give value to the lives and contributions of women and girls. Step it Up for Gender Equality! 





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