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Kingston - Statement by United Nations Resident Coordinator in Jamaica on the occasion of the International Women's day; 08 March 2012:
The United Nations system in Jamaica joins the rest of the world in proud celebration of International Women's Day 2012. In many counties around the world this day is now a national holiday. It also reminds us that while progress has been achieved in women's struggle for equality, peace and development and celebration of women who have played an extraordinary role in the history of their countries and communities more need to be done. Jamaican women remain at the vanguard of its development and are among its nurtures and advocates; are standard bearers in family life and are leaders in business and Government. Their equal and active engagement in the national development process is vital for Jamaica to achieve its vision 2030 of being an enviable place of choice to live, work, raise families and do business.
Jamaica has made tremendous strides in promoting gender equity as defined in the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), and has made progress in addressing the many challenges faced by those most vulnerable. Despite this momentum, there is still a long way to go before women and girls can be said to enjoy the fundamental rights, freedom and dignity that are their birthright and that will guarantee their well-beingas challenges remain in many social, political and economic areas. A lot remains to be done to end violence and discrimination against women; to support maternal health and reduce child mortality as well as to secure equal opportunities for employment.
The recently launched Caribbean Human Development Report on Citizen Security by UNDP reiterated the evidence of the violence against women as one of the prominent citizen security concerns affecting the region's human development. The UN statistics show that the Caribbean countries experienced a higher rape rate than the average of 102 countries in the world. Gender-based violence is a prevalent, pervasive, and systemic problem that cuts across borders, geography, culture and socio-economic status in the Caribbean Region. Promoting women's rights and reducing all forms of gender-based violence, especially sexual violence, is fundamental to greater socio-economic equity and sustainable human development
The theme for International Women's Day this year calls for celebration of women and girls in rural communities. It is a call for acknowledgement and celebration of the role played by rural women as 'agents of change', as vital components of rural sustainable development. Globally, rural women account for nearly half the agricultural labor force and are custodians of traditional knowledge about the land and their local environment. The Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA) of Jamaica reported in 2011 that of the registered 135,345 farmers, cultivating on 235,525 hectares of land 42,692 or 32 per cent are women farmers, most being within the age group 35-54. Rural women therefore play an important role in Jamaican agriculture: as farmers in their own right, as partners with men on household farms and as the main cultivators of kitchen gardens.
Backed by small development investments, rural women have lead the way in building food and nutrition security for their families and communities, and thus in building resilience to future extreme weather events. The UN's Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that if women farmers have equal access to fertilizers, seeds, and tools, the number of hungry people in our world could reduce by as many as 150 million, and the total agricultural output of developing countries could rise by up to four percent. The role of women in domestic food production is particularly important, and in Jamaica they play a key role in contributing to food self-sufficiency. Their crucial function in this process is accentuated by the fact that women are also processors of food for rural households. Food self-sufficiency in Jamaica, as in many parts of the world, is therefore doubly dependent on women's work. As the UN Women Executive Director Michelle Bachelet emphasizes: "No enduring solution to the major changes of our day-from climate change to political and economic instability-can be solved without the full empowerment and participation of the world's women. We simply can no longer afford to leave women out. Women's full and equal participation in the political and economic arena is fundamental to democracy and justice, which people are demanding."
The United Nations system in Jamaica takes this opportunity to renew its commitment to leverage diverse partners and support rural women and their communities to tackle these challenges in the overall framework of integrating gender equity in local and national development processes. It is vital that the voices of rural women are heard and the entrepreneurial spirit of rural women provided that catalytic momentum to overcome the many challenges we face and end the vicious cycles of poverty in Jamaica.
Useful Links and information:
Watch the Glass Ceiling Documentary by UNDP Thailand