HUMAN Services and Social Security Minister, the Honourable Jennifer Webster, represented Guyana at the 10th Commonwealth Women’s Affairs Ministers’ Meeting, held in Bangladesh from June 16 to 19.
This meeting is held biannually, and comes at a time when it was felt that ministers from the Commonwealth with responsibility for women’s affairs and gender issues should meet to discuss issues affecting women in the Commonwealth.
Speaking with the Guyana Chronicle following her return to Guyana, Minister Webster said that issues affecting women’s empowerment were among several critical factors discussed at the various levels of the conference.
This year’s meeting was held under the theme “Women’s Leadership for Enterprise”, Minister Webster said, and the meeting was interesting in that it attracted ministers from several Commonwealth countries and discussions focused on several topics which can best be described as of utmost importance to the improvement in the quality of life of women.
Among the issues discussed were women’s leadership, women’s leadership for development and democracy in the Commonwealth, the promotion of women’s entrepreneurship, supporting growth-oriented women entrepreneurs, supporting of women in enterprise development, the roles of institution in enterprise development, possible public/private partnership in the development of enterprise for women, as well as the promotion of gender equity through financial inclusion for sustainable growth and development.
Following the three-day high level meeting, there was Dhaka communiqué 2013.
The communiqué will be forwarded for the attention of the heads of government at the Commonwealth heads of government meeting in November this year in Sri Lanka. The communiqué dealt primarily with an agreement by the ministers present that there is a very important need for women’s leadership in enterprise and holistic empowerment as a driver.
The conference also dealt with the priorities which were outlined in the 9th Women’s Affairs Communiqué, which emphasized the need for continued focus on women’s socioeconomic empowerment, as reflected in the Beijing Declaration Platform for Action and the Commonwealth Plan of Action for Gender Equality, 2005 to 2015.
Also of importance to the Commonwealth ministers was the reality that violence against women and children remains a critical issue that affects all Commonwealth countries. There was also underscoring of the need for women’s empowerment, which should receive priority attention by all governments in the New Global Development Agenda.
It was also recognized that climate change had an adverse effect on the economies of countries within the Commonwealth, and it was re-emphasized that the impact of climate change on women’s economic development should be addressed.
The ministers further recommended that the issue of women’s empowerment at all levels be given due priority in the post-2015 agenda.
Additionally, there was a call for the development of gender-responsive policies by all governments within the respective countries of the Commonwealth, and for there to be a robust effort in the collection of disaggregated data, including from financial institutions in order to monitor access to finance.
Another important issue was the need to have and to encourage more representation of women leaders and decision makers in politics, public service, on corporate boards, and at the community levels.
Minister Webster said that, based on the deliberations, such a move would have a positive impact on democracy and development within the Commonwealth. She also said that at the conference she urged the strengthening of systems to increase representation of women in decision making at all levels, including through affirmative policies and electoral reforms where appropriate, in an effort to advance the effectiveness of women in political leadership.