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News : Bahamas Information Services Updates Last Updated: Mar 15, 2017 - 6:13:37 PM

At UN Griffin Declares Key Initiatives to Promote Women’s Economic Empowerment and Equality
By Matt Maura, BIS
Mar 15, 2017 - 6:11:12 PM

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UNITED NATIONS, New York – The Government of The Bahamas has undertaken three key initiatives aimed at promoting women’s economic empowerment and equality in the country, particularly at the women in leadership level, Minister of Social Services and Community Development, the Hon. Melanie Sharon Griffin told a key United Nations Women’s Body, Wednesday.

Mrs. Griffin said the three initiatives should also help to break the cycle of poverty, reduce income inequality, increase economic mobility, improve the welfare of women and children, and introduce legislation to promote gender equality in Board appointments and Social Security Benefits that address vulnerable groups of women.

Addressing the 61st Session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), Mrs. Griffin said while female success at all levels of the educational system in The Bahamas has resulted in increasing numbers of women in the local workforce and enhanced economic empowerment for women, there remains a “disconnect” between the successes in education and women in leadership.

This is so despite the fact that more than 70 per cent of the graduates from the University of The Bahamas (formerly the College of The Bahamas) have been women – particularly over the last 10 years and where women represent more than 50 per cent of graduating classes at both the secondary and tertiary levels.

“It is undeniable that women across the globe have made notable progress in many spheres of society. This holds true for The Bahamas – particularly in the area of education where females represent more than 50 per cent of graduates at the secondary and tertiary levels,” Minister Griffin said.

“[While] This success of women and girls at all levels in the educational system has resulted in their increasing numbers in the workforce and enhanced economic empowerment, there is a disconnect between the success of women in education in The Bahamas and women in leadership.”

Mrs. Griffin said while more than 70 per cent of graduates from the University of the Bahamas have (traditionally) been female, currently only 18 per cent of women have acquired political leadership roles and just 19 per cent occupy private sector leadership roles in the country.

Further, while women represent 49 per cent of the workforce in The Bahamas, they are generally “at lower income levels, reflecting a deficit of females in high-level decision-making positions,” both in private and public sectors.

“In the homes, women take the lead in childrearing, care-giving and other unpaid work – a responsibility that should be shared with men in solidarity with women and in recognition of their parenting and other critical roles.”

Mrs. Griffin said to address these issues, the Government of The Bahamas introduced three initiatives that will address women in the changing world of work, and promote women’s economic empowerment in keeping with the Sustainable Development Goals.

She said in March 2016, the Government – through the Ministry of Social Services and Community development, launched the Renewing, Inspiring, Sustaining and Empowering (R.I.S.E.) Programme which is a Conditional Cash Transfer Programme that supplements incomes for families – thereby breaking the cycle of poverty.

The Programme, Mrs. Griffin said, aims to reduce income inequality, increase economic mobility and improve the welfare of women and children who are the primary beneficiaries.

Mrs. Griffin said the second initiative occurred in October 2016, when the Bureau of Women’s Affairs transitioned to the Department of Gender and Family Affairs.

“The Department aims, Inter Alia, to empower women to lead and partner equally with men in nation building. As recently as International Women’s Day, 2017, (celebrated March 8) 16 women completed the Women in Leadership and Decision-Making Course held in conjunction with the University of The Bahamas. The first cohort of this course led to two women being ratified as candidates for the upcoming General Elections.”

Minister Griffin said a Final Draft of the third initiative – the implementation of a National Development Plan – was presented in December 2016. The Plan aims to improve conditions for women in the workplace by introducing more childcare and breastfeeding facilities; legislation to promote gender equality in board appointments; and social security benefits that address vulnerable groups of women.

“We expect that these initiatives will spark recognition about the different realities faced by women and men in the development process and reinforce the need to tailor programming accordingly,” Mrs. Griffin said.

“We expect that there will be challenges such as the impact of disasters: Often, development resources, including for women’s empowerment are diverted to disaster preparation, response and recovery efforts. Nevertheless, The Bahamas remains committed and looks forward to partnering with you to create Planet 50:50, by 2030,” Mrs. Griffin said.

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