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IDB calls for gender equality in the Caribbean

Published:Sunday | March 8, 2015 | 3:48 AM

WASHINGTON, CMC – President of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), Luis Alberto Moreno, in his message to mark International Women’s Day, has called for gender equality in the Caribbean and Latin America.

“On this International Women's Day, we reaffirm our commitment to the advancement of women and the achievement of more prosperous and egalitarian societies,” said Moreno in a statement.

He said the advancement of women carries with it a promise of progress for all of society.

“Equality at home, in access to education and health, in the job and financial markets and in participation in civic and political life contributes to improving social well-being and economic development”.

He said this promise is becoming a reality in Latin America and the Caribbean, noting that the growth in the income of women between 2000 and 2010 translated into a drop of 30 percent in extreme poverty.
The IDB president said women account for 30 to 60 percent of the household income in the region.

“This has been possible thanks to their growing participation in the labor force, which rose from 48.8 percent in 2000 to 53.8 percent in 2012 and which surely will continue to rise,” he said.

But, despite this progress, Moreno said “there is much to do to reach gender equality,” stating that, in Latin America and the Caribbean, the participation of women in the labour force remains 26 percentage points below the rate for men.

On average, he said women earn 17 per cent less than men in similar jobs, and that nearly 30 percent of the women in the region have suffered physical or sexual violence at the hands of their spouses or others.
Meanwhile, the head of the United Nations entity for gender equality and women’s empowerment said the past 20 years have seen haltering progress on women’s rights issues and, in some areas, outright stagnation and regression.

Briefing journalists at a press conference at in New York as part of a wider launch of activities tied to International Women’s Day, UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka warned that the march towards gender equality had been unacceptably slow amid chronic underinvestment across all areas.

“The Secretary-General’s report makes this very clear,” said Mlambo-Ngcuka, referring to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s global review of progress on gender equality, slated for full launch on Monday at the opening of the 59th session of the Commission on the Status of Women.

“The disappointing gap between the norms and implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action, points to a collective failure of leadership on progress for women,” she added. “The leaders entrusted with the power to realize the promises made in Beijing have failed women and girls”.

UN Women noted that the report cites some areas of progress, such as an upturn in the number of countries removing discriminatory laws and adopting legislation to stop violence against women and girls. Meanwhile, girls’ participation in education has led them to being close to half of all students in primary schools while the presence of women in the labor force has also risen.

Nevertheless, despite the 189 countries that endorsed the Platform for Action in Beijing, the Secretary-General’s report notes that no country has yet achieved gender equality. In addition, it points out that despite their better education, women continue to hold some of the worst jobs while the gender pay gap remains a worldwide phenomenon.

As a result, Mlambo-Ngcuka said UN Women is launching its “Planet 50-50 by 2030: Step It Up for Gender Equality” initiative to galvanize government pledges for action and as part of the wider Beijing+20 campaign.

“Today, we are calling on governments, everywhere in the world, to Step It Up,” she said. “By 2030 at the latest, we want to live in a world where at least half of all parliamentarians, university students, CEOs (chief executive officers), civil society leaders and any other category, are women. Real progress requires 50-50.”