Cayman celebrated International Women’s Day on Tuesday at the Westin Casuarina Resort. Yet despite their achievements both past and present, women across the globe and in the Cayman Islands still face inequality, abuse and discrimination.
Minister of Community Affairs, Gender Affairs and Housing Mike Adam in his address said, “We must continue to uphold women’s rights and strengthen our efforts to ensure that we put in place proper programmes, policies and legal mechanisms to advance and uplift our women and girls.”
He said the National Assessment of Living Conditions Study indicates the female population of Cayman is more likely than the male population to be among the poor and vulnerable, and that it is overwhelmingly women and girls who are the victims of domestic abuse, sexual assault and other forms of exploitation. He said that even looking at female participation in the political arena, there is inequality.
Keynote speaker Chief Magistrate Margaret Ramsay-Hale raised awareness on striving for gender equality.
She believes women’s works and talents are still being undervalued, undermined and regarded as unimportant.
She said 65 per cent of people in the work force are women, only 3 per cent are in boardrooms and while women are 50 per cent of the voting block, only 20 per cent of the world’s leaders are women. “We have an issue with women’s work; it is not regarded as important,” she said.
The chief magistrate acknowledged that “as women we have come a long way,” but that women need to strive further to rise to their full potential.
Minister Adam was pleased government had passed the Protection Against Domestic Violence Law, which redefines domestic violence, expanding it beyond physical abuse to include sexual, financial, emotional and/or psychological abuse. It also widens the net of protection by ensuring that issues such as elderly and child abuse are covered.
According to Minister Adam, the Gender Equality Bill for 2011 is to be heard in Cabinet this month and should be taken to the Legislative Assembly this year.
The bill offers protection against gender discrimination on the basis of sex, marital status and pregnancy. It covers issues such as protection from gender discrimination in employment, training and recruitment, promotes equal pay for equal work, provides protection from sexual harassment in the work place and other related matters.
“Once this piece of legislation is in place, the Cayman Islands Government can then make a request to the United Kingdom for the Convention on Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, an international bill of rights for women, to be extended to us. The extension would be a move to further strengthen the rights of women and girls in the Cayman Islands,” he said.
People were also reminded that outside of any legislation or mandate to protect women, we have a moral responsibility to continue to strive for gender equality.
“Women play key roles in maintaining the social fabric of our community and strengthening our economic prosperity, and we must never forget that,” he concluded.
This year’s theme for honouring Women’s Month is Celebrate, Connect and Commit.
Minister Adam believes the theme means we must celebrate our achievements and continue to strive for new goals and milestones in gender equality, connect with our history and culture and bridge the generation gap between all females in order to understand how far we have come and how much more there is left to achieve and commit to making changes in our own daily lives that will empower ourselves and positively impact the girls and women who surround us.