By Matt Maura
Bahamas Information Services
NASSAU, The Bahamas – Bahamian women have done a “phenomenal job” as joint partners in building a better, stronger, more modern Bahamas, utilizing their roles in the workplace, sports, the family, culture, education, religion, business, politics and at the community level to help do so, Minister of Social Services and Community Development, the Hon. Melanie Sharon Griffin told Parliament Wednesday.
Mrs. Griffin said their increasing educational advancements have also had the domino effect of resulting in not only increased economic opportunities for women and their families but, have also lead to increased gains in health outcomes for women and children – particularly with regards to reduced maternal and infant mortality rates.
Addressing Parliament Wednesday on the annual global observance of International Women’s Day (March 8), Mrs. Griffin said the observance of International Women’s Day allows United Nations Member States such as The Bahamas, the opportunity to celebrate and reflect on the progress made on women’s rights, and observe the day to call for the end of gender inequality around the globe.
Mrs. Griffin was joined by Parliamentary colleagues — including Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Works and Urban Development, the Hon. Philip Davis — in signing a mural created by officials from the Department of Gender and Family Affairs. The signing, which took place during the afternoon break of the House of Assembly, demonstrated their support for ‘Planet 50:50 by 2030’ which is a United Nations initiative that promotes gender equality around the globe.
United Nations officials say Gender equality is central to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development — the global plan agreed by leaders of all countries to meet the challenges countries face with regards to gender equality. Sustainable Development Goal 5 calls specifically for gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls – a call that has been described as being “central to the achievement of all the 17 SDGs.”
The focus – particularly on education – is significant as women’s access to education and health services has benefits for their families and communities that extend to future generations. An extra year in school, for example, is projected to add up to 25 per cent to a girl’s future income.
U.N. statistics show that when women participate fully in the labour force, it creates opportunities and generates growth. Closing the gender gap in employment could add $12 trillion to global GDP by 2025. They say increasing the proportion of women in public institutions makes them more representative, increases innovation, improves decision-making and benefits entire societies.
“To achieve the vision of an inclusive, equitable, stronger, violence-free nation by 2030, it is imperative that we include women as partners and leaders and that we celebrate them for their tremendous roles in building stronger families, stronger communities and a stronger Bahamas,” Mrs. Griffin said.
“Can we just imagine a day where women decided not to take on their roles at home and in the workplace? Their role in the family, workplace, sports, culture, religion, business, politics and in their communities is significant and cannot be overstated,” Mrs. Griffin added.
Minister Griffin said local statistics indicate that women account for more than 50 per cent of the graduates at the secondary and tertiary levels. Mrs. Griffin said success “at all levels of the educational system” has resulted in increasing numbers of women in the workforce in addition to enhancing the economic empowerment of women.
“(Greater success in) Education has also resulted in more positive health outcomes for women and children, including reduced maternal and infant mortality rates. Women in The Bahamas have indeed done well in education and health.”
Mrs. Griffin said officials “would want to see” similar gains across all sectors of society. She said officials in the Department of Gender and Family Affairs are working to achieve this reality for women by promoting women in leadership and economic empowerment; by looking at the gendered dimensions of disaster preparedness and response; and by working to end all forms of gender-based violence.
“As we celebrate this year’s International Women’s day, I pay tribute to women everywhere and in every walk of life – including women who continue to lead in their churches and communities, particularly in service to the elderly and the poor.
“We saw the revival of this community spirit in the wake of Hurricane Matthew where women in many communities across the country ramped up their roles by providing shelter for relatives and neighbours, cooked hot meals and cleared debris. It is this spirit of community building, uniting and supporting, that we envisaged maintaining well beyond 2030 – a spirit that embraces all members of society and recognizes those most vulnerable and marginalized among us,” Mrs. Griffin said.