Following is the final part of a speech given by Verna St Rose-Greaves, Minister of Gender, Youth and Child Development, at a stakeholder consultation on the draft National Gender Policy at the Cascadia Hotel, St Ann's, on Wednesday. The first part of the speech was published in yesterday's T&T Guardian.
Labour and employment
The policy recognises the critical role of government in protecting the rights of workers, providing social protection, and laying down equitable policy frameworks for entrepreneurship and business development.
Unwaged economic activities, domestic and family life
The policy will promote the recognition of unwaged and reproductive work, unpaid labour and domestic and family life arrangements, because of their immense contribution to social wellbeing and national development, and ensure that increased resources are allocated to this sector.
Agriculture and food security
The policy recognises Trinidad and Tobago's need to increase food security, pursue rural development and practise environmentally-sensitive physical and industrial development. Sustainable development will be an elusive goal unless women's and men's contributions to environmental protection, preservation and management are recognised and supported.
The National Gender Policy will integrate gender equality goals into strategies aimed at increasing food security
Macro-economy and trade
The process of development is multi-faceted and has economic, social, cultural and political dimensions of which gender is a fundamental factor. The policy will promote gender-responsive budgeting across the public and private sectors, and civil society. And it will forge links between economic policy and planning to transform the goals of macro-economic policies to include social justice and equity.
Leadership and governance
Transparent and accountable governance depend on equal participation by men and women. The policy will promote equality between men and women in power-sharing and decision-making at all levels. It will provide a framework for active, visible measures to significantly increase the number of women in decision-making and to utilise their talents and skills as political leaders, parliamentarians, diplomats, members of boards, local councillors, etc.
So what is the way forward for us? The Government has the political will to put in place a national gender policy. However, the policy must capture the individual and collective goals and aspirations of the citizens of Trinidad and Tobago.
This is why we have consulted widely. Under the Ministry of Gender, Youth and Child Development we established a Cabinet-appointed committee to review the public comments and finalise the Draft National Gender Policy which was tabled in Parliament in August 2009.
The Cabinet-appointed committee is made up of a wide cross section of persons representing a cross section of the national community. The Government will measure all its policies, plans, programmes and activities by the principles of gender equality and equity.
It will seek to prevent and address discrimination against any citizen on the basis of their gender, and will mandate all public and private agencies to do the same. This is consistent with international best practice. Some 70 countries across the world presently have national gender policies. We need to be aware that while the Trinidad and Tobago National Gender Policy has been languishing for over a decade, a number of other Caribbean countries and overseas territories have put in place national gender policies and action plans.
I believe that a national gender policy is critical in order to set out the Government's gender equality priorities across the social, economic and political spheres; build coherence among all stakeholders including government, the private sector, labour and civil society; and secure the necessary resources to address the critical gender issues facing the nation.
The Ministry of Gender, Youth and Child Development also recognises that the finalisation of the Draft National Gender Policy requires a renewal of commitment by all stakeholders to gender equality. I encourage you to undertake this consultation with a sense of purpose, dedication and commitment as I know you will. And I urge you to negotiate your differences with a spirit and determination to build consensus for the greater national good.
As I look at the room and I see so many NGOs and people from other agencies, I know there have been people who are in the field and trenches who want to see this thing happen. There are also those who have some concerns about what the policy will represent. I have read a speech, we have talked for the morning but there are two elephants in the room we are not mentioning.
One of the reasons this policy did not go forward before, I believe, is there are two issues we did not treat with and I think we cannot continue if we do not engage around those issues, because it will not make sense. One has to do with the issue of sexuality, the other one has to do with termination of pregnancy. We as a ministry at the Ministry of Gender, Youth and Child Development, our approach is a rights-based approach. Human rights must be at the core of whatever we do. So while we may not agree on issues, let us keep in our focus the rights of citizens in this country.
Let's respect people's rights as citizens, the rights of citizenship and all that comes with it. Let us try to be respectful of our deliberations. Let us step back when things get too heated. Let us remember that each of us in Trinidad and Tobago desires what is best for us. The National Gender Policy had the potential to make us proud to be part of Trinidad and Tobago, to make us proud, to say I am Trinbagonian.
When we sang this morning, we did not have all the musical accompaniment but the words, the music the thoughts and feelings our anthem stirs up means something for us. Sometimes we must remind ourselves and each other that we too, are a nurturing people with the enriched tradition of looking out for each other. Our culture is embracing and inclusive.
We have a rich mix of so many aspects of the globe. We have come together in times of national pride, and share our cultural celebrations with our neighbours. We cry for each other's loss, hug strangers in jubilation at a football or cricket match; just any reason to celebrate on the street.
Our history has been one of struggle, and various forms of prejudice and discrimination. We protest against unfairness in equality and injustice for ourselves and others without apology for slavery and indentureship systems. We fought so many systems of oppression based on racial inequality and we must continue to fight against it.
We battle for the rights of workers against exploitation, economic systems based on class and inequality and we must continue to struggle against the ugly that is so easy for us to become. The National Gender Policy will help us to take yet another step forward in our effort to dismantle all forms of gender inequality and all forms of discrimination.