(CARICOM Secretariat, Turkeyen, Greater Georgetown, Guyana – It is a distinct honour and pleasure for me to celebrate our women and girls across the Caribbean Community on International Women’s Day. Today is an opportunity to celebrate the important contributions and tireless service that women around the world give every day at home, in their communities and beyond, and in every sphere of life. We celebrate their many achievements and recognize the progress that has been made towards gender equality, while acknowledging that there is still much more work to be done. International Women’s Day provides an important platform to highlight the challenges women face in realizing their full human rights, and to engage men and boys as champions for gender equality.
The global theme for this year’s observance is “Gender Equality Today For A Sustainable Tomorrow.” It recognizes the contribution of women and girls around the world who are leading the charge on climate change adaptation, mitigation and response, to build a more sustainable future for all. Achieving gender equality in the context of the climate crisis and disaster risk reduction is one of the urgent global challenges of the 21st century.
Climate change will continue to have severe and lasting impacts on our environment, and therefore on our economic and social development. The most vulnerable and marginalised among us, including indigenous and rural women, experience the most severe effects. According to UN Women, women constitute 70% of the world’s poor and are more likely to work or live on marginal lands and in informal settlements. Further, women’s capacity to cope with the shocks of climate events is further limited by gender inequalities and cultural norms in relation to gender roles, which often restrict women’s decision-making in disaster situations and limit their ability to escape natural disasters.
Female-headed households, estimated to be 40% in the Region, must be included when developing climate and disaster risk policies, programmes, and projects. Overall, women head larger households than men and their livelihoods are more vulnerable to the impact of disasters. They also struggle more than men to find alternative livelihoods and re-enter the formal employment sector. As is the case during the on-going COVID-19 pandemic, disasters disproportionately increase women’s care burden, the incidence of gender-based violence and job losses.
Yet, women and girls are effective, powerful leaders and change agents for climate adaptation and mitigation. They are involved in environmental sustainability initiatives around the world, and their participation and leadership result in more effective climate action. As a Community, we need to continue to increase the opportunities, and minimise the constraints to empowering women and girls to have a voice, and to be equal partners in decision-making on climate action and disaster management. By advancing gender equality today as a powerful driver of development, and working towards ensuring lives free of violence and poverty, we will secure a sustainable tomorrow and a thriving Community for all.
It is my pleasure and privilege to wish everyone a Happy International Women’s Day.