International Women Day 2012 Minister's message
International Women’s Day 2012 Address by
the Minister with responsibility for Ministry for Health, Wellness, Human Services and Gender Relations Hon. Alvina Reynolds
The United Nations designated International Women’s Day is observed worldwide on March 8th each year. As Minister with responsibility for Gender Relations I am indeed honoured to extend best wishes to all the women and girls of Saint Lucia on this very special occasion.
The theme for this year’s observance is “Connecting Girls, Inspiring Futures.” It speaks to our responsibility to ensure that the future for girls is bright, equal, safe and rewarding. And as we look ahead to the opportunities that await future generations of women, we also take the time to acknowledge the tremendous contributions of the women who have gone before.
Women have excelled and continue to excel in all spheres of the country’s economic, social, and although not in the numbers that we really want political development. However even as we honour the many outstanding achievements we must be also mindful of the many challenges that still exist , and every effort must be made to position young women and girls to overcome these challenges.
Our first responsibility is to ensure that all young people are positioned to enable them to take full advantage of every opportunity to educate themselves. Education, both formal and informal, is one of the strongest ways to improve gender equality. It is fundamental to sustainable development and growth because learning and developing skills enable all people to live healthier, happier and more productive lives.
My Government continues to demonstrate its commitment to improving access to, and the quality of, education through the provision of Universal Secondary Education, and programmes that expose girls at a very early age to non- traditional subject areas, such as, science and technology. These are areas with the fastest growing occupations that are considered to be critical to economic development and prosperity, and where workers tend to be very well paid.
It is also our responsibility to ensure that girls grow up free from violence, in spaces that are safe, secure and nurturing. Unfortunately females are subjected to violence throughout their life cycle, in numbers that are disproportionately higher than men, in their homes, on the streets, in education institutions and the workplace.
Violence against women and girls violates and impairs their enjoyment of their human rights and fundamental freedoms. The prevalence of gender-based violence, in particular domestic violence in any given society is the result of the tacit acceptance by that society. We must therefore, develop a culture of zero tolerance to violence of any kind, and in particular gender- based violence.
At the individual level we must not commit or condone any acts of violence against women and children. At the State level we must continue to employ measures that will ensure that all citizens are safe at all times, and priority must be given to allocating the resources needed to provide adequate responses to victims as well as perpetrators.
Girls must also have access to adequate health care and information at an early age, so that they can make good health care choices throughout their lives. Adolescence is a time when attitudes towards health and health care develop that can affect lifelong wellbeing. During these formative years, the extent of access to the health care system can strengthen or undermine health care habits, as well as determine to whom young people turn for support and information about health issues.
Every effort will therefore be made by my government and Ministry to adequately address all access barriers that may exist through the country’s health care system.
This theme for this year’s International Women’s Day “Connecting Girls, Inspiring Futures” requires that we all take up the responsibility to facilitate the continued empowerment of girls and young women. Guided by the theme, the Division of Gender Relations will include girls in all activities planned to mark the observance. One such activity is the Jump Start Mentoring Programme, which is intended to link career-oriented young women with professional women within their work setting to empower these young women to make decisions about their future while providing them with an opportunity to gain insight on potential careers or professions. The programme will also provide them with tools to make well-informed career-related decisions about their education.
As we move beyond this year’s observance, we must be vigilant to ensure that Saint Lucia remains committed to providing opportunities for the advancement of all young women and girls. Individually each one of us must make it our responsibility to be good examples, to motivate, guide and connect all young people so that they can realize the inspiring futures that they all deserve.
On behalf of the Government of Saint Lucia, and in particular the Ministry of Ministry of Health, Wellness, Human Services and Gender Relations, I wish all women and girls of Saint Lucia a happy and blessed International Women’s Day.
I THANK YOU.
© 2013 Government of Saint Lucia. All rights reserved.