International Women Day Address
By Minister for Commerce, Business Development, Investment and Consumer Affairs
Honourable Emma Hyppolyte
March 8th, 2012
It is a real pleasure to address my fellow Saint Lucians on the occasion of International Women Day (IWD). Indeed, I feel honoured and called upon to do so in my role as Minister for Commerce, Business Development, Investment and Consumer Affairs, areas that directly and fundamentally impact the lives of women in Saint Lucia.
Traditionally International Women's Day is a day when women are recognized for their achievements without regard to divisions, whether national, ethnic, linguistic, cultural, economic or political. This year theme for IWD is “Connecting Girls ... Inspiring Futures” and I would like to identify with the Ministry of Health, Wellness, Human Services and Gender Affairs in recognizing those specific women who have basically devoted their lives to educating girls in Saint Lucia. I congratulate and commend these women for their contribution in shaping the lives of generations of Saint Lucian Women.
IWD is however an occasion to reflect on past struggles and accomplishments of women in all spheres, and more importantly, for looking ahead to the untapped potential and opportunities that await future generations of women. As we focus our energies on connecting girls to successful role models who can inspire their futures I am convinced that the Ministry of Commerce, Business Development, Investment and Consumer Affairs has a role to play in influencing this 'gender agenda' to positive effect.
Congratulations to women in business!
I commend the women of Saint Lucia for their entrepreneurship, hard work and overwhelming contribution to business development and investment in this country. Our women are clearly at the heart of our business sector. On this IWD I therefore wish to recognize the contribution of our women in the field of business and I congratulate every single one of our hard working women and business entrepreneurs.
Addressing “The Gender Gap”
The majority of our women are players in the trade sector where well over 37% of the national businesses fall. Most businesses in this sector are in the 1-4, employment size band. If we consider employment in terms of total numbers, this sector still on top, employing higher number of people than the highest employer in the formal business sector. As the Minister responsible for business development (including the portfolio for Micro and Small Enterprise Development) we have developed a comprehensive work programme to improve the quality and scope of services provided to small business operators.
The informal sector is very important in terms of employment creation such that describing it with negative attributes should cease and all effort should instead be directed into improving working conditions for those employed in this Sector.
As we look towards the future to connect and inspire the next generation of women my ministry will give greater impetus to impart entrepreneurial skills to equip our women to look for new business opportunities. In regard particular effort should also be directed at seeking female students in technical schools to prepare them for employment and business in other (non - retail) sectors.
Tackling these issues is not just a pursuit of gender equity; it is also one of economic enhancing our economic strength. We must work hard to help women in business to fulfil their potential – for the good of our economy and it is the pathway to growth.
One of the biggest challenges facing women, many of whom are single parents, is balancing work and family life. The traditional, inflexible, 8-4 model of work just doesn't make sense any more. My ministry is currently working towards amending the legislation to introduce flexible working hours which will help our hard working women balance the work and business related commitments
IWD is an apt occasion to reflect on these issues which I know is of tremendous importance to the women of Saint Lucia. Their economic wellbeing rests on their ability to work and to contribute to the wellbeing of their families and the society. The policies I have talked about today, like, entrepreneurial training, micro financing and flexible working hours, will help. But we must continue to discuss in the weeks and months ahead new and innovative approaches to ensure that we achieve maximum effectiveness in the long term.
We must therefore not lose sight of the fact that we are not only seeking to make the lives of women better in today economy but we are seeking to inspire influence the woman of tomorrow. I therefore wish all the women and girls of Saint Lucia especially those from the Gros Islet Constituency a wonderful IWD.
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