Message by Hon. Keith Mondesir for International Women’s Day 2008
Message by Honourable Dr. Keith Mondesir
Minister for Health Wellness, Family Affairs, National Mobilisation, Human Services and Gender Relations
On the Occasion of International Women’s Day 2008
Monday, March 10, 2008
March 8th was observed around the world as International Women’s Day, and I wish to convey my best wishes to all the women of Saint Lucia on this special occasion.
The Division of Gender Relations has planned a number of activities throughout the month of March to mark the occasion. The theme for this year’s observance is “Women Shaping Progress.” It is an acknowledgment of the significant strides that women have made in their pursuit of equality, equity and social justice. It also reminds us of the important role that women have in shaping the future for a progressive and productive society.
During this year’s observance we will again acknowledge and honour the diverse contributions of the women of Saint Lucia. Women have excelled and continue to excel in education, commerce, the judiciary, arts and culture, medicine, advocacy, policy-making, and the list goes on. As we celebrate our womenfolk, we must continue to raise awareness on the challenges that many of our women still face.
Women have been involved and continue to perform outstandingly in all spheres of development in this country, yet they continue to be grossly underrepresented at the highest levels of decision-making. In the last 34 years we have had only 4 elected female parliamentarians. I would like to encourage more women to come forward and claim their rights to participate in the political decision making process. Our political culture must be transformed to one where there is equity in the sharing of power between women and men. In this way, political decision making will more accurately reflect the composition of our society; it will also serve to strengthen democracy and promote its proper functioning.
According to the Beijing Platform for Action, 1995…“Without the active participation of women and the incorporation of women’s perspective at all levels of decision making, the goals of equality, development and peace cannot be achieved.” The Division of Gender Relations, for which I am responsible will endeavour to continue its efforts to establish a women’s political caucus to provide support for all women who wish to participate more fully in the country’s political processes.
Over the last few days, we have had reports of a number of deaths as a result of family and domestic violence. I am deeply saddened by these incidents, and I wish to convey my sympathies to the families, as well as to the communities, which I’m sure, were also severely affected.
As a nation, we must continue to support the efforts of individuals and agencies that provide assistance and services to victims and perpetrators. We must continue to advocate and raise our voices against the senseless violation of our women and children, and the devastation which takes place in families as a result.
I want to remind the public that there are services available for persons in situations of domestic violence. The Women’s Support Centre, is a government funded shelter for battered women and their dependent children. Now in its 7th year of operation, it continues to provide a high quality of service in a safe, comfortable and supportive environment. The Centre provides a free anonymous service, and can be contacted by simply dialing 202 for its 24-hour hotline. Police assistance is also available through the recently established Vulnerable Persons Unit of the Royal St Lucia Police Force. The Vulnerable Persons Unit was set up to respond exclusively to cases of child abuse and domestic violence.
Another major challenge is the impact of HIV/AIDS on women. Globally the number of women dying as result of HIV/AIDS is almost the same as that of men. And because of existing social and economic imbalances, women and girls are four times more vulnerable to HIV infection than men and boys. The Division of Gender Relations through the Women’s Support Centre has been active in increasing awareness on the link between HIV/AIDS and violence against women by providing victims and survivors of domestic violence with information to empower them to avoid risky behaviours.
As we celebrate International Women’s Day, I salute all the women who have been able to transcend these challenges to realize their full potential as partners in the economic and social development of our country. There can be no meaningful development without the equal participation of the women who, through hard work and commitment, have shaped and continue to shape progress in Saint Lucia, the region and the world.
On behalf of the Government of Saint Lucia, and in particular the Ministry of Health, Wellness, Family Affairs, National Mobilization, Human Services and Gender Relations, I wish all women of Saint Lucia a happy and memorable observance.
I THANK YOU.
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