UNDP Resident Representative Denise E Antonio

 

REMARKS

Denise E Antonio, UNDP Resident Representative


Spouses of Caricom Leaders Action Network/United Nations General Assembly SCLAN/UNGA side event

 

Via ZOOM, Thursday 24 September 2020, 9:00 a.m. to 11 a.m.

 

Engaging Men and Boys to advance gender equality

UNDP’s Role in Promoting Gender Equality and Preventing Gender-Based Violence to Advance Caribbean Development

 

H.E. Mrs. Fabiola Yanez

First Lady of the Republic of Argentina,

 

H.E. Mrs. Kim Simplis Barrow

Spouse of the Prime Minister of Belize

Special Envoy for Women and Children

Chair of SCLAN- Spouses of CARICOM Leaders Action Network,

 

H.E Mrs. Anna Garcia de Hernandez

Wife of the President of Honduras,

 

H.E. Mrs. Martine Moïse

First Lady of the Republic of Haiti,                                                                                                                        

                                                                                                                         

Her Excellency, Mrs. Yazmin Colon de Cortizo

First Lady of the Republic of Panama,

 

H.E. Mrs. Silvana Abdo,

First Lady of the Republic of Paraguay

General Coordinator of ALMA- the Alliance of Spouses of Heads of State and Representatives

 

H.E Mrs. Patricia Minnis

Spouse of the Prime Minister of The Bahamas,

 

H.E. Mrs. Amai Auxillia Mnangagwa

First Lady of the Republic of Zimbabwe

Vice President of OAFLAD- the Organization of African First Ladies for Development,

 

H.E. Mr. Kris Miller

CARICOM Youth Ambassador,

 

Excellencies, Government officials, members of the diplomatic and consular corp, and social partners, ladies and gentlemen

 

 

The Caribbean - filled with energy, sunshine and promise.

It teems with diverse people, a melting pot of enthralling and varied cultures.

A place where dreams can become reality.

Some say the Caribbean is paradise.

The countries face similar challenges such as being small and vulnerable, but like other regions of the world, there is a persistent problem that is impeding Caribbean development. It rears its ugly head in all spheres and is not confined to a particular society or socio-economic class;

It is Gender-Based Violence (GBV) or Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG).

 

From a broader perspective, Citizen insecurity, manifesting itself in crime and violence is a major issue in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC).

 

In fact, the region is seen as the most violent in the world which has a profound negative impact on social and economic development and therefore significantly impede Caribbean development. 

 

In Jamaica, for example, the economic cost of crime and violence is approximately five (5) per cent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) or over USD 500 million per year.

A 2017 UNODC report showed that men were four times more likely than women to fall victim to homicide in LAC.

Men are the main perpetrators of crime and violence, but they are also the main victims.

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Built on a culture historically rooted in discrimination and violence, its normalisation and tolerance has penetrated various levels of the society, creating unequal gender and power relations.  Furthermore, the socialization of men to dominate has led to some women finding themselves economically dependent on men with limited opportunities and lack of control of their own resources; and for many of the female-headed households in the Caribbean, this too has caused discrimination against women and an increased environment of “Toxic masculinity”. 

Gender-based violence disrupts families, affects women’s economic viability and puts women’s health and lives at risk. Sexual violence against women and girls remains very high especially among women, 24 years and under in the Caribbean (UNDP). 

This is also seen through Gender insensitive policies and legislation that permeates institutional structures and policy and legal frameworks such that in many of our countries there are inadequate victim support services, for example no or very few safe spaces for victims of GBV/VAWG.

 

As a result:

·        Significant loss to GDP/Low economic growth

·         Lower productivity/High unemployment

·        Loss of our next generation of leaders

·        Poor health and wellbeing of society

·        Increased migration

·        High social burdens:  Loss in over 50% of potential workforce

·        Unnecessarily High financial burden leading to increased debt - the costs of health care for victims of violence, legal services, policing and incarceration, as well as caring for displaced children.

It is estimated that 1 in every 5 women who experiences GBV by their partner or ex-partner lose 20 productive days that could have been dedicated to work, social activities or homemaking.

In 2018, People in Villa El Salvador spent 72.9 million USD covering the cost of gender-based violence against women. That is 4 times the budget that the local government spent on infrastructure in 2016.

The data shows that intimate partner violence has grave consequences for women’s physiological and psychological health. Women who are abused have poorer general health and are more likely to suffer from depression and consider suicide than women who have never been abused. The danger that intimate partner violence poses to the children of battered women is particularly profound. These children are more likely to drop out of school at a young age and face all the risks that flow from this and early exposure to violence.

 

Gender equality is thereby a fundamental human right and a necessity for a peaceful, prosperous and sustainable Caribbean.  By promoting peace, freedom, unfettered and dynamic achievement for all, there will be equal contribution of productive men and women, poverty and inequalities will be reduced, social and economic prosperity enhanced, and a resilient society built.

 

Henceforth, as we advance towards achieving SDG 5: Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment, it is essential that men are the primary point of reference on solutions to arrest and change the paradigm and culture of GBV/VAWG. Men have to play a salient role.

 

UNDP has been playing a pivotal role in the fight against GBV/VAWG.

For example, the UNDP Human Development Report, Gender Inequality Index (GII) measures the loss in human development due to inequality between female and male through three dimensions: reproductive health, empowerment/decision making levels, and economic activity.

Notwithstanding the gains made in the Caribbean, GII for most of the countries is showing that significant work is needed to address the gender gap. Providing reliable and credible data on GBV is critical to not only enhance public awareness but to inform policy and decision-making to end VAWG.

The elimination of VAWG and harmful practices is being tackled through a partnership between the UN and the European Union (EU) under the Spotlight Initiative (SI). The €50 million SI in the Caribbean focuses on eliminating family violence and responding to all forms of VAWG. Beneficiary countries are Belize, Grenada, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago plus a regional programme. UNDP, in collaboration with other UN agencies is addressing legislative and policy gaps, strengthening institutions, promoting gender-equitable attitudes and providing quality services for survivors of VAWG.

UNDP is also supporting a number of programmes through policy and on-the-ground actions on citizens safety and security, upholding of human rights and advancing gender equality. Nearly all of our work and programmes require the integration of gender equality considerations.  

Although our interventions have had some impacts, radical steps are needed to achieve lasting impacts.  Continuing with “business as usual” is not enough.

Ending GBV and achieving the SDGs go hand in hand. Men should be encouraged to defend and protect the rights of women. For men, this should be seen as a position of strength. To change the paradigm and shift the culture will require a resocialization of our men and even our women.

Here are a few suggestions:

Psychosocial Support to address the root causes and behavioural change

Work to improve good governance and effective justice systems. Governance is the hand that cradles the Sustainable Development Goals: We must work to build strong inclusive institutions.

More emphasis must be placed on reducing multi-dimensional and intergenerational poverty. Most Caribbean countries are SIDS and therefore require special support and attention. The one size fit all cannot work in and for these countries.

As the Gender Champion for the Caribbean, I am committed to advancing gender equality and preventing GBV through mechanisms that lead to empowering women and girls and engaging men and boys.

 

In the words of the UN SG, António Guterres “Peace, justice and sustainable development. None are possible without gender equality and women's empowerment.”

 

Ladies and gentlemen. I thank you.

 

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