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Barbados Government Minister Encourages Gender-Sensitive Policies

Minister in Barbados' Ministry of Economic Affairs and Investment, Marsha Caddle. Photo credit: BGIS.

Barbados Government Minister Encourages Gender-Sensitive Policies

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados (Tuesday, March 9, 2021) — Having gender-sensitive policies is an important consideration for ministries of finance in setting budgets, meeting fiscal targets and allocating resources.

Minister in the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Investment, Marsha Caddle, made this point, as she participated in the virtual UN Women Multi-Country Office – Caribbean Media Takeover Instagram Live entitled: Why Do You Lead? as part of activities to mark International Women’s Day, yesterday.

Caddle highlighted the attention the Mia Mottley-led government paid to policies to address women’s burden of care, particularly as it relates to newborns and maternity leave.

“…We are…expanding that to look, overall, at parental leave…. We’re going to help men/women deal with this care responsibility as a unit, because that is what is going to be important for women,” she stated.

The Minister added that it was important to encourage families to share care responsibility for newborns, explaining that such measures would assist women in dedicating some of their time to expanding their choices.

She further pointed out that the COVID-19 pandemic had also raised gender-sensitive concerns, related to the employment of men and women.

Caddle explained that in the main sectors affected – tourism, restaurants and retail – women represented a two-to-one ratio in each, and were also employed at a higher rate of two to one.

“And so, a lot of the policies that we came up with, were about how do we make sure that we re-engage women,” she said, noting that their finances usually went back into education and the health of the household.

She stressed that it was important to ensure that women had the necessary resources, not just to provide for their families, but also to meet their own productive potential.

During her presentation, Minister Caddle also highlighted the issue of domestic violence, which she said she raised in Parliament, as another “public health emergency”.

She expressed the view that addressing gender-based violence and other forms of inequality started from the time children were born, with schools, and how behaviour was modelled for children.

“We seem to have this persistent issue…which is protection of our bodies, that we are still grappling with….I feel it is a part of my responsibility, as this new generation of politician, to be able to leave something behind in that regard, to make sure that we are really able to address this in a way that brings about real change,” the Minister stated.

Last Saturday, she delivered the keynote address at the Soroptimist International Barbados Club’s Professional Development Workshop entitled: Sister Put Your Best Foot Forward virtual event, where she lamented the gap that still exists, regarding access to affordable childcare facilities for working women.

The Minister told the large audience on Zoom that although Barbados had invested a lot in government daycare and nurseries, regrettably, there was still a gap, as it related to affordable access to daycare.

“What does that mean? It means that what we need are better and stronger polices that relate to care in the workplace, and that means maternity and paternity leave and feeding arrangements for parents in the workplace; flexible work arrangements; which is a policy that is on the cusp of being the subject of consultation and roll-out in the public sector; and the erection of daycare facilities in and near commercial developments,” Caddle underlined.

She continued: “This was one of the policies that became popular in the region some time ago, but I fear that as we have moved on and we see a lot of private sector development, we have not, perhaps, insisted on having physical development planning done, such that you are required to have accessible affordable daycare close to where people are working.”

Minister Caddle articulated the view that that issue of childcare and caring for the elderly were two areas that still kept women out of the labour market.

She explained that in an ageing population, looking after the elderly represented what she described as the dependency ratio in a household, which tended to be higher in households, headed by women, as opposed to those headed by men.

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