NASSAU, Bahamas – Bahamas Prime Minister Phillip Davis says it remains a terrible and tragic reality that many women are not able to fully dedicate themselves to developing their talents and careers because they suffer from violence.
Addressing the opening of the Commonwealth Women’s Affairs Ministers (WAAM) meeting here on Monday night, Davis said the levels of violence against women and girls remain unacceptable.
“We can’t stop working on this issue until women are safe everywhere – whether they are walking alone at night, in their workplaces and schools, or at home with loved ones,” he told the conference that is being attended by more than 80 ministers and senior officials from across the Commonwealth’s six regions.
Davis said that his administration relies on a diverse team with broad expertise and varied backgrounds, inclusive of women occupying key positions in the Cabinet and throughout the government.
“While we acknowledge this progress, we still want to see more political and government participation, and we know that achieving this requires active leadership and thoughtful policies. We also know that despite the great strides which have been made by women in the workplace, women can occupy more of the top spots in our private sector corporate structures.”
Davis said that children should have an expectation that their hard work, excellence, and achievements will be evaluated fairly.
He said one element to driving progress means doing more to make sure entrepreneurs have access to the capital and technical support necessary to bring their entrepreneurial dreams into fruition.
“ It’s time to demolish the walls of the old boys’ clubs – only when opportunities are opened up more widely will we truly be making the most of the talent and ingenuity of all of humanity. The world has a lot of urgent problems to solve – we need all hands on deck.
“It is a terrible and tragic reality that many women are not able to fully dedicate themselves to developing their talents and careers because they suffer from violence. My administration has sought to address the social and systemic factors contributing to violence against women and girls through increased funding to construct a new women’s shelter and to provide legal aid for survivors of domestic violence through social services and the Office of the Judiciary.
“ We have also made meaningful progress in protecting survivors of domestic abuse and sexual violence through the recently passed Protection Against Violence Act, which establishes and protects the rights of victims, allows for the allocation of more resources, and focuses on sensitization and training within the police force and other organizations that work directly with survivors.”
But Prime Minister Davis acknowledged that even as efforts are made to address the pressing issues facing women, “we must also be more inclusive of women living with disabilities to ensure that every woman feels empowered, protected, and included in our plans.
“Many who live in coastal areas and small island developing states will bear the worst of the impacts of climate change. This is especially true for lower-income families who lack the resources to relocate or adequately prepare for the severe storms and flooding associated with rising global temperatures.”
Prime Minister Davis said that time for the Commonwealth community “to be unabashedly ambitious in our goals and plans.
“We need more than slogans – we need commitments. Let’s maximize the opportunity before us to exchange ideas, learn from one another, and lay the foundation for more effective policy solutions. WAMM provides an ideal platform through which we can have the conversations that can change the world.”
In her address to the ceremony, Commonwealth Secretary-General Patricia Scotland said that she has mainstreamed gender across all areas of her organisation’s work to help member countries achieve their development goals more equitably.
“As we meet today, our world faces serious challenges: the long shadow of COVID-19; crippling debt, rising inflation and high interest rates … and the increasingly harsh impacts of climate change. In each of them, the impact on women and girls is disproportionate. But together, we are more than equal to the challenges we face.
““This is our time. Let us resolve that the chapter we will write together here in The Bahamas will lead us to a safer, more sustainable, more equal and more prosperous future for all,” she said, adding “if, in The Bahamas, we, the Commonwealth, came together and were able to free Nelson Mandela. Isn’t it time now we free the women of the world? As Nelson Mandela once said: ‘It always seems impossible until it’s done’. So, let’s do it.”
The Commonwealth Secretariat said that the decisions from the three-day meeting will feed into an action plan, designed to end gender inequality in several Commonwealth priority areas.
It said these priority areas range from women’s inclusion in climate solutions, ending gender-based violence to increased support for women with disabilities and better representation in leadership.
The outcomes from the meeting will be considered by leaders at the 2024 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Samoa.