International Women’s Day 2019

On behalf of the Government of Trinidad and Tobago (T&T), I wish to extend greetings to all citizens, especially our women and girls, on the occasion of International Women’s Day. This year we join the international community in commemorating the theme “Think equal, build smart, innovate for change”, which places emphasis on innovative ways in which we can advance gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls, particularly in the areas of social protection systems, access to public services and sustainable infrastructure.  

We recognise the trailblazers in areas such as science, technology, engineering and mathematics who have paved the way for other women to access jobs within these fields.   Increasing numbers of women have also entered the boardrooms, the political sphere and have started businesses in various industries and they are to be celebrated. Undoubtedly, women and girls have the capacity to succeed and to become innovators for change.

While women have come a long way, much more needs to be done in order to close the gender gaps in the spheres of politics, business, technology, the so-called “hard sciences” and other areas. Women’s under-representation in these fields prevents them from influencing gender-responsive innovations to achieve the transformative gains necessary for accelerating gender equality and equity.

Innovative solutions, integrated approaches and a supportive environment are therefore central to removing the structural barriers which allow these gender gaps to persist.  This will require   collaboration between the Government and industry leaders, social entrepreneurs and women’s non-governmental organisations. Gender equality activists and women innovators also have their contribution to make towards accelerating gender equality, encouraging investment in gender-responsive social systems and building services and infrastructure that meet the needs of women and girls.

In this vein, the Government recognises the unprecedented opportunities presented by Information and Communications Technology (ICT) and the critical need therefore to bridge the digital gender divide. To this end, the

Government fully supports the Girls in ICT initiative whereby women and girls are encouraged and empowered to consider careers in the field of ICT. This creates immense opportunities for women and girls to play a role in building more inclusive systems and sustainable infrastructure to accelerate the achievement of gender equality.

The National Development Strategy that speaks to “Putting People First: Nurturing Our Greatest Asset” is linked to the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 5 which addresses gender equality and the empowering of women and girls. Economic inequality, innovation, peace and justice are among the other priorities of the SDGs which all intersect with gender equality. Women and girls can therefore play an important role in accelerating gender equality as well as the achievement of the SDGs through innovation and technology.

To ensure that woman and girls are not left behind, the Government, through the Office of the Prime Minister (Gender and Child Affairs), will continue to develop and execute projects and programmes to ensure equality of opportunity and the reduction of gender discriminatory practices. One such initiative is the upcoming Foundation Programme which seeks to address issues of gender-based violence and will engage both males and females between the ages of 13-25 years. The Gender and Child Affairs Division is collaborating with UN Women in the implementation of this programme. Additionally, to ensure that gender mainstreaming is effected throughout T&T, the Office of the Prime Minister (Gender and Child Affairs) has established Gender Focal Points in Government Ministries, State Agencies and the Private Sector. Gender Focal Points will play an important role in the development of a supportive policy environment and the creation of innovative and integrated approaches to closing gender gaps where they exist. Twenty-one focal points have been established in Government Ministries while 55 have been established in other State Agencies.

We all have a part to play in achieving the transformative shifts necessary to achieve gender equity and equality in T&T.  In 1995 countries all over the world including T&T met in Bejing, China to develop a Platform for Action to empower women and girls globally. T&T is committed to the goals identified in the twelve (12) critical areas of Action and must report every five (5) years on its achievements. The Office of the Prime Minister in collaboration with key stakeholders is in the process of preparing this country’s report for submission to UN Women (Commission of the Status of Women). This report will outline T&T’s achievement in advancing the status of women and set the tone for action in the coming years.  This is another major step forward as we continue to think equal, build smart and innovate for change in a world that is evolving.

- From the Honourable Ayanna Webster-Roy, Minister of State in the Office of the Prime Minister, holding the portfolios of Gender and Child Affairs

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