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International Women's Day Message

The Minister for Health and Human Services, The Hon. Anthony S. Eden, OBE, JP

International Women's Day Message

Minister for Health and Human Services, The Hon. Anthony S. Eden, OBE, JP

9 March 2009

As the Minister responsible for Gender Affairs, I am pleased that the Cayman Islands joins in celebrating International Women's Day, which is officially recognised on the 8th of March. International Women's Day is a major day of global celebration for the economic, political, cultural and social achievements of women past, present and future. It also seeks to draw attention to the real consequences of lingering, and in some instances powerful inequalities between the sexes.

According to United Nations officials, violence against women is the least punished crime in the world, and thus they have aptly chosen the following global theme for International Women's Day 2009: Women and men united to end violence against women and girls. The UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon recently stated, "Across the world, in countries rich and poor, women are being beaten, trafficked, raped and killed. These human rights violations do more than harm individuals; they undermine the development, peace and security of entire societies."

In the Cayman Islands, we have our share of experiences that make us all too aware that the issue of violence against women and girls, is one that can undermine the peacefulness in our homes and communities. In November 2008, the Cayman Islands Government joined over 5 million voices representing governments, organizations, and individuals worldwide in the UNIFEM's Say NO to Violence against Women campaign which called to make ending violence against women a top priority for governments worldwide. It is only with men and women, youth and adults, and public and private sectors working in partnership that we will be able to alleviate this societal ill that stunts our human development.

To address the issue of gender violence in the Cayman Islands, my Ministry is currently working with other government entities to

  1. re-establish a national committee that would address gender violence and other inter-linked issues, such as family violence, sexual violence and child abuse;
  2. strengthen the Domestic Violence Law; and
  3. bring forward new anti-discrimination legislation.

However, while institutional mechanisms and strong legislation are essential, we all have critical individual roles to play. Each of us must refuse to turn a blind eye [so that acts of violence against women and girls are ended] in our families, workplaces and communities. It is the least we can do to ensure a brighter, safer future for girls and women.

While International Women's Day provides countries with the opportunity to highlight issues such as gender violence, it is also used throughout the global village to organise events that inspire women and celebrate their achievements. For over a decade, the month of March has been utilized in the Cayman Islands as Honouring Women Month. This provides an opportunity to connect women throughout our communities by organising rich and diverse activities that range from official ceremonies, business conferences, and church services, to book and art exhibits, sporting and senior citizen's events, and poetry and photo contests.

The local theme for Honouring Women Month 2009 is "Heroes Among Us." We know from our recent National Heroes Day celebrations, that in our Islands we do not have to look far to find female heroes and role models. There are female heroes among us that may not necessarily be in the public spotlight, but still significantly contribute to our growth and development, at an individual and national level.

On this International Women's Day and throughout Honouring Women Month, I extend my very best wishes to every woman in our Islands. I also encourage each and everyone to take the time during Honouring Women Month to honour the women in your lives, who are most likely doing some extraordinary things.

From shaping the growth and development of children and caring for the sick and elderly, to active participation and leadership in society and politics, the women of our beloved Islands have always demonstrated their devotion to and love of their families, friends, neighbors, and country. Far too often, we do not recognise how their actions enhance the lives of us all, and for this, they certainly deserve the honour that this commemorative month officially bestows upon them.