100 Years of Celebrating Women
Address by Minister of Community Affairs, Gender and Housing
Honourable Mike Adam, MBE, JP
International Women's Day Ceremony
The Westin Casuarina Resort- Governor's Ballroom
Tuesday, 8 March, 2011
It is my honour to be here with you this morning to mark International Women's Day and celebrate the achievements of women all over the world. This day is a powerful reminder to us that empowering our women and girls requires continued vigilance, dedication and commitment. Indeed, this year is particularly special as it marks a century since the world began observing International Women's Day.
This year's local theme for Honouring Women Month is "Celebrate. Connect. Commit." I believe that the message of this theme is that we must:
- celebrate our achievements and continue to strive for new goals and milestones in gender equality;
- connect with our history and culture and bridge the generation gap between all females in order to understand how far we have come and how much more there is left to achieve; and
- commit to making changes in our own daily lives that will empower ourselves and positively impact the girls and women that surround us, whether it is your wife, mother, grandmother, sister, daughter or grand-daughter, work colleague or neighbour.
Undoubtedly, women around the world can take pride in having broken down many barriers and excelling in fields once reserved for men. Women are now entrepreneurs, doctors, lawyers, scientists, professional athletes, executives and engineers - and many women do all this while juggling the more traditional roles of wife, mother, caregiver and community volunteer. Women have truly mastered the art of 'multi-tasking' - juggling their personal lives with their professional ones.
This notion of multi-tasking, however, is not new to our heritage. In the nineteenth and twentieth century, we know that Caymanian women were domestic servants and seamstresses, in addition to carrying out farm work and running households while the men were away at sea.
Yet despite our achievements, both past and present, females across the globe and in the Cayman Islands still face inequality, abuse and discrimination. The National Assessment of Living Conditions Study indicates that the female population in the Cayman Islands is more likely than the male population to be among the poor and vulnerable. Furthermore, in many jurisdictions, as well as ours, women and girls remain the overwhelming victims of domestic abuse, sexual assault and other forms of exploitation.
In addition, when we look at female participation in the political arena, we see the inequality there as well. Since 1997, when my colleague, the Deputy Premier, Honourable Juliana O'Connor-Connolly became the first female appointed as a Minister, there has never been more than one female Minister in Cabinet at any given time and from 2005-2009 there were no female Ministers in Cabinet.
These facts signal to us that we must continue to uphold women's rights and strengthen our efforts to ensure that we put in place proper programmes, policies and legal mechanisms to advance and uplift our women and girls.
I am pleased to say that in October last year the Cayman Islands Government passed the Protection Against Domestic Violence Law. This Law redefines domestic violence, expanding it beyond physical abuse to include sexual, financial, emotional and/or psychological abuse. It also widens the net of protection by ensuring that issues such as elderly and child abuse are covered. This new Law is a tool that can help each of us become better advocates for victims and I, therefore, urge everyone to learn as much as possible about its provisions. Educating ourselves means we will be better able to protect our families and help the victims in our communities who are powerless to help themselves.
With respect to other measures, The Gender Equality Bill, 2011 is to be heard on Cabinet's agenda this month and be brought to the Legislative Assembly this year. This piece of legislation will be the most significant move in a very long time towards addressing gender equality issues in the Cayman Islands. The Bill offers protection against gender discrimination on the basis of sex, marital status, and pregnancy. It covers issues such protection from gender discrimination in employment, training and recruitment; promotes equal pay for equal work; provides protection from sexual harassment in the work place; and other related matters.
Once this piece of legislation is in place, the Cayman Islands Government can then make a request to the United Kingdom for the Convention on Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), an international bill of rights for women, to be extended to us. The extension of CEDAW would be a move to further strengthen the rights of women and girls in the Cayman Islands.
I must also remind each person that outside of any legislation or mandate to protect women, we have a moral responsibility to continue to strive for gender equality. Women play key roles in maintaining the social fabric of our community and strengthening our economic prosperity, and we must never forget that.
In closing, I say a special thanks to all the remarkable women and girls who participated in the creation of the poster celebrating 100 years of International Women's Day, which will be unveiled shortly. Whether you are a Caymanian woman who broke a 'glass ceiling' by becoming the first woman in your field or you are an expatriate woman who has exceeded in contributing to your area of expertise , your contributions to nation-building are invaluable and are not forgotten on this day.
Finally, I wish my wife, my mother, my daughters, my granddaughters and all the women of these beautiful Islands a wonderful 100th International Women's Day.
May God continue to bless you all.
For further information contact: Prudence Barnes