The Women’s Arm of the United National Congress recently held a Post Budget Discussion on Wednesday 7th October, 2015 at the Gulf View Community Center, hosted by the Chair of the UNC Women’s Arm, Stacy Roopnarine.
At this event, the women noted that this year’s budget was presented without a dedicated Ministry for Gender Affairs and perhaps this was why the budget presentation completely ignored the gender component. It was also noted that allocations for any gender development programs had been omitted from the Minister’s speech. While prior administrations have attempted to advance gender equality, not only through substantive policy, but also administrative reform, the absence of a devoted Ministry of Gender is a regression in the development of women’s rights and gender affairs.
The PNM had announced in their 2015 Manifesto, which was adopted as government policy that they now intend to revisit a draft gender policy from 2009 which is outdated and irrelevant. This was reaffirmed by guest panelist Mrs. Hazel Brown who reminded us that there is a revised gender policy, drafted in 2012, that is updated and germane to the society that we live in today.
It was discussed that while the concept of this budget was focused on increasing our GDP through both infrastructural and industrial growth, this approach has very little to offer women and can negatively affect the capacity of this Government to create and foster an enabling environment for female empowerment and equality. With the escalation in the cost of living, as a result of increases in fuel prices, household and food items and even the reintroduction of the property tax scheme, the burden on women to provide both care and financial support for their families can become overwhelming, especially in an environment in which they may not have the equity and empowerment in the workplace that they deserve.
Without a dedicated Ministry and the necessary budgetary allocations to manage and continue programs such as the Women City Center project, the National Women Commission and the numerous projects devoted to the prevention of domestic violence and providing safe homes for victims, we will bear witness to an increase of discrimination, abuse and inequity against women in our society.
In conclusion, there is a need for formal social protection, particularly for the most vulnerable members of our nation, which may not be adequately fulfilled due to the absorption of Gender Affairs into the Ministry of Social Development and Family Services. The burden for the Government in this scenario is therefore to first articulate their commitment to social equity in a manner which demonstrates that gender equity is a high priority in their administration and then show that they are taking the necessary action for the attainment of this agenda.
Yours in Service,
Chair, UNC Women’s Arm