Caribbean Development Bank’s Statement on International Women’s Day – Dr. William Warren Smith, President of the Caribbean Development Bank
This year marks significant milestones in the global development agenda, including the 20th anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action and the adoption of a new sustainable development agenda to replace the existing Millennium Development Goals. There is growing consensus that Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment will be even more crucial to this new agenda; reaffirming the commitment to inclusion, dignity and respect for women and to valuing their assets and abilities; as the foundation of economic development and poverty reduction.
In the Caribbean, notable progress has been made in women’s representation in public leadership, access to education and training, and in labor force participation. However, women and girls continue to face serious challenges. Statistics show a highly risky environment for girls and young women. Fertility patterns, HIV/AIDS prevalence rates, sexual abuse, and human trafficking are among serious threats to their life chances. The earnings gap for women is pronounced in certain sectors and contribute to household poverty and economic insecurity. Legislative reform has advanced but requires responsive public policy and effective institutional mechanisms to give effect to measures that embed gender justice.
CDB is committed to the implementation of gender transformative agendas in its Borrowing Member Countries through advocacy, policy dialogue and technical and financial support. In 2014, more than 82% of the Bank’s lending, some US$200mn – was allocated to projects that addressed gender issues in areas such as: education; youth development; water; transport infrastructure; and gender policy reform in the education, economic, social development and trade services sectors.
Grant resources also financed:
- the promotion of gender mainstreaming in the public sector and management of water utilities and trade facilitation agencies;
- activities in support of the implementation of the decent work agenda; and
- expanded employment opportunities for women and youth in the construction industry.
CDB is also sponsoring research to support specific sector operations. For example, a study will be undertaken to ascertain the degree to which there are gender disparities in access to agricultural and industrial credit, student loans and mortgage financing provided by the Development Finance Institutions; and a gender-responsive Labour Market Needs survey will inform the design of TVET programming to enhance employability of graduates and satisfy the workforce needs in our BMCs.
We see the importance of reliable evidence and value the complementary actions of the private sector and civil society when addressing areas of persistent gender disparities. Dialogue with stakeholders in the private sector and women in communities continues to inform the provision of early childhood education and business advisory services.
These initiatives are encouraging the increased participation of women in productive sector activities, and to the growing numbers of women entrepreneurs entering the market. The reality is that without advances on gender equality, we will lose productive potential, and opportunities for growth and a healthy and secure Caribbean region.
While we recognise the considerable progress which has been made in advancing women’s cause in our Region. To consolidate our gains, there is much to be done. We will continue efforts to close gender gaps through interventions to expand the productive and human resource capacity in the countries in which we work. CDB is committed to working with our borrowing member countries and international partners towards the common goal of “Empowering Women and Empowering Humanity.”