It’s Beijing Plus Twenty, and Caribbean Women Feel Betrayed

Beijing, China, September 1995. At the United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women, the theme was: “Action for Equality, Development and Peace.” Twenty years later, is the Caribbean any nearer to embracing these principles? Words are one thing; what about actions? In the powerful and no-holds-barred statement below, Caribbean women’s and civil society organizations express their concern, on International Women’s Day 2015, that commitments made and intentions expressed by their respective governments have not led to action on the rights of women and the girl child. Note the focus here is on Caribbean Community (CARICOM) governments.

So, while the male politicians bluster, shout, insult and deride each other in Parliament (see an uplifting couple of minutes of the Standing Finance Committee last week: https://mail.google.com/mail/u/0/#inbox/14bf0c7f08c7d668?projector=1) our young women, our elderly women, and our young vulnerable girls are discriminated against, harassed, raped, abused, trafficked, assaulted and killed in Jamaica and across the Caribbean – day in, day out.

CARICOM Governments: You can – and must – do better!

STATEMENT OF CARIBBEAN WOMEN, WOMEN’S ORGANIZATIONS AND OTHER CARIBBEAN CIVIL SOCIETY ORGANIZATIONS ON THE OCCASION OF THE COMMISSION ON THE STATUS OF WOMEN (CSW) 59, BEIJING + 20

We, women of the Caribbean Regional Network of Organizations and our allies, form part of a global movement dedicated to ensuring that our Governments and other actors respect, protect and guarantee the full enjoyment of the human rights of all women and girls. On the eve of the 20th anniversary of the commitments made in the Beijing Declaration and the Platform for Action, we are dismayed and disturbed that Governments of the Caribbean Community [CARICOM] are undermining the commitments in the Beijing Platform for Action (BPfA), in the context of the current negotiations among UN member states, to agree a Political Declaration. Unbelievably, this Political Declaration, so far, is a poor facsimile of the existing commitments made in Beijing in 1995, depicts a lack of ambition, unbecoming of CARICOM, as well as threatening a major step backward in the cause of the equality of women and girls.

As Caribbean women, we see this as a monumental betrayal by CARICOM, who in Beijing, 1995, played a pivotal and progressive role in the development and agreements made, as outlined in the BPfA. We believe this betrayal is responsible in large part for the unequal, uneven, insecure, unhealthy and unfair space for women our region has become. It is with great alarm, for our further insecurity, that we view this continuing backward slide and attempts to escape once again the role that all peoples expect from their governments.

We join all equality seeking women’s and other organizations, devoted to social justice and human rights and demand that CARICOM Governments live up to their commitments and responsibility, and be accountable to us by working to deliver a Political Declaration that: 

  • Expresses unequivocal commitment towards fully realizing: gender equality; the human rights; and empowerment of women and girls, which is a cross cutting theme emphasized throughout the Beijing Declaration and the Platform For Action; 
  • Commits to accelerated implementation of the Beijing Declaration and the Platform for Action, along with the outcomes of the 23rd United Nations General Assembly Special Session, the Beijing+10 and +15 political declarations, the agreed conclusions and resolutions of the Commission on the Status of Women, as well as regional, and national-level declarations on gender equality and the human rights of women and girls;
  • Commits to universal ratification and implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and regional-level treaties on the human rights of women and girls and gender equality. We call on CARICOM Governments to show leadership and ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention “in order to facilitate the full enjoyment of the rights guaranteed under the Convention”, and to “fully utilize the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, which reinforce the provisions of the Convention”;
  • Recognizes and welcomes unequivocally the critical role women’s and feminist organizations and women human rights defenders have played in pushing for gender equality, the human rights and empowerment of women and girls AND commits to create an enabling environment and resources to allow women’s organizations, feminist organizations and women human rights defenders to be able to do their work free from violence.
  • Recognizes and commits to address the emerging challenges that are setting back our fight for equality and the realization of the human rights of all women and girls , such as increasing regional and global inequality, violence against women (VAW) and girls, increasing fundamentalisms, and climate change among others, AND ensures real accountability for governments including detailed measures to reform and strengthen public institutions to address the structural causes of gender inequality;
  • Affirms the strong linkages between Beijing, the Post-2015 Sustainable Development Goal, realizing gender equality, empowerment and the human rights of women and girls will be critical for the success of the post-2015 sustainable development agenda and must be a “Stand Alone Goal”;

Despite the fact that we Caribbean women in particular have experienced, inter alia, increasing levels of VAW and Girls; poor political representation and participation in power and decision-making, continued exclusion and discrimination in particular of indigenous women, LBT women, women with disabilities, older women, young women, rural women, and household workers, we have recently re-committed to working with our governments through the “Caribbean Joint Statement on Gender Equality and the Post 2015 and SIDS Agenda” agreed in Barbados, 2013.

We admonish and entreat CARICOM Governments to recall that under all the Human Rights treaties you have signed, you have a legal duty to ensure women’s enjoyment of our human rights on a basis of equality with men. Women and girls are not disposables! Promises made must be promises kept!

You have already agreed in the Beijing Declaration, “Women’s Rights are Human Rights!”

 

For further information contact members of the Caribbean Regional Network at:

Joan Grant Cummings, Caribbean DAWN: cbn.dawn@gmail.com or (876)342-6940;

Delores Robinson at GROOTS Trinidad & Tobago: grootstt2@gmail.com

Louise Lana Finikin, SISTREN Collective/GROOTS Jamaica : finikinturnbull@gmail.com

 

Caribbean women demonstrate during the International Women's Day March in New York.
Caribbean activists demonstrate during the International Women’s Day March in New York this weekend.  “Caribbean [CARICOM] – The Time is Now!” (Photo courtesy of Louise Finikin)
 

 

 

 

 

 


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