The Department of Gender and Family Affairs, Ministry of Social Services and Urban Development hosted several activities to commemorate ‘National Women’s Week 2017’ being observed in The Bahamas November 26 through December 9. The activities reflect the progress of Bahamian women, celebrate their accomplishments and address social issues impacting them. The week incorporates the annual observance of National Women’s Day, November 26, with recognition of the 25th anniversary of that day. This year in The Bahamas, the observance has been extended an additional week. The theme for the week is “Strong Women. Strong Families. Strong Communities.” Among the activities were an awareness raising/report sharing session on The Bahamas’ Sixth Periodic Report to Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), November 28, and a special school assembly at Doris Johnson High School, November 29.
Panelists in the CEDAW discussion were Ambassador Rhoda Jackson, Acting Permanent Secretary, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs; Marion Bethel, The Bahamas’ candidate for (CEDAW); Donna Nicolls, Bahamas Crisis Centre; and Deandra Cartwright, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The event was attended by the Director of Gender and Family Affairs, Gaynel Curry; government officials, representatives of non-governmental organizations including Zonta Club of The Bahamas. CEDAW is an international treaty adopted in 1979 by the United Nations General Assembly. Described as an international bill of rights for women, it was instituted on September 3, 1981, and has been ratified by 189 states. In her remarks, Ms. Jackson said CEDAW is much more than a legal document to be discussed by policymakers and lawyers. She said it represents a commitment by a Government to its people, which seeks full respect for the rights and dignity of women in the country, and is, therefore, an instrument that belongs to the people it is intended to protect.
As The Bahamas celebrates the advances to protect women’s rights in the past two decades, Ms. Jackson urged those present to remember the shortcomings that still exist and give those areas priority. “One of the most notable inadequacies is the need for additional changes to The Bahamas’ Constitution relative to gender equality. This is paramount to fulfilling the Convention’s mandate to eliminate all forms of discrimination against women. As long as gender disparities exist, The Bahamas would not have lived up to the mandate the country pledged to uphold when we signed onto CEDAW. “I am, therefore, pleased by the presence of representatives from civil society and public sector organizations here today. Public fora of this nature should be at the helm of the engagement process. The government should strive to continue ongoing dialogue and collaboration with national and international women’s organizations, schools, churches and religious groups, also, devising a plan for expansion of the role of the two latter groups. Educational campaigns that generate awareness of women’s issues and also the Convention will form an integral part of combating the ills that affect women, particularly since educational campaigns in schools will target both girls and boys, who are armed with useful instructions which become extremely meaningful as they become women and men,” she said.
In her overview, Ms. Marion Bethel urged civil society groups to hold the government accountable for the advancement of the optional protocol tool of the CEDAW Convention, which allows improvements in human rights. Shonel Ferguson, MP for Fox Hill, addressed the special assembly at Doris Johnson Senior High. She told the students that they can determine the path that they want their lives to take. She reminded them that they are created to succeed, designed to win and equipped to overcome. The assembly was attended by IDB representatives, Mrs. Patricia Minnis, wife of Prime Minister Hubert Minnis; senators and education officials.