Permanent Mission of St Kitts and Nevis to the United Nations
Twenty‑third Special Session of the General Assembly
"Women 2000: Gender Equality, Development and Peace for the
(New York, 5‑9 June 2000)
MS. ROSALYN E. HAZELLE
PERMANENT SECRETARY, MINISTRY OF COMMUNITY, SOCIAL
DEVELOPMENT AND GENDER AFFAIRS
ST.KITTS AND NEVIS
June 8, 2000
Honourable Ministers with responsibility for Women's Affairs
Ladies and Gentlemen
On behalf of the Government and people of St. Kitts and Nevis, I take this opportunity to congratulate you for presiding so ably over the 23'd Special Session of the General Assembly. I am assured that with your skills and experience, you will guide us to a successful conclusion of this historic meeting.
I welcome this opportunity to commend the Commission on the Status of Women and the Division for the Advancement of Women for their untiring efforts towards the convening of this very important Special Session. This allows for the timely appraisal of the steps taken to implement the Beijing Platform for Action and to reiterate my Government's commitments.
The Government of St. Kitts and Nevis being fully committed to the implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action and desirous of prioritizing the realization of Gender Equality, Development and Peace in our society, undertook with the assistance of civil society, a wide ranging review of the status of women. This was with a view to establishing how our policies and laws promoted gender equality and equity. This was initiated using a rights‑based approach. The review process highlighted significant achievements in the elimination of many forms of direct discrimination with regards to women's access to education, health, social security and their overt support for and participation in the electoral process. Legislative and policy gaps were also highlighted in areas such as violence against women and poverty.
Mr. President, of the critical areas identified in the Beijing platform of Action the government of St. Kitts and Nevis concentrated on the following:
• Violence against Women and Girls
• Women and Poverty
• Institutional Mechanisms for the Advancement of Women
• Women's Health
• Women in Leadership and Decision‑making Positions
Following this review, an integrated gender and development plan was developed and incorporated into the macro‑economic planning framework. Through this 5 year plan, my Government committed itself to a gender‑analysis and planning component of all development policies and programmes.
To ensure a systematic and coordinated approach to gender sensitive policies and programmes, the government of St. Kitts and Nevis implemented a Gender Management System which resulted in the strengthening and formalizing of linkages between the Ministry responsible for Women's Affairs and other Ministries. The Gender Management System has facilitated training of senior policy makers and planners in gender analysis and planning, arid continues to be critical in the building of institutional capacity within the Ministry responsible for Women's Affairs. This was done with the assistance of the Commonwealth Secretariat d was largely due to an enabling environment, the most important component being political will. In fact our implementation of the Commonwealth Secretariat Gender Budget Initiative to access the potential differential impact of our National Budget was instigated by the Hon. Prune Minister in his capacity as Minister of Finance.
Mr. President, recognizing that women needed to be empowered to articulate their needs and concerns, the Government of St. Kitts and Nevis launched a campaign to increase women's participation at all levels. The campaign provided training to women through educational and other advocacy tools, to strengthen women's leadership capacity and skills and to increase public sensitivity in this area. This commitment has resulted in a significant increase of women at the most senior positions within the civil service.
With respect to violence against women, legislative amendments have been enacted which increase the penalties for all forms of sexual abuse. This legal development mirrors a widespread awareness of the seriousness of such forms of abuse. Further this year, the Domestic Violence Act was passed by our Parliament. This Act increases women's legal options and ensures access to the courts for the purpose of seeking protective relief from all forms of domestic abuse.
These two legislative advances in the area of violence against women are concrete expressions of the commitment of my Government to guarantee to all women and girls, the full protection of the law from all forms of abuse, whether they occur in the public or private spheres.
Mr. President, legal reform is most effective when accompanied by changes in the culture and attitudes of all citizens and public personnel. To this end, my Government has instituted mandatory gender sensitive modules on human rights and violence against women within the police‑training programme. In addition, we have provided training for health personnel, guidance counselors and child care workers to enhance their capacity to provide supportive and gender sensitive services to victims of violence.
The government of St. Kitts and Nevis has also sought specifically to extend reproductive health programmes and services for all women. In the context of a relatively high prevalence of breast and cervical cancers in the Caribbean region, breast examinations and cervical cancer screenings have been instituted. Health care workshops and information are brought directly to the workplace for female workers.
Adolescent mothers can discern our commitment to the reproductive health, rights and services for women and the girl child from the Government's commitment in working hard to eliminate the discriminatory attitude of attendance at school. My Government has produced clear guidelines to ensure access to continued education by adolescent mothers.
Mr. President, it is a known fact, that the access to and enjoyment of all human rights can be limited by the experience of poverty, In order to develop sound economic and social policy response, the Government has conducted a poverty assessment study, which is currently being analyzed. What is immediately clear is that 47% of all households are female‑headed and that approximately half of them were under‑employed. In essence then, such women are forced to make ends meet on fewer resources. In response, training programmes aimed at increasing women's employability have also been implemented, and are ongoing.
The experience of poverty among these households is further exacerbated by our vulnerability to natural disasters. Since Beijing, we have experienced five major hurricanes and a flood resulting in tremendous economic and physical dislocation for the entire nation. For female heads of households the impact of these natural disasters has been even more devastating.
The Government has sought to meet the housing needs occasioned by these natural disasters by building over 1200 housing units since 1995 of which the majority has allocated to women.
We wish to take this opportunity to call on the international community to take account of the economic and physical vulnerability of Small Island Developing States in the formulation of development indices as well as international cooperation.
Mr. President, as my Government continues to meet the challenge of ensuring the elimination of all forms of gender discrimination and the advancement of social equity and justice, it is doing so in an environment of limited economic resources. We wish to echo the concerns, some of which are contained in the Lima Consensus, that economic globalization, external debt and the erosion of trade preferential margins have had negative impacts on the lives and situation of women, particularly those of the Small Island Developing States. It is our request that the concerns on these issues that impact on Developing Countries in general, and those of the Caribbean Community in particular form part of the deliberations that will ensue during the convening of the Millennium Summit later this year.
Without question certain material gains have been made in advancing social and gender equity. There are still however, challenges ahead and many of these are related to the need to change the cultural relations of gender. We understand that the root causes of violence against women and the unequal sharing of family responsibilities, for example, are directly related to the construction of forms of masculinity, which prioritize cultures of dominance and power over cultures of peace.
Mr. President, during this millennial year, we look forward to the adoption of further initiatives and programmes which will advance the goals of Development, Equality and Peace.
In closing, we wish to repeat the words of the Secretary General "We are not guests on this planet, we belong here".
I thank you.