Sunday, March 01, 2009

"Together We Must"

“Together We Must” is the Women’s Manifesto for Antigua and Barbuda.

“Women’s empowerment and their full participation …. including participation in the decision-making process and access to power are fundamental for the achievement of equality, development and peace.” Beijing Platform For Action.

The aim of "Together We Must" is to bring together the various demands made by women in Antigua and Barbuda, and ensure they are integrated in the agendas of political parties for the general elections 2009. We are demanding for women’s priorities to be made national priorities in post election governance charters and all subsequent decisions made by the State.

For many years we have struggled for inclusion in national development and for recognition of our rights. This Manifesto builds upon the experiences of other countries in the Caribbean that have embarked upon similar processes. Efforts of our sisters in Grenada, St. Kitts and Nevis and Trinidad and Tobago, combined with our own efforts highlight the need to ensure that this Manifesto is one of several interconnected efforts.

It is owned by a broad constituency of women. It is non-partisan. It calls for the right to full social, economic and cultural equality. It recognizes the vital need for the equal participation of women in politics and in the decision-making process.

Our Pledge

We, the women of Antigua and Barbuda from various organizations, of diverse backgrounds, religions, occupations, and ages;

  • Cognizant that women constitute the majority of registered voters and form the majority of members of political parties;
  • Concerned that women must have the right to participate equally in all aspects of political, social and economic life;
  • Calling for equal involvement in the planning and decision-making that affects our lives; and,
  • Convinced that this Manifesto provides a common platform for action necessary for effective advocacy for gender equality and national development, therefore rededicate ourselves to the struggle for a just, independent, democratic, peaceful and gender equitable society, and hereby present this Manifesto, “Together We Must” as an affirmation of our commitment to collective action, and as an agenda of minimum demands for action on gender equality and equity in our twin island state.

We, the women of Antigua and Barbuda demand action, and call on all political parties to support our demands for:

  • Official recognition of the economic value of women’s work in the home to society;
  • Equal representation in decision making;
  • Equal access to services;
  • Freedom from violence;
  • Economic independence for all women;
  • Improved health and educational services; and,
  • Protection and respect of women’s human rights irrespective of our political affiliation, class, race, or status.

How will a Manifesto of the people influence the political agenda?

This Manifesto is a direct result of deep seated concerns about the insufficient attention given to critical issues affecting women; to the under-representation of women in politics and decision-making levels; and to the status of women in public life in Antigua and Barbuda.

This manifesto not only draws attention to the needs and concerns of women, but attempts to chart the way forward to address women’s issues.

This Manifesto provides a platform of a common set of demands for the achievement of gender equality and equity and sustainable national development. It creates the space to articulate our concerns in the 2009 Elections and beyond.

Finally, it ensures political parties’ accountability as they would ultimately be assessed by women on the basis of their stance in relation to issues that concern women as outlined in this Women's Manifesto.

“Together We Must” lays out the rationale for a transparent agenda for women’s rights and gender equality in Antigua and Barbuda. It provides a framework of promising government and civil society initiatives and institutional reforms that improve accountability to women.

The key issues addressed in “Together We Must” are:

  • Health Education Violence against Women
  • Economic and Social Justice for Women
  • Women in Politics and Decision-Making
  • Human Rights and Legislative Justice.

Women and Health

Health care is a right, not a privilege.

All women have an equal right to healthcare and a right to healthy living. The delivery of public services is the most direct measure of government accountability to women. Failing services can undermine women's ability to realize these basic rights. Careers must also be recognized for the work they do. Their work saves the State incalculable amounts of money.

Therefore, We as Women advocate, recommend and demand:

  • The revision of existing laws, policy and procedures to reflect a commitment to women’s health, and to ensure that the realities of women in Antigua and Barbuda are reflected in the revision exercise.
  • Strengthening of the health care services and the expansion of the services of Medical Benefits to ensure universal access to quality health services for women and girls.
  • Increased support and access to services for women in their role as care providers whether of persons living with HIV/AIDS or of families affected by the disease or disability.
  • Support for the development of a national plan for women’s health with specific targets, time frames and resource allocations. Such plan would be guided by on-going data collection for critical analysis in the area of communicable and non-communicable diseases.

Education and Women

Education remains a key component to achieving upward social mobility. Education can tackle poverty, promote choice and fulfill human potential. As such, equality of access to education and vocational training is another precondition to women’s full participation in society and successful integration into the labour market as equals.

All women have a right to education and to the removal of any remaining barriers to the career path of their choice. We as women demand:

  • Education, training and the implementation of retraining programmes for women, especially young women and women entering the labour market, to develop skills to meet the needs of a changing socio-economic context for improving employment opportunities.
  • A human rights-based approach to address teenage parenting, which emphasises prevention and reproduction health education, and full access to continued, non-discriminatory education, training opportunities and support services.

Violence against Women

Violence against women is the most serious consequence of women’s unequal status. It is also probably the most pervasive crime in our society and as such deserves a significantly greater focus within public policy on justice and security.

We need to recognize that violence against women can and does happen in the family, the community, and in the workplace. It is never acceptable. It is incumbent upon us to support educational and awareness programmes and other effective measures that will ultimately instigate a change in attitudes and behaviours in our society.

We therefore demand:

  • The strengthening and enactment of laws on sexual harassment, sexual assault, sexual violence and domestic violence that would provide greater protection for women and girls;
  • The review, strengthening and enforcement of child protection policies and services in homes, schools and communities, with particular attention to sexual, physical and emotional abuse. Judicial processes should be strengthened to protect the rights of children;
  • Tougher sentences for perpetrators of sexual offenses against boys and girls;
  • Increased and secure multi-annual funding for local crisis and support services and centres for women and children who are victims of such violence.

Economic and Social Justice for Women

Women disproportionately suffer from economic downturns and social unrest. In the face of a global economic crisis, we require the adequate support and access to resources and opportunities to avoid setbacks and help build the human capital of the next generation.

When women are economically empowered, it benefits families, communities and national development. When economic and social gender equality is made a priority, the social attitudes and stereotypes that constrain women are systematically denounced in homes, classrooms, workplaces, and on city streets.

We therefore demand:

  • Official recognition of women’s unpaid labour activities as contributions to generating wealth in the national economy and enhancing society’s welfare, by providing all state social benefits and allowances;
  • The review and modernization of social protection/welfare systems to meets the realities of today’s economic and social challenges, especially periodic unemployment;
  • The prevention of gender economic discrimination in the workplace by ensuring equal pay for equal work;
  • Mandatory representation of women and women’s groups in all decision-making processes, including negotiating processes on socio-economic, and political issues.
  • The provision of reliable and adequate social support to low income and unemployed single women households;
  • The provision of quality, public childcare to all those who need it;
  • Revision in labour laws to mandate provisions that support women in their care giving roles including; flexible working hours, the provision of day care facilities and related services, and subsidised family health care plans;
  • The institutionalization of systems to formalize working agreements for domestic workers and other common informal occupations, to ensure suitable working conditions and fair pay;
  • The provision of training and education in employment fields with high earning potential that are traditionally male dominated. Training must be made available above basic skill level to close gender gaps in earnings and reduce occupational segregation, as well as women’s reliance on informal employment to supplement their income;
  • All marginalized women are given equal access to participate all social, economic and political areas through improved infrastructural and resource development;
  • The strengthening of the capacity of the Directorate of Gender Affairs to adequately meet the needs of women and families in Antigua and Barbuda.

Women in Politics, Decision-Making and Public Life

If we do not participate in political decision making, we cannot ensure that our needs and interest are adequately addressed. As women, we constitute more than half of the population and more than half of the registered voters.

Therefore we demand:

  • A minimum of 40% female candidacy nomination in all party races at all levels. This advances a better representation of women in proportion to our representation in the population, as part of our international obligations and commitments as articulated in the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW).
  • Affirmative action implemented in all key decision making area such as Boards, Commissions and appointed positions, to ensure a minimum 40% female representation.
  • The prerequisite of a gender analysis and gender impact survey to all national and international policies and agreements

Human Rights and Legislative Justice

Guarding women’s human rights means ensuring that women live lives free of violence, sexual exploitation, social indignity, and all other forms of discrimination that impede upon their equal participation in economic, social and political life.

Despite various instruments against it, discrimination against women continues to exist. Protecting and affirming these rights propels growth of the prosperity of society and the family, and ensures the full development of the potentialities of women in the service of their country and of humanity.

We demand:

  • Equal opportunity legislation that includes, as grounds for discrimination: (I) barriers faced by teen mothers when attempting to reintegrate themselves into the school system and access the work force (II) unequal treatment of those who are physically and mentally challenged (III) the elderly and those affected by HIV.
  • Equal opportunity legislation that ensures equal pay for equal work;
  • Legislation to protect women in the workplace against sexual harassment;
  • Access and opportunities for persons with disabilities to all private, public businesses, commercial buildings and spaces;
  • The full establishment and implementation of a Family Court

The Making of “Together We Must”

In December 2008, a consultation workshop was organized by the Caribbean Institute for Women in Leadership (CIWIL) and sponsored by the Organisation for American States (OAS). Participants were drawn from women’s groups, NGOs and other civil society organisations from across the country to share their ideas and views on critical issues of concern to women in the country.

It was agreed that women would work collaboratively to promote the acceptance and use of this Manifesto by everyone including the government, the private sector political parties and civil society organizations.

This is a statement of national objectives based on the ground realities and aspirations of women living across this country and an assertion that in our little paradise, it is not merely our votes but also our voices that need to be heard. It is a blueprint for the future of Antigua and Barbuda – made by women of Antigua and Barbuda.

Together We Must is endorsed by the following organizations:

  • The AIDS Secretariat
  • The Antigua and Barbuda Disability Association
  • The Antigua Labour Party Women’s Group
  • Antigua Planned Parenthood Association
  • The Child and Family Guidance Centre
  • Citizens Welfare Division
  • Community Development Division
  • The Directorate of Gender Affairs
  • GDWG
  • Gray’s Green Women’s Development Group
  • Health Hope HIV Network (HHH)
  • Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture
  • Liberta Village Community Group
  • The Ministry of Agriculture
  • The Ministry of Labour, Public Administration and Empowerment
  • The Ministry of Health, Medical Division
  • Piggott Women’s Group
  • Professional Organisation for Women in Antigua & Barbuda (POWA)
  • Prophetic Ministries International
  • The Substance Abuse and Prevention Division
  • The United Progressive Party Women’s Group
  • Women Against Rape (WAR)
  • Women of Antigua
  • The Youth Department, Ministry of Youth & Sports

This is a project of CIWiL sponsored by:

  • The Organization of American States (OAS) with the technical support of The Directorate of Gender Affairs, Redcliffe St., St. John’s, Antigua 268.462.3990 or 268.462.9664
The Caribbean Institute for Women in Leadership (CIWiL) is a regional network of women promoting the participation of women in politics, leadership and decision-making.
Marcus M. Mottley

This Blog... "Voices of Antigua and Barbuda" fully supports "Together We Must" and the mandates, demands and the philosophy that it espouses! We must encourage all voices to have their say!

To read or download a copy of "Together We Must"... go to:

Marcus M. Mottley
March 1st, 2009