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International Women's Day Distinguished Lecture
The President of Trinidad and Tobago has called for regional institutions to become stronger and more resilient to address the challenges of gender-based violence.
Her Excellency Paula-Mae Weekes made the assertion as she delivered the 5th International Women’s Day Distinguished Lecture Series at the Errol Barrow Centre for Creative Imagination recently. It was guided by the theme:  “Realizing Women’s Rights in The English-Speaking Caribbean – Mirage Or Actuality?”
The lecture was jointly held by CIBC FirstCaribbean and the Institute for Gender and Development Studies: Nita Barrow Unit.
“Crafting efficient and responsive approaches to gender-based violence requires all hands on deck—from the state right down to the individual. All English-speaking Caribbean nations have Domestic Violence legislation, but much of it is outdated and ineffective,” Weekes, a former lawyer and judge said.
“Invoking the court process and obtaining restraining or exclusion orders provide no guarantees [and] many women are nevertheless murdered by jealous, insecure, aggressive intimate partners. Our institutions and frameworks need to be strong, resilient and able to address the needs of women…”
Her Excellency’s address was focused on examining women’s rights in the Caribbean region, broadly speaking, and the status of these rights utilising across a number of indicators. The topic was particularly pertinent, given that this year celebrates twenty-five (25) years since the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action.
The President of Trinidad and Tobago added that boys and men should recognise their complicity in actions that perpetuate gender-based violence and work and contribute to the creation of more gender-just societies.
“Women have driven the gender equality movement for years, but discrimination against them will never end until men and boys are full partners in the process; this is especially true for us in the Caribbean…”
Weekes also drew attention to the issue of sexual harassment in the region, particularly street harassment.
“Adolescent girls, pregnant women and men seen as overtly feminine are not exempt from harassment. “Gyul yuh bumper fat”, “Famalaayy”, “Sweetness ah have something here fuh yuh”, accompanied by rude gestures, are but a few examples of unsolicited remarks made by young boys and men who feel that this is an accepted form of social interaction. In a 30th January, 2020 article reported in the Jamaican Gleaner, a social activist called for their pending legislation to outlaw catcalling and other forms of public harassment. He was bang on the mark as the cultural norms which give rise to sexual harassment are the very same which influence other forms of gender-based violence,” she added.
The President noted that these indicators, among others, illustrate that while the Caribbean has advanced the work towards women’s rights, there were still “significant gaps” that needed to be filled.
“We cannot confidently place bold ticks in any of the boxes provided by Generation Equality. As individuals, institutions, governments and societies we must continue to identify both the obvious and subtle inequalities that militate against us fully realising women’s rights and in so doing, missing out on our true national potential. Only when women become equal partners with men in every sphere of endeavour, would we capture a strategic point from which we Caribbean people can launch an invincible offensive.”
The lecture was well attended, with guests such as Her Excellency, Dame Sandra Mason, Governor General of Barbados as well as members from the judiciary and ambassadors in attendance.

Institute for Gender & Development Studies
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