Fri 19th Nov 2010

Women must be empowered for development to be successful in SVG

Women have suffered more under the ULP regime than men. When a country has a weak economy and high poverty, women bare the burden more.

Increased poverty under the ULP regime has been the cause of increased domestic violence. We hear of violence against women in the newspapers all too often. The situation has become so bad under the ULP that SVG has 8 times the worldwide rape average. This is a violation against women's human rights.

Women are 50% of our population, yet they are under-represented on all the statutory boards. This is blatant discrimination by the ULP regime. According to the United Nations, political accountability to women begins with increasing the number of women in decision-making positions.

Many households have women as heads and the only parent. These households have very low income, yet the ULP needlessly make them suffer with high water and electricity prices. Also, for households that rely on kerosene for cooking, the ULP regime punished them with VAT on kerosene.

The ULP regime talk of poor relief, but this strategy just degrades women and makes them have to beg and be dependent upon handouts. The ULP have failed to recognise the contribution that women can make for their community and country. Women need opportunities to make money and be independent.

Under poor relief the government decides their fate, but when women are given opportunities and empowered, they can control their own fate. Women are oppressed by the ULP policies that make them impoverished. The entrepreneurship and innovation women can provide the country is being suffocated by the ULP economic incompetence.

This economic abuse can lead to low self-esteem, lack of self-confidence and lack of access to political power. These households face unacceptable low standards of living.

Let us not forget that the ULP regime has formed links with Iran, a country where a woman may soon be stoned to death for adultery. One wonders what brutal things would happen to women if the ULP gets a third term with Iran. Women there are second class citizens.

The poverty that some girls live in leads to teenage pregnancy. SVG has had an increase in teenage pregnancy under Gonsalves, and hence, a greater number of girls dropping out of school. The children of women-headed households also suffer, as the women cannot afford to send them to school.

The mass tourism that the ULP wants will create sex tourism. According to the OAS, a number of Caribbean countries which are favoured tourist destinations are now the centre of a growing sex tourism industry. Mass tourism leads to an increase of human trafficking where women are turned into 'sexual playthings' for tourists.

At the heart of Green policies is equality. A Green government will address the gender imbalance within our society and free the women who are caught in the cycle of poverty and hunger, by providing women with access to economic and educational opportunities. There needs to be better access to child-care and early education for women of female-headed households and greater support to better their education.

SVG Green Party aims to increase women's income and improve their livelihoods, equipping them with technical skills related to marketing and product development, and helping them to identify market opportunities. A Green government will also start projects to provide loans to enable women to self-fund small income-generating projects. This helps to empower women and nurture their contribution to the economy.

" There is no tool for development more effective than the empowerment of women" Kofi Annan, Former UN Secretary General

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