By JEFFARAH GIBSON
Tribune Features Writer
DURING THE 57th Session on the Commission on the Status of Women held last month at the United Nations in New York, the Bahamas government reaffirmed its commitment to eliminate and prevent all forms of violence against women.
A Bahamian delegation was led by Minister of Social Services and Community Development Melanie Griffin, who also gave remarks. She was accompanied to New York by Christine Campbell, officer-in-charge of the Bureau of Women’s Affairs; Anita Turnquest, assistant director; Dr Sandra Dean-Patterson, consultant for the Department of Social Services; and Patrice Johnson who has oversight of Women’s Affairs in Grand Bahama in the Ministry of Social Services.
The session’s theme for this year was the elimination and prevention of all forms of violence against women and girls in line with the United Nations’ theme for International Women’s Day 2013: “A promise is a promise: Time for action to end violence against women”.
The Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) is a functional commission of the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). It is the principal global policy-making body dedicated exclusively to gender equality and the advancement of women.
In fulfilling its commitment, Ms Griffin said the Bahamas is currently in the final stages of reviewing the draft of the National Gender Equality Policy. The Bureau of Women’s affairs which is responsible for programmes that educate and inform the public of issues impacting women throughout the Bahamas spearheaded the effort to draft the policy.
“We have put together a team of experts to look at the draft. We are going to ask cabinet to approve that committee. This is like a task force that will move toward the implementation and review the draft,” she said. “The draft has to be reviewed because we want to be certain that we are dotting all the i’s and crossing all the t’s. Once it is approved by cabinet we will be able to move forward with it. We expect the draft to be done within the next three months,” she said.
Ms Griffin said the government has a full thrust towards issues that are impacting women, men, boys and girls. The Bureau of Women’s Affairs helps carry out the government’s commitment and ensures pertinent issues are addressed. The bureau is expected to transition to a department that will represent women’s affairs and gender affairs more broadly.
“We have the strategic plan and the final draft of that has already been produced. We are working on it and we would like to see that happen at least within the next year. I do not think it will happen in this budget though,” said Ms Griffin. The government’s budget year ends in three months. The new budget begins annual on July 1.
“We fight gender based violence and domestic violence. We also partner with NGOs like the Bahamas Crisis Centre. Right now we are partnering with Cariman, which is the a male network. The thrust is to really enlist men in partnering with women and help fight gender based violence. We will partner with them to fight gender based violence.
“We have our consultant, Dr Sandra Dean Patterson, who is a legend when it comes to fighting domestic violence and she has several programmes. The Bureau of Women’s Affairs is also running a seminar ‘Domestic Violence Is everybody’s Business’, which moves into various communities, providing public education on domestic violence protection orders. We also support the batterers programme. So we have a whole thrust with regard to gender based violence because it is something that is being fought globally and in the Bahamas,” said Ms Griffin.
Every year representatives of member states gather at the United Nations Headquarters in New York to evaluate progress on gender equality, identify challenges, set global standards and formulate concrete policies to promote gender equality and women’s empowerment worldwide.
“The Commission was centred around gender based violence which of course is a major problem in every country. It is important for the Bahamas to attend because we have our own share of problems with regards to gender based violence. We also had several non-governmental organisations attending the Commission and it was definitely an eye opener and a learning experience for them. We will be partnering with them as we move forward to address the issues of gender based violence in our own country,” Mrs Griffin said.