For International Women’s Day, ECLAC Caribbean calls on individuals to #choosetochallenge gender inequality and gender-based violence

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ECLAC Caribbean is championing the call to elevate Caribbean voices who #choosetochallenge gender-based violence (GBV) and gender inequality, as well as limiting beliefs and attitudes about women’s roles in the home, workplace, and society.

On 08 March each year, the global community celebrates women’s social, economic, cultural and political achievements with International Women’s Day (IWD), with #choosetochallenge being this year’s theme. The day is also a call to action for accelerating progress towards gender equality.

In keeping with this year’s theme, ECLAC Caribbean recognises Caribbean women as powerful changemakers and calls on individuals of all genders to #choosetochallenge harmful behaviours and practices against women and girls taking place in homes, workplaces, and communities.

Individually, we are responsible for our thoughts and actions each day and must choose to speak up in the face of gender inequality. Collectively, we can bring an end to GBV and create a more inclusive society for Caribbean women and girls.

Gender-based violence (GBV) has long been a serious issue in the Caribbean, but the public reaction to a recent spike in femicides in Trinidad and Tobago has demonstrated how Trinbagonians can collectively challenge GBV and fight discriminatory beliefs and attitudes that allow such violence to continue. ECLAC and other UN agencies offer their solidarity and support to the wave of marches, petitions, public discussions, and other advocacy efforts taking place to draw attention to and call for an end to GBV in Trinidad and Tobago.

Collective efforts of this nature come at a crucial time as the COVID-19 pandemic has unleashed a ‘shadow pandemic’ of violence against women across the world. Emerging data demonstrate that Caribbean women have not been spared from this violence, with lockdowns and other confinement measures increasing pressures at home and limiting opportunities to escape abusers and access protection. ECLAC subregional headquarters for the Caribbean is working alongside other UN partners in the subregion to collect data on how Caribbean women’s lives have been affected by the pandemic to ensure gender-responsive economic recovery and women’s leadership and participation in COVID-19 responses at all levels.

While both women and men experience GBV, most GBV is inflicted on women and girls by men. As a result, men have an important role to play in challenging their friends and family members when they disrespect women and engage in discriminatory behaviours. Whether it’s cat calls or disparaging remarks, harmful attitudes against women are perpetuated and a fertile environment for more serious forms of GBV is created when individuals stand by as their peers act in disrespectful ways towards women and girls.

In light of the alarming levels of GBV taking place in the subregion, ECLAC also calls on Caribbean governments to uphold their mandate to protect women and girls’ fundamental right to live free of violence and to offer meaningful opportunities to seek redress for acts of violence. Across the subregion, the response of law enforcement and state institutions must be strengthened so that GBV survivors can access justice and appropriate support. When police, health and justice officials operate in a culture where GBV is tolerated, women and girls are often denied their right to report abuses and access protection from their abusers.

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