IMPLEMENTATION OF THE
BEIJING DECLARATION AND PLATFORM
FOR ACTION (1995)
AND THE OUTCOME OF THE TWENTY-THIRD
SPECIAL SESSION OF THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY (2000)
OVERVIEW OF ACHIEVEMENTS AND CHALLENGES IN PROMOTING GENDER
EQUALITY AND WOMEN’S EMPOWERMENT.
Women have made significant strides over the past years especially in the area of the
elimination of direct discrimination in all spheres of activities. While the juridical,
political and socio-economic situation of women in Barbados continues to show
improvement, there still remains a lot of work to be done to achieve equity and equality.
The equal participation of both women and men in decision making is the key to
achieving a balance that reflects the composition of Barbadian society, of which women
comprise 51.9% of the population. This balance is needed in order to strengthen
democracy and promote its proper functioning.
Equality in political decision making is therefore integral to the achievement of the
integration of a gender perspective in government policy making .However in spite of the
fact that there are no legal barriers to women’s participation in politics, women’s
involvement still remains by and large confined to campaigning and voting. During the
last election, eight women were presented as candidates, with three being elected to serve
in the House of Assembly.
Women nevertheless occupy a number of high positions in society, including the post of
Opposition Leader, Leader of the Senate, Governor of the Central Bank and Deputy
Principal of the University of the West Indies.
In terms of education, opportunities now exist for both sexes but statistics reveal that
females are taking far greater advantage of these opportunities than are their male
counterparts. For instance, at the Cave Hill Campus of the UWI there are 70% women
compared to 30% men. At the primary and secondary level, education is compulsory up
to age 16
There have also been significant improvements in law reform, particularly in the area of
family legislation and child maintenance. The Family Law Act Cap .214 has been
amended among other laws:
• To provide that a child born to a husband or wife before their marriage is a child of
the marriage under the Act if the child is ordinarily a member of the marital
• To authorize the courts to order the transfer or settlement of property for the
maintenance of a child
• To make clear that rules may be made for the enforcement of maintenance payments,
whether or not the payments in question are in arrears.
• To extend the categories of children who are deemed by the Act to be children of a
union other than a marriage.
In spite of a number of outreach programmes and the dissemination of information on
gender, there still remain a number of misconceptions surrounding this concept.
Ideologically, gender is still equated with women and therefore is not considered a
priority issue for some institutions. Furthermore, the success of a small percentage of
women at the top has led to the belief that women have achieved “across the board”.
Therefore, the view is held in some quarters that there is no need to place specific
emphasis on women’s issues.
As a result policies and initiatives have been implemented without making specific
allowances for women because the policies and initiatives are considered to be gender
neutral. These impacts negatively on the efforts of the Bureau of Gender Affairs to
initiate the introduction of the concept of gender budgeting, since it is generally believed
that women automatically benefit from any initiatives implemented.
NATIONAL POLICY ON GENDER
The Bureau of Gender Affairs has taken specific steps to initiate the development of a
National Policy on Gender. In February 2006, a Consultation was held to gain the
perspectives of a wide cross section of government departments, agencies, non-
governmental organisations and other civil society institutions. This meeting provided
the means to identify some of the gaps and highlight new and emerging issues which
must be addressed to achieve gender equity and equality.
In a further effort to facilitate the development of a National Policy on Gender, the
Bureau of Gender Affairs contracted the Centre for Gender and Development Studies
which in turn submitted draft guidelines to the Bureau for the development of the
National Policy. These draft guidelines were accompanied by an outline of a framework
for its development which has been reviewed by the Bureau.
In the effort to achieve its mandate, the Bureau of Gender Affairs has collaborated and
partnered with a number of Non-Governmental Organisations and has established strong
linkages with both women’s and men’s local, regional and international organisations.
Among these are the National Organisation of Women (NOW), UNIFEM, and the
Business and Professional Women’s Club in the execution of its Trafficking in Persons,
Domestic Violence and Self Development programmes.
The Bureau of Gender Affairs has made significant efforts to actively involve men and
boys in the promotion of gender equality. On April 20, 2005, the Bureau held a
workshop for men and boys entitled “Gender is Everybody’s Business”. This workshop
covered the following topics; Issues Affecting Men and Boys in Barbados; Dynamic
Masculinities: Challenges and Strategies; Conflict Resolution/ Gender-based Violence
and the Gender Dynamics of HIV/AIDS. It is expected that this workshop would enable
the Bureau of Gender Affairs to implement the appropriate projects and programmes for
men and boys in the community as a result of issues arising out of the discussions at the
Through the Ministry of Labour there are ongoing efforts to introduce Sexual
Harassment legislation while the Business and Professional Women’s Club is currently
advocating with strategic partners to introduce a Rape Protocol.
PROGRESS IN IMPLEMENTATION OF THE CRITICAL AREAS OF
CONCERN OF THE BEIJING PLATFORM FOR ACTION AND THE
FURTHER INITIATIVES AND ACTIONS IDENTIFIED IN THE TWENTY-
THIRD SPECIAL SESSION OF THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY.
The Government of Barbados remains steadfast in its commitment to the total eradication
of all forms of violence against women and fully supports initiatives aimed at attaining
The fight against domestic violence has been concentrated on sensitizing persons to the
presence of this scourge and the adoption of a harmonized method of collecting data on
domestic violence so that information relative to the nature, the extent, the victim and the
perpetrator could be gained and analyzed. This has been the approach of the Bureau of
Gender Affairs in the absence of updated legislation.
In terms of its sensitization programme there has been an encouraging response to the
symposiums on the topic. A symposium entitled “Demanding Implementation,
Challenging Obstacles to Domestic Violence” was held in December 2007 and attracted
some 53 persons. A more recent one held in November 2008 was very well received, to
the extent that some persons who were desirous of participating could not be
accommodated. More than 100 persons participated in this event.
The Sixteen Days of Activism which is celebrated from the 25th November to the 10th
December each year has become one of the Bureau’s primary activities to highlight the
scourge of domestic violence. This activity is held in tandem with its strategic partners
and continues to grow with the addition of new activities to the calendar every year.
Since 2005, the fight against domestic violence has been taken to the young people in
secondary schools through the National Organisation of Women in collaboration with the
Bureau of Gender Affairs. Given the success of that programme it has been expanded to
encompass some primary schools.
The Business and Professional Women’s Club has also started a Teen Relationship
Abuse Prevention Programme (TRAP) which is designed to sensitize hundreds of
students at five primary and secondary schools to domestic abuse and sexual assault
The Royal Barbados Police Training Centre continues its programme of sensitizing
police recruits and detectives on the issue through regular training exercises. There has
also been the establishment of the Victim Support Group of the Royal Barbados Police
Force which counsels victims of domestic violence along with other crimes.
One of the greatest challenges for those involved in the fight against this scourge has
been the inability to accurately measure the extent of domestic violence. It is hoped that
the development of the Domestic Violence Data Collection Protocol which has been
approved by Cabinet will allow for a systematic collection and analysis of data on
domestic violence. To this end a pilot project has been launched among a number of
agencies involved in the fight against domestic violence.
The Bureau has also recently commissioned Caribbean Development Research Services
(CADRES) a regional research organisation to conduct a survey on domestic violence.
The Government of Barbados views the issue of human trafficking as one of the greatest
challenges to the preservation of human rights.
In September of 2001, Barbados signed the UN Convention against Transnational
Organized Crime with annex to its protocol to punish, suppress and punish Trafficking in
Persons, especially women and children.
In 2002 the Bureau of Gender Affairs was given the mandate to lead the process to
combat trafficking persons in persons to Barbados at a CIM Meeting of the Principle
Delegates. Having accepted that mandate the Bureau of Gender Affairs has worked
assiduously to move the process forward.
Efforts are in train to develop a protocol which will seek to intervene in cases of
trafficking and offer treatment and support to the victims. In this regard the Bureau of
Gender Affairs has held workshops with strategic partners to develop the protocol, policy
and procedures manual.
The international call for Governments to raise public awareness of the issue of
trafficking in persons has seen the adoption of various methods to achieve this goal.
The Bureau of Gender Affairs has collaborated with the Business and Professional
Women’s Club of Barbados to raise public awareness of this activity through a series of
initiatives which included awareness campaigns and training to sensitize organizations
likely to interact with the practice. These initiatives have had the financial support of the
International Organization for Migration under the Caribbean Counter Trafficking
Through the use of infomercials in the local newspapers, on radio and on television the
Bureau of Gender Affairs has sought to further sensitize the public to this issue.
The Bureau of Gender Affairs has ensured that wherever activities coordinated by the
Bureau are held which did not focus on human trafficking, brochures and leaflets on the
subject were available to the public.
In an effort to measure the extent of the problem in Barbados, the Bureau of Gender
Affairs has made provisions for the conducting of a study on the incidence of human
trafficking during the fiscal year 2008-2009
The Government remains committed to the strategy of gender mainstreaming for
creating gender awareness and in turn achieving equity and equality.
In order to fulfill its gender mainstreaming mandate, the Bureau of Gender Affairs is in
the process of sensitizing all public officers about gender and to enable them to do
gender analysis of their projects and programmes. Throughout these two day workshops
participants were exposed to:
• A greater understanding of the difference between sex and gender
• How gender is constructed and how it determines gender identity, gender role
• Discussion on gender roles and relations and an examination of how these
determine and influence how men and women participate in and benefit from
development policies, plans programmes and projects
• An examination and identification of strategies for addressing gender issues and
for incorporating gender into national sectoral plans and projects
It is expected that as a result of these workshops, officers will be in a position to
incorporate gender analysis in the development of their programmes.
The Bureau of Gender Affairs is involved not only in training and sensitizing persons but
it also supports the activities of other department and agencies. As a result, the Bureau of
Gender Affairs was represented at a seminar hosted by the Pan American Health
Organisation in Belize which looked at gender mainstreaming of the health sector with a
focus on training persons in gender analysis.
During the 2009-2010 financial year the gender sensitization component of the
mainstreaming effort will utilise a new approach where public education will be the
focus. This is in an attempt to influence the ideological perspective of gender equality
and refute cultural norms that militate against the process.
ERADICATION OF POVERTY AND THE EMPOWERMENT OF WOMEN
The Government of Barbados remains committed to the eradication of poverty and has
created initiatives aimed at attaining this goal.
In 2007 the Bureau of Social Policy, Research and Planning was established. Its main
responsibility was for policy formulation, social planning, social research inter-agency
collaboration, networking and building partnerships and civil society collaboration. One
of the main objectives of this Bureau is to develop policies that promote efficient and
effective programmes to eradicate poverty.
The Poverty Alleviation Bureau, which was set up in 1998, has also initiated
programmes aimed at reducing poverty among its clients. A programme under the name
Skills Development and Workplace Training Programme has been designed to break the
cycle of poverty in the household of clients in order to reduce dependency on the state.
Although the programme targets both male and female clients the majority of
beneficiaries to date have been women.
In an effort to achieve the goal of eradicating extreme poverty and hunger, as set out in
the Millennium Development Goals, the Office of the Advisor on Poverty has been
created to provide impetus in this area.
In addition there has been an increase in old age pensions with non-contributory pensions
now $116.00 per week while contributory pensions now stand at $142.00 per week.
More recently school children have been allowed to travel free on state owned transport
and this is said to have provided tremendous relief to single mothers.
WOMEN AND HEALTH
The Bureau of Gender Affairs continued to promote an awareness of the gender
dynamics of HIV/ AIDS and how those dynamics affect women and men.
The Bureau’s HIV/AIDS programme for 2007 was characterized by a community
organisation approach. The Bureau held HIV/AIDS sessions for the community and the
members of the Weston New Testament Church in order to sensitize them to the Gender
Dimensions of HIV/AIDS. This programme was also done with the UWI HART
During the months of June and July 2007 this community approach was extended to
three other communities and 300 persons were exposed to this training.
A number of other HIV/AIDS initiatives were implemented by other government
departments and NGOs. These were fully supported by the Bureau, and included the
Bonnets HIV/AIDS Community Intervention Seminar which was sponsored by the
Community Development Department. This agency has also established 15 HIV
community committees that focus on prevention and control of the pandemic.
The Bureau of Gender Affairs co-facilitated a session on HIV/AIDS and the Disabled:
Factors contributing to their vulnerability, as part of a Substance Abuse, HIV/AIDS and
the Disabled seminar which was sponsored by the Barbados National Organisation of the
The Bureau of Gender Affairs participated in a workshop sponsored by the
Commonwealth Foundation under the theme “Enhancing Skills Development and
Sharing of Lessons Learnt to Mitigate the Impact of HIV and AIDS in the
The Bureau and UNIFEM are currently in the process of implementing the programme
“Mainstreaming Gender Analysis in HIVAIDS Programming in the Caribbean –
Strengthening Sector Capacity.”
The Bureau of Gender Affairs in 2000 and was charged with the responsibility for:
Facilitating gender mainstreaming of national development policies and
programmes, so that equality and equity between men and women can be
Advising Government Agencies and NGOs on matters of concern and affecting
women and men.
Liaising with Regional and International Agencies and NGOs on matters of
concern and affecting women and men.
Monitoring and evaluating gender awareness in government policies, plans and
programmes in all sectors.
The advancement of women in all spheres of life remains a priority of the Barbados
Government. In order to achieve this goal five areas drawn from the Beijing Platform for
Action 1995 have been identified as priority areas for action. These are as follows:
1. Mainstreaming Gender in all Spheres of Development
ii. Women in Poverty
Iii.Violence against Women
iv. Women in Decision Making
v. Women and Health
The Bureau of Gender Affairs has been located under various Ministries since 2000. It
was first located in the Ministry of Social Transformation until elections in January 15,
2008. Following that election it was then housed in the Ministry of, Family, Youth,
Sports and the Environment. It is presently housed within the Ministry of Youth, Family
and Sports. The location of the department in these Ministries suggests that gender is
concerned basically with women’s issues and is not seen in relation to economics,
finance and trade.
The Bureau is financed by Government and was allocated a budget of $756,602 for the
fiscal year 2008-2009.
The capacity of the Bureau of Gender Affairs was strengthened with the establishment of
two (2) posts of programme officers in 2004. These posts are responsible for the
planning, development and implementation of programmes to address gender related
REMAINING KEY CHALLENGES AND CONSTRAINTS
There has been significant progress in ensuring the protection and promotion of women’s
rights in Barbados. However, there is still need for significant changes to be brought
about in a number of areas. Specific groups of women in Barbados continue to be
disadvantaged, for example, single mothers who head households, women with
disabilities and women who are victims of domestic violence. Women are now more
likely than men to be living in poverty, particularly single mothers and elderly women.
A 1999 UNECLAC study of Gender Mainstreaming in the Caribbean highlighted
a number of weaknesses and challenges facing the Bureau in implementation of its
gender mainstreaming programmes. For example, it pointed to the “low level of
influence or clout associated with the Bureau” which made it difficult to influence
policies and was therefore a challenge to the implementation of the Gender
The UNECLAC report concluded that “the gender mainstreaming thrust within State
machineries can only be accomplished with the requisite political will and commitment
to transforming administrative structures and modes of decision making”. Beyond
commitment, however, is the recognition that gender equality policies and programmes
need to be supported by an investment in capacity building for all staff so that staff have
the necessary skills and information to engage in gender analysis of public sector policies
There is therefore need for the provision of adequate resources to the Bureau, both
human and financial to assist with the implementation of its programmes.
In terms of its programming, the Bureau of Gender Affairs has experienced a number of
challenges which has hampered the successful execution of its programming. In the case
of developing a draft protocol for Human Trafficking for Barbados, due to the fact that
the concept of human trafficking is new, and the nature and extent of the issue as it
relates to Barbados is unknown, some persons question whether there is need for such an
instrument at this time.
There have also been challenges in influencing some of the key stakeholders to
participate in the Data Collection Draft Protocol. A number of officers from various
departments were trained to administer the form before the introduction of the six month
pilot. Some departments are experiencing difficulty in identifying persons who are
willing to accept responsibility for the administration of the forms. To date no forms
have been returned to the Bureau of Gender Affairs.
In spite of the various public outreach programmes, some persons still confuse gender
with sex and some still associate gender with women. There remains the view that there
is no need to concentrate on women issues since there are many prominent women in the
society. In some quarters the view prevails that women have taken over and that there is
a need to concentrate on issues pertaining to men who are considered to be in crisis.
In relation to the establishment of gender focal points in the various ministries and
departments, one of the greatest challenges in this area stems from the fact that most of
the focal points, because they are not employed in the area where they are able to
influence decision making policies, are ineffective from that view point.
Furthermore, only some of these persons have a genuine interest in being focal points
whereas some other persons have no interest in gender and see it as an additional burden.
In addition to this, some persons are transferred to other departments therefore creating
the need for a new person to be trained.
PLANS FOR FUTURE ACTIONS AND INITIATIVES
The Bureau of Gender Affairs views the completion of a National Policy on Gender and
the successful development of the draft protocol on Human Trafficking in Barbados as
two priority areas for work in the months ahead.
Likewise the Bureau of Gender Affairs will continue working towards the introduction of
the Domestic Violence Protocol and the establishment and sustainability of its Gender
In terms of its outreach programmes the Bureau will adopt more public education
exercises to gender issues particularly domestic violence with a view to reaching as
varied an audience as possible and increasing the number of participants.