While Gender Equity was one of the major talking points at the 11th Commonwealth Women’s Affairs Ministerial Meeting last week, it was always in relation to other issues.
These included domestic violence, climate change, and increasing the number of women in parliament.
The importance of having the financial resources for women to call upon to make good choices was also an important aspect to ensuring success, agreed many of the participants.
In summing up, the Commonwealth Secretary General, Patricia Scotland said the conference had been a very productive meeting; it had a clear focus in terms of how sustainable development goals were to be delivered particularly focusing on SDG 5 which is in relation to the empowerment of women in gender equity.
“We were looking in particular at the interrelationship between gender equality and climate change and because of the impact that climate change has on our world,” she said.
“It is an essential threat for many of the small island states both here in the Pacific and in the Caribbean but it’s a general global threat which is now recognised by everyone.
“However, if you look at the impact of climate change it has a disproportionate impact on women and so that was part of the aspect that we were talking about together.”
In the beginning of the week there were also side events and one of the side events was to look at domestic violence in Samoa and the ministers were looking at actions that they can take to change the issue.
“Domestic Violence as you all know, according to the World Health Organisation, does in fact affect one in three women in the world.
“[And] it is not affected by any form of impediment by way of race, colour, culture, religion, ethnicity, economic position so it doesn’t matter if you are white or black, rich or poor or whatever religion you are.
“This phenomenon which is domestic violence seems to cut across all of our countries and therefore it was very important that in this meeting, ministers heard experts and young people talk about how we can come together and change this.
“[And] in due course we will be publishing a communiqué from the meeting which sets up the path way that ministers have committed to take in order to address these issues and trade the whole opportunity to make a more gender equal world for us all.”
During the week-long conference, feedback from observers was that whenever they try to develop ideas there is always a barrier with culture in terms of financial backing.
“We looked at the issues of financial sustainability and independence, we looked in the holistic ways and the issues of domestic violence have to be looked at that it’s a multifaceted multiagency approach and it’s something that is not dependant on the government but involves civil societies, the private sector and everyone else working together,” Ms Scotland said.
“[And] so there was a big push for an economic analysis of the cost of domestic violence to each of our countries to look at how we can save money as well as live safely.
“There was a real understanding that if we have to give those victims and survivors of domestic violence real opportunities then we have to look at the realities of the situation that many of those individuals find themselves in; if they don’t have any alternatives and places to go.
“If they don’t have the money to support their health and children, don’t have the opportunity to be self efficient, or don’t have the means to do find work or opportunities to find employment and gain property rights then the choices that they have whether they stay in an abusive relationship or leave, becomes more narrow.
“So we did talk about the financial impact and the consequences of women’s disempowerment when they don’t have the financial ability to make those choices.
“We talked about how we could together as members state and together as a secretariat create new pathways by sharing best practice, knowledge and working out what works and also sharing what does not work because many countries are at different stages of this journey of gender equality and no one has actually got there entirely but many of the countries in the commonwealth are further along the pathway.
“So it’s the question of us all assisting each other to get further and faster in a way that’s helpful so those were absolutely discussed.”
The Secretary General was also asked about recommendations that they came up with for member countries of the Commonwealth to push the number of women to get involved in politics and become members of parliament.
“The ministers addressed four areas which we are going to be prioritise and one of them was empowerment of women,” she said.
“One of the opportunities that we took during this meeting was to examine the methodology and the approaches which have succeeded in a number of countries in the Commonwealth.”
She gave as an example, Rwanda.
“They had had a very difficult history as many of you are aware but they now have 64 percent of women in parliament,” she said.
“Now they have gone from nothing to 64 percent in a very short period of time.
“There are countries like South Africa, Kenya and a number of them who are at a different stage on that journey.”
She went on to say that they will collaborate with all of those countries and instil the best practice of what works so it can be shared amongst all our nations.
“We believe that if we work together on these issues sharing best practice, creating legislation but also finding ways to implement the legislation because many of our countries have good legislative provision, but it’s the implementation which is proved problematic,” she said.
“[And] it’s not just problematic for the developing countries if you analyse the developed countries; they have similar problems so even in those countries where women’s education has improved, their opportunities have improved, women’s power you would have thought has improved if you compare the likely success of a woman with similar skills to that of a man and yet a man is still exponentially more likely to succeed than a woman.
“So in many of our countries now we have more women coming out of university with first class degrees than perhaps men.
“[But] when you look at progression, men are still doing much better than women so education and opportunity is clearly not the only thing we need to address.
“So drilling down an understanding what can change that paradigm is important because if you compare the pathway of many of the different countries, they are actually similar.
“We are looking at how we can pool information about what works to help members of the Commonwealth to leap frog over those impediments and to get us to be where we would most like to be.”