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A greater awareness and understanding of gender equality issues can lead to a more effective and efficient use of scarce public resources. Better information and increased awareness of gender issues enable public sector leaders to seize opportunities and find solutions to pressing challenges facing the Caribbean.
Articles about gender appear in the news almost on a daily basis. In the past, the term gender referred exclusively to women and women’s issues. Now the term more accurately describes the different life experiences of boys and girls, men and women.
Many of the pressing challenges facing governments in the Region have gender dimensions. These include economic growth, job creation, environmental stewardship, disaster risk management, energy conservation, aging populations, human security and crime.
Gender issues are indeed relevant. A CARICOM report notes, “even though women are more likely to outlive men, at older ages they are less likely to have access to the resources for an improved quality of life”. A recent survey of living conditions in Barbados noted “it is now widely recognized that poverty is gendered because males and females become poor through different processes and that they experience and are affected by poverty differently.” Finally, young women and young men dropout of school for different reasons—women due to pregnancy and boys due to under-achievement, pressure to work, or boredom—therefore strategies to address the problem must be different.
Gathering evidence on the different causes of poverty among elderly men and women, and the causes of unemployment among young women and young men— and involving them in decision-making processes—will enable public sector leaders to develop and implement more cost-effective programs.
Better understanding of gender relations and dynamics will lead to better results that meet the needs of all citizens. Therefore, public sector leaders can – and should – play an important role in raising awareness of gender equality issues.
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