Submit To Serve On Gender Affairs Council

September 30, 2022 | 0 Comments

“I encourage individuals in our community who wish to serve on the Gender Affairs Council and be part of the progressive change to submit an Expression of Interest form by October 7, 2022,” Minister of Social Development and Seniors Tinee Furbert said in the House of Assembly today.

The Minister’s full statement follows below:

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to inform this Honourable House and the general public of the progressive steps being made to formalize the Gender Affairs Council. According to the United Nations, any gender council has a basic moral and strategic imperative to ensure that all people, regardless of their gender, can realize their full potential.

Mr. Speaker, some may recall that in 2008, the Government officially added gender equity to the Department of Human Affairs mandate, and approval was granted to establish an Equity Council for Bermuda.

Mr. Speaker, in 2010, the then Ministry of Culture and Social Rehabilitation established a non-statutory body, a Women’s Council, under the former leadership of The Hon. Neletha I. Butterfield. This Women’s Council was established to focus on improving the quality of life for women, families and society. The Council had been charged to address urgent issues, highlighted in a 1997 Women’s Issues Report, such as equal pay, workplace sexual harassment, maternity leave, marriage licenses, and violence against women.

Also in the year 2010, Mr. Speaker, the Government engaged in the process to have United Nation’s Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women [CEDAW] extended to Bermuda. CEDAW is the landmark international agreement that affirms principles of fundamental human rights and equality for women around the world and is often referred to as the ‘women’s bill of rights’. Consisting of a preamble and 30 articles, this Convention defines what constitutes discrimination against women and sets up an agenda for national action to end gender discrimination. On the 16th March 2017, the United Kingdom extended CEDAW to Bermuda.

In 2015, with the dissolution of the Department of Human Affairs, individuals were never appointed to the Women’s Council, and the body remained inactive to this date. So Mr. Speaker, in keeping with global best practice and the modern dynamics of gender politics, this Government has made the commitment to the establishment of a Gender Affairs Council that incorporates the philosophical shift such that individuals in our community can reap the gender benefits that are systemic, inclusive and sustainable.

Mr. Speaker, the importance and relevance of gender-based issues has been prominent in our small community. These issues have included domestic violence, employment, increasing poverty, burden of care, sexual orientation, political representation, economic opportunity and safety and security.

Mr. Speaker, over the years, Bermuda has seen a drastic increase in gender-based domestic violence rates, which is concerning. In 2020, the Director of Public Prosecutions revealed that 30 percent of cases were domestic-related. Additionally, in 2020 the Centre Against Abuse shared that they have experienced a sharp increase in domestic abuse reports. Between 2018 and 2020, there was close to an 88 percent increase in abuse reports, with 91 reported in 2018, 161 reported in 2019, and 171 reported in 2020.

Mr. Speaker, there are also economic and employment gender-related issues, which unfortunately leads to further disparity in Bermuda. In 2020, on average, the median gross annual income by sex shows women earned $68,294 per year compared to $61,946 for men, representing a 9.7 percent difference in pay. In 2021, the Bermuda Job Market Employment Brief illustrated a widening in the earnings gap between the genders.

Mr. Speaker, although these are just a few examples of gender-based issues that Bermuda faces, the Government understands the relevance and importance of working towards resolving them. The Gender Affairs Council will assist the Government in an advisory capacity to bring perceptions, experiences, and interests of women and men to influence legislation, policy, and decision-making. This is key to driving change towards a more productive, profitable, and equitable culture to improve society. It demonstrates the Government’s commitment to issues on gender balance as it relates to employment, economic opportunity, safety and security

Mr. Speaker, the newly established Gender Affairs Council will be comprised of individuals representing Government agencies, civil society organizations, and entrepreneurs.

Mr. Speaker, many of you may have seen the press conference I held on Wednesday, September 21, 2022. The press conference was also used to provide the importance of establishing a Genders Affairs Council, and the overarching remit of the Council. This press conference also provided an opportunity for me to encourage individuals to submit an expression of interest so they can be considered to serve on this non-statutory body that will drive change towards a more equitable community.

Mr. Speaker, I look forward to receiving expressions of interest, and I want to thank our community in advance for their support, interest, and commitment to what the Government seeks to achieve. I encourage individuals in our community who wish to serve on the Gender Affairs Council and be part of the progressive change to submit an Expression of Interest form by October 7, 2022. The form must be submitted electronically and can be accessed online at forms.gov.bm/Departments/The-Cabinet-Office/Expression-of-Interest.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker!

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