NASSAU, The Bahamas — Secretary-General to the Commonwealth of Nations the Rt. Hon. Patricia Scotland, KC, said domestic and sexual violence has been a plague in the world for many years.
“One in three women in the world will be affected by domestic or sexual violence,” the Secretary-General said during a press conference at the conclusion of three-day 13th Commonwealth Women’s Affairs Ministers Meeting (13WAMM) hosted by The Bahamas at the Atlantis Resort, Thursday, August 23, 2023.
She said the tragedy is that during the COVID-19 Pandemic, the level of violence against women and girls went up exponentially. “Therefore, this plague – this pandemic – has been silent; and this was an opportunity for us to come together in The Bahamas to address this issue in a more trenchant way.”
The Secretary-General explained that all of the Ministers who came to The Bahamas were committed to women’s equality, women’s leadership, ending violence against women and girls and exploring why it is that women and girls suffer disproportionately when it comes to climate change.
She said the discussions were extensive and there was a great deal of determination amongst all of the Ministers, the Heads of Delegations and those from Civil Society.
“From this meeting, we have come up with some very solid contributions and commitments from the Ministers and the Delegates and a determination that we will work together.”
The Secretary-General noted that the meeting was ably led by Minister of Social Services and Urban Development the Hon. Obediah Wilchcombe who steered the whole meeting in a way that should make every Bahamian proud.
She said as a result of all of the work done during the meeting, delegates are putting together a road map for change, delivery and success to end discrimination, the unfair treatment and the abuse which so many women across the world have been subjected to.
The Secretary-General said, “We believe this meeting will be a pivotal meeting taking place as it has at a seminal moment in our history. In 1985, the Commonwealth came to The Bahamas to address the issue of Apartheid. Six years later, Nelson Mandela was freed.
“Many people look back at the meeting in 1985 as the moment when the deal was brokered in order to get Mandela his freedom. I believe that this too will be a moment that people will look back on in history to say here in The Bahamas, the plan for women to be free of violence was also laid.”
She said during the meeting, Ministers welcomed the 2022 Heads of Government Communiqué, which adopted the Commonwealth Declaration on gender equality and women’s empowerment submitted by the 12th WAMM.
The Secretary-General said Ministers also viewed the progress of gender equality and women’s empowerment in the Commonwealth and endorsed the road map in support of the Commonwealth Declaration on gender equality and women’s empowerment.
She said, “The road map shapes the Commonwealth by annual reporting on Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment to Heads of Government and the process to which member countries can review and provide input into the development.”
The Secretary-General said, “We know that if you can measure it, then you can do it, and we know that we want to make progressive improvements year on year. This is a commitment from all of our 56 Member States.”
She said the delegates looked at the question of gender equality and women’s empowerment in the context of climate change. “In the last 20 years, we have had about 7,000 major climate incidents and in these incidents across the world, women and girls are disproportionately affected by these climate disasters. Those who have a disability, suffer even more.”
Among other issues, the Secretary General said the delegates looked at how to build gender sensitive policies, and how to implement gender appropriate responses.