Prime Minister Mia Mottley was one of the speakers at the opening ceremony of the first Gender and Development Forum held as part of an UNCTAD quadrennial conference.
Ms. Mottley said the forum could not have come at a more opportune time. “Our Conference theme, “From Inequality and Vulnerability to Prosperity for All” resonates directly with you. So too do the emerging priorities which are likely to preoccupy the Ministerial discussions at UNCTAD 15, including, of course, the COVID crisis; the climate crisis; food security; the debt crisis and the issue of financing for development. Dealing with just one of these issues would be seriously challenging. Dealing with all of them at once is nothing short of catastrophic. This unprecedented convergence further exacerbates the very inequalities and vulnerabilities that we are aiming to address, and, as I certainly don’t have to tell you, the economic and social impact of our current circumstances falls, regrettably, disproportionately on women and girls.”
The Prime Minister said that she anticipates that the Gender and Development Forum will be institutionalised as a permanent event on the programme of future Conferences.
UNCTAD Secretary General, Rebeca Grynspan, also addressed deagates at the opening ceremony. She said that unfortunately, the negative effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on gender equality has been significant.
Ms. Grynspan said, “Economic downturns such as the COVID-19 pandemic are not gender neutral. They affect men and women differently, mainly because of gender-segmentation into different industries and occupations, the structure of markets and institutions and the inequalities within them and the still disproportionate burden on women of the care and domestic world. We know that unless we solve these inequalities the pursuit of the SDGs is not possible. We know 53 of the 251 SDG indicators make explicit reference to gender equality, women and girls. Therefore, reacting to the COVID-19 pandemic without assessing its distinct impact on men and women, jeopardizes the overall achievement of the 2030 Agenda and risks reversing the progress achieved so far in closing most gaps in most domains. And we know that unless women are sitting at the table, in the decision making processes, the policy decision that will be taken will be very probably biased, gender-blind and much less effective to recover from the crisis. Because women are an important part of the solution because they are a transformative and indispensable force to build back better. Unfortunately, we do not see this happening as we expected and as the world needs”.
She said that this Gender and Development Forum is an opportunity to help. Ms. Grynspan said that the forum would provide a critical space of debate and reflection on a wide range of issues – from agriculture to industrial policies, from education and training to labour market needs, from environmental challenges to human rights-based solutions.
Distinguished feminist economist, Dr. Mariama Williams, was the keynote speaker for the opening ceremony. Dr. Williams is a director of the Institute of Law and Economics (ILE), Jamaica; a member of the Caribbean Feminist Action Network; the Gender and Trade Coalition and a principal consultant with the Integrated Policy Research Institute (IPRI) and Senior Associate with the Political Ecology and Sustainability Programme of Development Alternatives with Women for a New Era (DAWN).
Her topic was,”Re-thinking Gender, Trade and Development in the Post COVID-19 ‘transformations’ and landscapes”.