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Commonwealth Women’s Affairs Ministers Endorse Roadmap To Fast-Track Gender Equality

Women’s affairs ministers from Commonwealth countries committed to a roadmap yesterday, designed to scale up efforts to achieve gender equality and empower women and girls, especially in climate action.

The roadmap was the result of three-day deliberations among ministers at their triennial Commonwealth meeting in The Bahamas this week. It was also shaped by input from a range of stakeholders, including domestic violence survivors, civil society representatives, and women with disabilities.

As part of this roadmap, women’s affairs ministers pledged to enhance efforts to address inequality in several Commonwealth priority areas over the coming years.

Specific provisions include an enhanced role of women in climate finance, increased support for women with disabilities, more economic opportunities for women, better representation in decision-making, and greater protection from gender-based violence.

The roadmap encapsulates the outcome statement issued by ministers, representing 2.5 billion Commonwealth people, at the conclusion of their meeting on 23 August 2023.

Next year, this roadmap will be considered by leaders at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Samoa.

Speaking after the meeting, the Commonwealth Secretary-General, the Rt Hon Patricia Scotland KC, said the roadmap was “incredibly important” because millions of women and girls “are disproportionately impacted by injustice, climate change, violence, and discrimination”.

She continued:

“The outcomes of the meeting send a clear message that the Commonwealth is determined to lead by example towards ensuring women and girls are not left behind in our efforts to achieve sustainable development and climate justice.

“What we achieved here will enable us all to deliver today and it will help to shape a better tomorrow for the benefit of the 2.5 billion people living in our Commonwealth.”

To support the roadmap’s implementation, ministers endorsed a framework for reporting on Commonwealth priorities for gender equality.

The Commonwealth Secretariat will use this framework to regularly assess progress based on set indicators and coordinate necessary measures through a ministerial action group, aimed at tackling challenges disrupting the positive momentum.

Acknowledging that climate change disproportionately affects women and girls, ministers shared good practices that supported women and girls in overcoming the impacts in their respective countries.

Ministers and senior officials also called on the Commonwealth to advocate for an inclusive ‘Loss and Damage Fund’ that supports the needs of women and men equitably.

The meeting was chaired by Hon Obediah Wilchcombe, Minister of Social Services and Urban Development of The Bahamas.

Reflecting on the meeting in a press conference, Minster Wilchcombe expressed his appreciation for the substantive outcomes.

He said:

“We have a roadmap coming out of this meeting which we [The Bahamas] and other countries will follow. Because it would not make too much sense three years from now to return saying the same old thing. What we want to do is to make a real difference. We are pleased that this meeting sets us up on a higher plane and at a faster pace to follow this roadmap.”

Recognising the significance of engaging men and boys in preventing and combating gender-based violence, ministers welcomed the launch of Secretary-General Patricia Scotland’s ‘For the Women in my Life’ campaign.

To be rolled out across the Commonwealth, the campaign will take a culturally sensitive approach towards involving men and boys in addressing violence against women and girls as active allies.

In their statement, ministers also highlighted the need for collecting and analysing sex-disaggregated data in order to develop evidence-based solutions and target them more accurately.

The Commonwealth Women’s Affairs Ministers Meeting was hosted by the Government of The Bahamas from 21 to 23 August 2023 in the capital, Nassau.

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