Saying Good-Bye to Gender Discrimination

For the past four months an educational campaign by the Ministry of Community Affairs, Gender and Housing has shined a spotlight on gender equality with the objective of reducing stereotypes in the Cayman Islands.

Under the theme: Make it a New Year’s Resolution: Promote Gender Equality. Don’t Stereotype, the Ministry concentrated on disparities between males and females in areas such as income, time usage, education, the work force and health.

Minister responsible for Gender Hon. Dwayne Seymour explained, “We chose the theme because stereotyping is an issue to which everyone can relate and one of the root causes of these inequalities. Also, many people make New Year’s Resolutions aimed at bettering themselves, so we wanted to encourage everyone to make one in 2013 that will also benefit society as a whole. It is important to change our perceptions of ‘typical gender roles’, and understand that such roles can prevent us from reaching our full potential.”

Extracting data from the 2010 Census of Population and Housing that compared the status and achievements of males and females, the Ministry, with help from the Economics and Statistics Office (ESO) and Government Information Services (GIS), created an informational brochure that illustrated some important gaps.

From the Ministry’s perspective, the Census data further supported the need for recent legislation such as the Gender Equality Law, 2011, which seeks to prevent discrimination in employment and related matters on the basis of sex, gender, marital status and pregnancy. The Law also guarantees equal pay for men and women who perform work of equal value for their employers.

Legislation and policies that prohibit discrimination and provide sanctions for offenders and remedies for victims are very important. However, it is often individual and societal attitudes and expectations based on characteristics like sex, gender, marital status and pregnancy that have the most power to ensure or prevent equality of opportunity.

To further raise awareness of these matters and start conversations about why gender gaps exist, articles and advertisements were featured in local media, and Ministry staff and CIG officials took part in a variety of broadcast interviews educating the public about stereotypes and discrimination.

Commenting on the campaign’s outcome, Minister Seymour said, “Thankfully, with this information, members of the public now have a better understanding of how stereotypes and prejudice lead to direct, indirect and structural discrimination. This in itself is a powerful reminder that knowledge empowers us to take action in our everyday lives – and as a result, take action in our country.”

With this information, Government plans to develop further initiatives aimed at reducing inequalities, and to draw attention to the ways in which a gender perspective can be incorporated in the design of all types of policies and programmes by public agencies, private companies, community-based groups and other organisations and individuals.

The Ministry will also continue its public education efforts to promote gender equality. “In order to truly eliminate barriers that prevent men and women, girls and boys from having equal opportunities, we must all recognise how our own actions and decisions affect other people, and strive to view each person as an individual and not pre-judge people based on stereotypes,” remarked the Ministry’s Senior Policy Advisor (Gender Affairs) Tammy Ebanks.

As a step towards this goal, the Ministry encourages businesses, professional associations, students, teachers, service clubs and other community organisations, to organise group discussions on these topics.

Persons who would like to invite the Ministry to present to their group, should contact genderequality@gov.ky or 244-3226. Visit www.genderequality.gov.ky to read the Gender Gaps brochure and access more information on how you can promote gender equality and end discrimination. Printed brochures are available at the Government Administration Building, the Health Services Authority and all public libraries.

The public is also encouraged to learn more about their rights and obligations under the Gender Equality Law and other legislation that promotes non-discrimination such as the Cayman Islands Constitution 2009.