Gender-Responsive Social Protection in the Context of the HIV Care Economy, the Rural Subsistence Economy and Public Debt

Speech at the Annual Consultation of National Women's Machineries (NWM) in New York, 26 February 2012

Thank you Chair. Your Excellency Vice President of the Republic of Gambia, Honourable Speakers, Honourable Ministers, other Parliamentarians, Ambassadors and Consulate Persons, Partners, Colleagues and Delegates.
First of all I wish to thank the Commonwealth Secretariat for inviting my organization Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA)  to attend this consultation. I attend here in my capacity as Commonwealth Women Parliamentarians (CWP) Chairperson, a position to which I was elected in 2010.
I am particularly pleased to be having this opportunity to be linking with so many like-minded bodies all of whom in some way or another work towards the development of women. Much of the time we duplicate the work of each other and therefore such fora as this provide an opportunity for us to strategize together and work and plan together, to share and build  on each other’s ideas, so that whenever one or two, or howsoever many of our organizations collaborate to execute programmes, seminars and/or workshops, such collaborations ensures that collectively we get the best results for our efforts on bringing about gender equality and minimizing poverty. Needless to say that therefore, the CWP is very keen to forge such linkages and in fact I have been urged by many of my fellow women Parliamentarians to do so. Such linkages afford us not only to tap human resources and facilitators from outside of our own organization, but to pool scare financial resources as well.
The overriding message in your theme, therefore, strikes at the very core of the ‘’raison d’ etre’’ of women Parliamentarians, many of whom carry out the responsibility of raising and focusing on the social issues of their country, hence the predominance of women as Ministers of Social Services. I am not one of those who view ‘’social services’’ as a ‘’soft’’ Ministry that is why women are given that portfolio. I prefer to see it in the context that women, being more natural carers, are likely to handle that Ministry more effectively. Let me hasten to say that I have known some very effective male Ministers of Social Services, including Dominica, my Country’s own Hon. Matthew Walter who served in that capacity for more than one term.
The term ‘’social protection’’ seems to have taken on a new urgency and importance in the past 5 to 6 years. This is possibly because, with the sinking of the economies of more advanced Countries. ‘’new players’’ have come on the block. It is therefore more with regret than cynicism that I note, en passant that, finally there are things that less developed countries can teach the more developed ones, the common thread of course is that women are the first to feel that blow and the last to be relived of it.
Small economies such as those of Dominica a Country of 72,000 people, are having a hard time coping in these growing  economically challenging times not only that, poised geographically as it is in the middle of the island chain  comprising of the Lesser Antilles. There is not a year that Dominica escapes the ravages of a hurricane or at the very least several tropical storms. The Island is said to have 3 volcanoes that are not exactly dormant and we do have our share of earthquakes. We cope. But before I end I wish to say that the informal sector needs to remain as informal as possible.