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Minister Sacramento’s Opinion Piece for International Women’s Day 2023 – 133/2023

By March 8, 2023 No Comments
133.1 2023

This year’s global theme for International Women’s Day is #Embrace Equity. As Gibraltar’s first and only Minister for Equality since 2011 I have made it my mission to advance the gender equality agenda so that we can all enjoy equitable outcomes. This has been the guiding principle and the raison d’etre of the Ministry of Equality and is evidenced by the work that has been undertaken since 2011. It is also very much about employers understanding what equality and gender equality means and entails. For this reason we continuously host information seminars and my team and I are invited frequently to business to present.

As Minister for Equality I established a team which is focused on effecting positive and substantive change, leading to improved outcomes for all. When we strive to address and close any gender gaps that may exist we do so guided by a sense of social justice and fairness. When we work to address the issues affecting women predominantly, we are informed by the knowledge that when women do better we all do better.

We cannot make true social progress if half the population is held back in any shape or form. Breaking down barriers is, therefore, key to ensuring that women take their rightful place alongside their male counterparts.

As Minister for Equality I have effected change on many levels and in many key areas. The passing of new legislation is without a doubt a hugely significant part of the process for effecting social change and for ensuring improved protections for women. The recent publication of the Domestic Abuse Act is a case in point a crime that disproportionally affects women. The Act includes a new offence to close the gap in the law around patterns of controlling and/or coercive behaviour that occurs during a relationship between intimate partners, former partners who still live together or family members. This offence sends a clear message that this form of domestic abuse constitutes a serious offence and will provide greater support and protection must be afforded to victims (mainly women) in the new law. Whilst the Act is, of course, gender neutral, in that it applies to everyone regardless of gender, it will in reality lead to enhanced protection for women as they are disproportionately affected by domestic abuse. I am very proud of this work for I know that it will have a hugely transformative effect on the fabric of society.

This legislation has been accompanied by a heavy investment in a raft of training for all front-line staff who may have to deal with domestic abuse such as the Royal Gibraltar Police. Preventative measures against domestic abuse are also another key feature and we work closely with the Department of Education through the Respect and Healthy Relationships Programme and to mark the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women and Girls on 25th November annually.

Ensuring that women are not discriminated against is another important part of my gender equality agenda. The passing of legislative changes also enhanced the protection of breast-feeding mothers ensuring that their right to do so was protected in law.

Legislation is important in bringing about effective social change but legislation alone is not enough. Policy changes are another tool that can be used to break down barriers that women may experience particularly in the workplace.

Addressing the issues that some women may face in the workplace is another important facet of the Ministry of Equality’s Gender Equality Strategy. For this reason, we commissioned Unconscious Bias training for the public and private sector in 2019 and launched the Ministry of Equality’s Women’s mentorship Programme in the same year.

To date, the Mentorship Programme which is currently running its 4th cycle, has supported over 100 women, helping to develop their personal and professional skills and enabling them to aspire to positions of leadership and management where women are often under-represented. A more gender balanced workforce is key to greater economic growth and it is imperative that we harness the full potential of all individuals

Targeting the under-representation of women in many areas is therefore at the heart of the work at the Ministry of Equality. We have done so in bold and imaginative ways such as erecting a statue for women, the issue of stamps on International Women’s Day 2019 featuring the art work of local students and events such as the STEM panel event in 2019 and the more recently held fireside chat event, ‘Where are the Women of Gibraltar?’ which will be the first in a series of events focusing on gender equality issues.

Nowhere is the gender gap more obvious than in politics and I have ensured to take steps to close that gap, difficult as it is.  I have felt very strongly that young people, young women in particular, not only need to see female politicians but need to be able to hear from them directly and in person. In addition to my responsibilities in Gibraltar, in March 2020 I was elected as chair of CPA’s Commonwealth Women’s Parliamentarians of the British Islands & and Mediterranean region. This led me to host a virtual conference in 2021 and an in person conference in Gibraltar in 2022. I also used this opportunity for women in Gibraltar and hosted an event which featured women from parliaments in other jurisdictions within the Commonwealth who women in Gibraltar has the opportunity to hear and speak to.

Embracing equity is this year’s global theme for International Women’s day but working towards fulfilling this goal is an intrinsic part of my portfolio and a daily part of my team’s remit.

I would like to urge everyone to consider how they can take single and/or collective action to ensure that equity becomes a reality and not an aspiration.