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Ministry of Gender Equality and Family Welfare
Speeches

 
SPEECH
 
 
OF
 
Hon. Mrs. I. Seebun
 
Minister of Women's Rights, Child Development
and Family Welfare
 
VALIDATION WORKSHOP ON
 
FORMULATION OF A REGIONAL GENDER STRATEGY
 
 
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Day & Date: Wednesday 12 November, 2008
Time: 09 30 hrs
Venue: Imperial China, Trianon
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Mr. Claudio Caldarone, UN Resident Representative

Mr. Callixte D’Offay General Secretary, Indian Ocean Commission

Ms. How Fok Cheung, Permanent Secretary of my Ministry

The National and International Consultants

Officials of my Ministry

Gender Focal Points

Distinguished Participants

Ladies and Gentlemen

It is a great pleasure for me to be present at the opening ceremony of the workshop to scrutinise and consider the contents of the draft report on the situational analysis on gender and development in Mauritius.
At the very onset, I would like to place on record the unconditional support of the UNDP in Mauritius to consolidate the National Gender Machinery into a full-fledged policy making and monitoring body, and for its sustained interest for the promotion of gender equality.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Today marks an important stepping stone into the history of the Indian Ocean Commission, witnessing the first time that our five small islands, namely, Mauritius, Reunion, Seychelles, the Comoros and Madagascar, come together on a single platform, irrespective of our commitments to the South African Development Community (SADC) or Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), to redress a lacuna at the policy level to respond to the specificities of our respective islands in terms of promoting women’s empowerment and gender equality.
We must all acknowledge that even in the absence of a clearcut regional gender policy statement, the IOC subscribes to the Millennium Development Goals, whilst each country has either a strategic plan of action on gender equality or is in the process of defining such a document.
Our presence here today is, therefore, very timely, to fill in this gap and influence the formulation of a concise strategy based on the analysis of the gender gaps in Mauritius. I am informed that the gender analysis reveals critical areas of concern at the policy, programming and implementation level in the region. Similarly, a brief analysis of available statistical data and other information unveils the cross cutting nature of gender and its complex inter-linkages between countries and within countries. We are also conscious that each country bears its own specificities as gender is socially constructed and underpinned by prevailing cultural norms, which can by all means be deconstructed and reconstructed. For example, countries such as Mauritius, the Seychelles and Reunion demonstrate progress in terms of gender parity in education, however, a double standard or glass ceiling is witnessed in women’s access to higher paying jobs in the private sector. Similarly, the economic activity rate for women in paid employment is lower for women as compared to men for IOC countries. Similarly, increasing women’s political participation is also another area for intervention.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Paying lip service to gender mainstreaming can no longer be a prerogative. In order to contribute to a transformative approach, it is of crucial importance to act on two dimensions- transforming social relations and transforming institutional/ social/ political and economical structures.
To that end, gender needs to be mainstreamed in all fronts of the IOC, namely
(i) political and diplomatic cooperation;
(ii), economic and commercial development;
(iii) sustainable regional development and integration; and
(iv) reinforcement of regional cultural identity.

In order for these to be possible, there undoubtedly needs to be concerted action with all our stakeholders and a holistic and intersectoral approach to achieve de jure and de facto equality- hence your presence here today.
At this juncture, I would like to update you on the development on the forefront of gender equality in Mauritius. My Ministry has launched in March of this year, a National Gender Policy Framework (NGPF) I the context of International Women’s Day 2008. The NGPF is an overarching national policy framework that calls upon other Ministries/ departments to develop their respective sector-based and organisation-specific policies. It places an intrinsic value as well as an instrumental value on the achievement of gender equality and women’s empowerment, starting from principles of smart economics and recognising the fact that applying a gender perspective can contribute to achieving other national developmental objectives. The NGPF further provides general guiding principles and operational strategies and sets out in broad terms how to translate gender equality into reality.
To that end, my Ministry has retained the services of an international consultant on gender, with the support of the UNDP and UNIFEM (United Nations Fund for Women) regional office to engender the reforms of the Government towards Programme-based Budgeting (PBB) and performance management. My Ministry has provided technical assistance to three pilot Ministries, namely, Ministry of Youth and Sports, Ministry of Education, Culture and Human Resources and Ministry of Labour, Industrial Relations and Employment to formulate their respective gender policies. Given that this project has gained an increased momentum, the Ministry will be extending this exercise to four other Ministries.
I have taken stock of the report drafted by the Local Consultant has submitted a report contextualising the situation of gender equality in Mauritius, backed by sex disaggregated data and analysis. I am also informed of the four critical areas of concern identified as being cross-cutting to the sub region. However, lest we forget, each country has its own specificities and witness emerging trends. In Mauritius, our emerging practical and strategic needs revolve around globalisation, food security, poverty and feminisation of the ageing population amongst others.

These are only but a few. I would encourage you to raise any additional key points that may be included in the report so that it reflects a consolidated documenting situating our national context, which will be integrated into the regional document.
To conclude, I am informed that the IOC regional gender policy would be a strategic avenue for mobilisation of resources. It is, therefore, crucial that Mauritius submits a report reflective of its priorities and concerns so that women’s empowerment and gender equality continue to remain on the agenda of UN agencies and other donor organisations. The role of the lead agency of the National Gender Machinery needs to be explicitly spelt out so that is rendered an effective policy-making, monitoring and reporting body, working in consultation with its other stakeholders.
On this note, I wish you a fruitful workshop and look forward to reading the deliberations. I have now the pleasure to officially open this workshop.
I.S.