Women’s leadership in local government in the Caribbean
Women and men are traditionally cast in different roles, with males being leaders in the workplace, home and government. In contrast, communities promote women as caregivers who support male leaders and shape future generations as mothers, mentors and teachers. In recognition of this societal view of women that often led to inequality and inequity, the UNDP listed Gender Equality and empowering women as one of eight Millennium Development Goals. The post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals, adopted by the United Nations in autumn 2015, also included gender equality and empowering women as Goal 5.
In its work in the Caribbean, the Caribbean Local Economic Development Project (CARILED) examined gender as it relates to micro, small and medium enterprise (MSME) development in six Caribbean countries. The findings of this study showed gender gaps for both male and female entrepreneurs in different areas of development. Traditionally gendered roles for MSME sectors, access to financing and lack of adequate guidance or community support were some areas that affected men and women differently in the region.
The study outlines ways in which male and female leaders can address traditional gender roles by identifying priority areas for development, creating an enabling environment for start-ups and expansion, and fostering a policy and legislative base that facilitates ease of doing business. The recommendations further describe the public–private partnerships needed to successfully meet gender gaps, and the importance of both elected officials and technocrats in inter alia community engagement and advocacy towards local economic development.
The importance of gender equality among elected officials and technocrats, and the influence gender has on determining priority areas of focus within local government strategic plans for communities are also set out within this paper.
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