2 September 2017


Gender equality remains a challenge in the Caribbean despite countries having signed international and regional conventions that recognize women’s rights and the recent Joint Statement on Gender Equality anchored in the Small Island Developing States Accelerated Modalities of Action (SAMOA) Pathway and the SDGs. Despite their higher education attainment, women are less likely than men to hold positions of power, have higher levels of unemployment and are more subjected to gender-based violence, including sexual violence.  Higher fertility rates continue among many women from lower socio-economic backgrounds who may not be accessing higher education. World Bank research indicated all of the Caribbean islands have higher rates of sexual violence than the world average. One in four women in Guyana has been physically abused, approximately 30% of women surveyed in Trinidad & Tobago experienced domestic violence; 67% of women in Suriname have experienced violence in a cohabiting relationship and 30% of adult women in Jamaica and Barbados have experienced some form of domestic abuse.[1]

According to the University of the West Indies, domestic violence accounts for between thirty to fifty percent of murders in many Caribbean countries. A study in six countries revealed that boys and girls consider aggression a normal aspect of masculinity. Yet, public policies on gender equality integrating sexual and reproductive health and rights are limited and weak regulatory frameworks and religious objections often derail their implementation.

A Caribbean study further found that 47% of adolescent girls’ sexual initiation was "forced" or "somewhat forced".[2] Early sexual activity has also been linked to unintended adolescent pregnancy. Throughout the Caribbean, women who are further marginalized and are more likely to experience violence include sex workers, migrants, victims of human trafficking, domestic workers and women living with HIV. 

Sexual violence is a key health risk for women in the Caribbean and persists due to harmful social and cultural norms about gender that establish and reinforce power imbalances between women and men. There is concernin the region for the persistence of gender inequality and inequity and their impact on human and social development in many countries in the region.Violence against women often keeps women from wholly contributing to social, economic, and political development of their communities, lower levels of labor force participation of women, as well as the intergenerational cycle of violence.


UNFPA has been working in the Caribbean on the following priority areas identified:

·         Advocating for development, review and implementation of gender-sensitive legislation, policies and protocols;

·         Promoting gender-transformative approaches through engagement of men and boys to addressgender based violence with a focus on sexual violence and women’s sexual and reproductive health;

·         Improving accessibility of data on all forms of gender based violence, including demographic disparities and socio-economic inequities that affect women and adolescents sexual and reproductive health and rightsincluding in disasters;

·         Capacity building of stakeholders to address sexual violence in humanitarian settings, including on MISP

·         Analysing the demographic transition trends in the region to support empowerment of youth and girls to pave the way to the demographic dividend; and

·         Working with Faith-Based Organizations (FBOs) with focus on women’s reproductive health and reduction of gender based violence, with a focus on sexual violence and its links to adolescent pregnancy.


Between 2015 and 2016, approximately US$77,848 from core resources and US$866,597 from other resources were allocated to gender programmesin the SROC with an implementation rate of 49% and 97.2% respectively. Other resources were allocated specifically to the SICA funded GBV project in Belize, which focused onstrengthening the capacity of the Women’s Department, Ministry of Human Development, to prevent gender-based violence, including sexual violence and enable delivery of multi-sectoral services, including in humanitarian settings.The SICA project was completed in April 2016.

As part of the support to prevent SV and GBV in humanitarian contexts, UNFPA in collaboration with UN Women completed a Needs Assessment on GBV prevention for women and girls in the most crowded shelters in Dominica after the Tropical Storm Erika in 2015. The outcomes were used to improve the response strategy of the Bureau of Women’s Affairs in addressing the needs of the most affected women and girls and to create a series of awareness activities. This included psychosocial support for victims of the disaster and the implementation on the GBV and sexual violence reduction strategies outlined in the MISP training.In 2015, 26 first responders in Trinidad and Tobago were trained in the MISP.  Over twenty professionals from the region were trained in medical management of sexual violence and included collection of forensic evidence. Suriname and Jamaica reviewed their national protocols on how to support survivors of gender-based violence and Belize updated its GBV management information system.

Sub-regionally, UNFPA also supported the mapping of male networks in the region who work with men and boys to address issue of GBV.  In 2016, these male networks will be engaged in the development of an Action Plan to address GBV.  Furthermore faith based networks were also sensitized to the issue of GBV as it relates to adolescent pregnancy.  An advocacy brochure was produced in 2015 on the issue of adolescent pregnancy, highlighting how FBOs can assist in addressing this issue in the Caribbean.  FBOs will also be engaged in 2016 to formulate an action plan to address issues of GBV in the Caribbean.

UNFPA collaborated with the UNCT and British High Commission to support the national NGO 'Eve for Life’to launch the “NuhGuh Deh” campaign in Jamaica. The objective of the Campaign was to raise awareness about the significant and long term physical, emotional, health, financial and social consequences of sexual abuse of young girls and the links to HIV and adolescent pregnancy. UNFPA's specific technical and financial support has reinforced to adolescent girls and young people what constitutes sexual abuse and to underscore the fact that sexual abuse is always wrong and is a crime, while strengthening the capacity of Eve for Life's advocate from prevention of sexual violence. Support was also provided for the establishment of the network or Caribbean First Spouses to promote adolescent girls’ issues and the elimination of gender-based violence in the Caribbean.

For 2016, attention is being placed on addressing GBV, particularly sexual violence, withinnational gender policies; technical guidance on GBV data collection; and support for National Communication Campaigns by increasing public awareness of GBV.  This includes advocacy around international days; the development of public service announcements in Guyana andthe engagement with FBOs and male networks to reduce sexual violence and advance gender equality and women’s empowerment in the Caribbean.


The following regional frameworks, instruments and strategies are currently being used to advance gender equality and empowerment of women in the Caribbean.

·         Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) 1979

·         Convention of Belem do Para - Inter-American Convention on the Prevention, Punishment and Eradication of Violence Against Women 1995

·         The CARICOM Plan of Action 2015-2019

·         United Nations Multi-Country Sustainable Development Framework 2017-2021

·         The CARICOM Integrated Strategic Framework to Reduce Adolescent Pregnancy 2014-2017

·         Partnerships: Caribbean Bureaux of Gender Affairs,CARICOM and OECS Secretariats, National Gender Bureau, University of the West Indies and other sub-regional academic institutions and centres of excellence, UN partners including UN Women, ECLAC, UNICEF and PAHO.


·         Lack of evidence in some countries of long term strategies and limited resources assigned to gender activities and planning;

·         Government contractual processes have many layers of approval creating additional delays to begin the development of the national gender based violence strategies;

·         Limited existence of men’s organizations with the skills of working with men in sexual violence prevention;

·         Harmful gender practices have been supported by cultural processes, which take a long time to change, so the changes are difficult to measure in the short-time; and

·         Financial and human resources remain a key challenge for the SROC in this area

·         In order to fill some of the gaps, the SRO has leveraged resources from the government and other UN agencies, in addition to relying on limited SRO staff to provide requisite technical support.

All the frameworks and partnerships outlined above provide opportunities for continued advances in the gender. In light ofthis, UNFPA will:

·         Continue to strengthen partnerships with government, civil society organizations including male networks and the FBOs; academia, UN and sub-regional partners such as CARICOM and OECS;

·         Continue to build the capacity of  national gender machineries for the development and implementation for gender policies and also Ministries of Health on medical protocols to support victims of sexual violence;

·         Support advocacy and policy dialogue initiatives on women and girls’ sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights, and reduction of sexual and gender-based violence, including the development and dissemination of public communication and education materials for evidence-based interventions;

·         Resource mobilization and leveraging of national resources will be critical to bridge the financial and human resources gaps, including from non-traditional partners such as the Clinton Global Foundation, Digicel and otherFoundations.·          

[1] The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime and the Latin America and Caribbean Region of the World Bank 2007. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime and the Latin America and the Caribbean Region of the World Bank. 2007. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime and the Latin America and the Caribbean Region of the World Bank. 2007. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime and the Latin America and the Caribbean Region of the World Bank. 2007. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime and the Latin America and the Caribbean Region of the World Bank. 2007. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime and the Latin America and the Caribbean Region of the World Bank. 2007.

[2]PAHO, Violence Against Women in Latin America and the Caribbean: a comparative analysis of population-based data from 12 countries, 2013.