Basseterre, St. Kitts, March 14, 2017 (SKNIS): St. Kitts and Nevis has grown from strength to strength regarding the advancement of women with the Government of National Unity is doing its part in ensuing its continuation, says Minister of Gender Affairs, Honourable Wendy Phipps.

Appearing on the radio show “The People’s Voice”, on March 13, Minister Phipps said that there is a growing number of females holding senior positions within the government such as permanent secretaries, chief medical officer (CMO) and the position of Cabinet Secretary, which has never been held by a woman until now.

Minister Phipps said that when looking at the advancement of women, persons need to take note of the Domestic Violence Protocol.

“That is a protocol that has languished year after year because of a multiplicity of reasons,” she said. “I think chief among those reasons, I would basically have to tag on the issue of political will because when you interviewed the staff when the government changed it was a matter that they had become frustrated with in terms of doing what they could in terms of advocating for women’s rights, tightening regulations and laws in relation to matters such as domestic violence. Then these things end up on somebody’s desk and they are bottle necked and nothing gets done. Thankfully we are at a point where our draft protocol has been updated and Cabinet has approved it.”

The minister said that there is a stakeholder consultation now that the draft has been approved by Cabinet and the legal department so that stakeholders can decide if that is what they want going forward.

“That again will over time inform updated legislation so that people know that we are a nation that has evolved and that there is more than one way to settle interpersonal disputes, marriage and relationship issues, other than putting your hand on somebody because there are no winners when things like that happens and sometimes the outcome is not what you planned and families are shattered, people’s lives get messed up, and so forth. So we have done that,” she said.

Minister Phipps said that Cabinet has recently approved the passage of the Social Protection Bill in Parliament, which will safeguard women.

“That Social Protection Bill, ironically, if the Cabinet recalls, had been approved for presentation in June of 2014, but nothing ever happened to it,” she said. “We look forward to it, and one of the reasons that we have to is because of that fact that we have within the ministry now the single household registry, which then would serve to inform in a very scientific and impartial manner how government apportions social services to the public that ar deserving of such assistance because we don’t want to have persons falling through the cracks who need social help, but we want to make sure that the people who need help get the help.”

The minister said that this was a project started under the previous administration and it is a part of a larger Management Information System (MIS) Project, which was contracted out to a South American Firm by the name of Ayala Consulting.

“What we have done in St. Kitts, and I think Nevis has completed most of its households, is to go around and get data from each of the households especially those households in communities that could be in crisis,” she said. “You will have the correct data that says what is the household’s income here, what are they able to live on, what are they paying for utilities, as opposed to what they might be earning in a salary or maybe can’t earn because they might be looking after a relative who is handicapped, ill or whatever might be the case.”

Minister Phipps said that once the project has been completed, the government will be able to make decisions in terms of assistance.

“These are the things that we want to build out in what we have to do based on our continuous assessment of the agencies of the United Nation (UN) like the United Nations Development Programme UNDP, United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), which look after women’s programming and United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), which focuses on children’s issues and so forth.

The minister said that she and Deputy Prime Minister, Honourable Shawn Richards, recently presided over a UNESCO Single Mother’s Project launched by the local commission in collaboration with the department of Gender Affairs where some 100 single mothers are supposed to benefit from training, skill building and overall empowerment over a period of eight months this year.

She said that the government will also be focusing on mentoring for young women through projects like Project Viola, which allow young females who become pregnant in school to go back to school to finish their education.

Minister Phipps said that there is still much to be done when it comes to the advancement of women, but the government will do its best to see that there is in fact progress.