By Joan Grant Cummings
Dear Baroness Scotland,
We are a network of Caribbean feminist and women’s rights activists, policy-makers and scholars, and we are delighted with your recent election as Commonwealth Secretary-General and offer our warm congratulations to you.
We feel a deep sense of pride in your achievement as the first woman, and representing the Caribbean region, to have been elected to this pivotal leadership position in the Commonwealth family of nations, an institution with great potential for contributing to global development and peace.
As a virtual network of over 100 members based across the Caribbean region and diaspora, our members include organizations and individuals working actively on women’s empowerment and gender equality in a broad range of fields including: accountability and good governance, agriculture and rural development, arts and culture, economic development and poverty eradication, education and training, enterprise and trade, environment and climate change, health and well-being, human rights and the law, leadership and decision-making, LGBTQI rights, religion and spirituality, sexual and reproductive rights, violence and citizen security, among others.
As you are aware, in the Caribbean, our small island developing states are increasingly vulnerable as we face the global economic downturn, high levels of national debt, the loss of preferential trade agreements for primary exports such as bananas, and hurricanes and other disasters exacerbated by climate change and global warming. These are playing themselves out in increasing poverty particularly among women heads of households, and gender-based and other forms of violence and insecurity. Despite Caribbean women’s much vaunted educational achievements, the region is marked by women’s under-representation in the labour market, in the entrepreneurial class, and in leadership and decision-making, which serve to undermine its economic, social and political development.
We sincerely hope that the Commonwealth Secretariat will continue to prioritize support for Caribbean small island developing states, and increase resources for promoting women’s empowerment and gender equality across the Commonwealth.
We offer you our very best wishes as you prepare to assume the post of Commonwealth Secretary-General, and look forward to welcoming you to the Caribbean and dialoguing with you to advance our shared interests in the coming period.
Joan Grant Cummings was joined on the letter by the Caribbean Regional Network of Organizations and Individuals Working on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality, a group of more than 50 organizations.
Note: the opinions expressed in Caribbean Journal Op-Eds are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Caribbean Journal.