Women in The Bahamas continue to make progress

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Paulette Bethel, Permanent Representative of the Commonwealth of the Bahamas to the UN

"Empowering women is not just good for women, it is good for all of us," Michelle Bachelet, Executive Director of the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women), told the first meeting of the two-week session, which concludes on 16 March.

Focusing in particular on the issue of women's participation in public life, she said it was crucial to women's social and economic advancement. That would also require the enactment and enforcement of laws, including trade and economic policies, that had gender equality as a priority aim, she said, noting that such wide-ranging reforms were under way in some countries, although progress remained slow and uneven.

In The Bahamas, despite its vulnerabilities, women continue to make progress, as the country continues with the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of women at the national level, and has undertaken a number of initiatives in that regard.

Ambassador Paulette Bethel says as an archipelagic state, The Bahamas is spread over 100,000 square miles and comprises hundreds of islands and cays, many of which are remote and rural.

TAPE: Many of the residents of these remote Family Island communities rely heavily on agricultural and fisheries production as a way of life. With a population of approximately 354,000, it is estimated that 15% of persons in The Bahamas live in rural communities. With increased migration of young people to the densely populated capital, it is not surprising that older persons, in particular women, play a significant role in rural Family Island communities throughout The Bahamas. Many are farmers who, for decades, have cultivated and harvested their own crops and vegetable products for their own subsistence and for local market consumption. Some are also entrepreneurs and owners of small and medium-sized agricultural and handicraft enterprises.

NAR: Ambassador Bethel says agricultural development is a key factor in the further development of Then Bahamas and also as a means to achieve food security, while contributing to a decrease in the country's significant food import bill.

TAPE: ..the government established The Bahamas Agricultural and Industrial Corporation (BAIC) to encourage the development of agriculture, commercial and industrial development in The Bahamas. Since its inception, the BAIC has embarked on an ambitious programme and provides a number of incentives to persons, including women, who are interested in becoming involved in farming and industrial type businesses or are already involved I such ventures. The Corporation has recently provided assistance to two professional young Bahamian women, both of whom have made the unprecedented decision to relocate to the densely populated capital to the rural Family Island community to pursue entrepreneurship in citrus production.

NAR: Ambassador Bethel explains that other opportunities to empower rural women in the Family islands involve training in the production of handicrafts, gifts and souvenir products.

TAPE: The Bahamas Government is cognizant of the importance of rural development and has embarked on a series of infrastructural development projects in education, health, transportation, energy and other related services, and ultimately, to improve the livelihood of the residents of these rural and primarily agricultural communities. These improvements will enhance educational training and employment opportunities for local residents and more importantly, increase distribution and access of their agricultural, fisheries and other local products to markets.

NAR: Ambassador Paulette Bethel of The Bahamas.

This is Donn Bobb reporting.

Duration: 3’15″

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