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Commonwealth Journalists' Association

There is so much more that needs to be achieved before Barbados can boast of its achievements in gender equality, writes Leigh-Ann Worrell, a journalist working on the Barbados Today newspaper.

On the surface, it seems like a cause for celebration.

Barbados was named as the second-best place in the Commonwealth to be born a girl, according to the ‘Because I Am a Girl: Growing Up in the Commonwealth’ paper, published by the Royal Commonwealth Society and Plan UK.

Barbados was only topped by New Zealand in the research that assessed the 54 member states in eight ‘report cards’ for gender equality.

It was deemed to be “useful to assemble a composite measure of how well Commonwealth countries are promoting girls and women as agents of change.”

The areas were: life expectancy, sheer survival, education for life, early pregnancy, studying hard, political participation, sporting chance and the gender pay gap.

And the 166 square-mile isle aced it in a way that would make any doting parent beam with pride.

Barbados earned itself A scores in areas like life expectancy, fertility, the gender pay gap and sporting opportunities, with Bs in scholarship opportunities and political participation (a real surprise, as the House of Assembly has four female MPs out of 30 elected members, while the Upper House has five females out of its 21 senators).

This is not intended to discredit or disprove the scope of the work done by the study – far from it. In fact, such research needs to be applauded, commended and certainly continued. The researchers clearly state the study’s limitations.

But before the island’s highest officials pat themselves on the back for a job well done, they should stop to ponder all the other ways women and young girls have to struggle each and every day in order to survive in Barbados.

Case in point: I am starting to feel like a prisoner in my own home and community.

Last weekend would have been the second time in two months I have had to call the police to report a man peeping through my bedroom window, or for a pervert who, from police comments, got a kick from spewing lewd comments to women in the privacy of their homes.

I have encountered women who don’t even bother to call the authorities anymore, because they don’t see what good it will do.

I was told to stop walking to work because the perpetrator could be someone in my community who is watching my every move.

Doesn’t sound like anything I want my future daughter to endure if or when she decides to move outside the familial nest.

Let’s move on.

Sexual harrassment in the workplace is an underreported disease across the island.

It has caused women to leave jobs, cry in bathroom stalls and work in an environment of fear, especially if mounting financial pressures weigh heavily on the mind.

Successive governments have talked about sexual harrassment bills being instituted, but after the television cameras have been turned off and the recorders stop running, so does the momentum for progress.

What continues is the groping, lewd comments from your boss about what your boss would “love to do with those two lovely breasts” and leering every time a woman tries to bend down to pick up something from the floor.

So, while I am proud of the strides my country has made in gender equality, there is so, so, much more that needs to be done before we can boast of that number two status, or even begin to discuss owning that number one spot.

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