The Covid-19 pandemic continued its ravages worldwide, including our proud Federation, as we all experienced the various waves of community spread and increased infection rates. Through it all, the Ministry of Social Development and Gender Affairs remained resolute in protecting the most vulnerable amongst us. The Ministry applied the lessons learnt from the pandemic to ensure that the services and staff members remain adaptive, resilient, effective and efficient.
The year 2022 presents an opportunity for reflection on the mission and vision of the Federation by implementing overarching policies. This exercise began in 2021 with the engagement of stakeholders towards the finalisation of population-specific policies. While to many, policy development is a technical exercise, such is critical for this Ministry because of the international and regional obligations of the Federation to protect specific populations, namely women, children, the disabled and senior citizens.
Gender Equality and Development
Through technical support from UNESCO, the Federation has developed the National Gender Equality Policy and Plan of Action. This policy and accompanying Action Plan are the Government’s commitment to mainstream gender in all sectors and areas of social, economic, political, and environmental development so that all citizens and residents can reap the benefits of inclusive, sustainable development. It further serves as the Government’s blueprint and declared political commitment for achieving gender justice, with the underlying obligation to respect all citizens’ dignity, freedoms, social, political, economic, and cultural rights.
Gender equality and women’s empowerment are fundamental to the universal values of the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda. Together with the human-rights-based approach and Leaving No One Behind (LNOB), these three international human rights standards place equality and non-discrimination at the center of actions to secure economic, social, civil, political, and cultural rights the right to development for all.
These three universal values symbolise the transformative culture that the Gender Equality Policy seeks to create in the Federation-making the reach for gender equality visceral, uniquely owned, and embraced as a common good for all boys, girls, men, and women in St Kitts and Nevis. A key focus for the Federation in developing a modern and relevant Gender Equality Policy was to address discrimination and inequality that boys/men and women/girls face. Another critical focus was integrating into all provisions and protection groups (marginalised) in society because of their socio-economic status or circumstances. The Gender Equality Policy and Action Plan is a tool to monitor and report on the country’s progress in attaining agreed inclusive development targets. To that end, the policy supports Government’s reporting and compliance obligations under the varying international treaties to which it is a party.
The Gender Equality Policy contains ten pillars or domains corresponding to the agreed international priorities for achieving gender equality. They elaborate on the Theory of Change (TOC) and the strategies to achieve the Government’s vision for transformative change on gender equality.
The ten (10) domains and co-domains, with sub-sector primacies, are:
- Agents of Socialization (Culture, Family, Religion, Mass Media)
- Agriculture, Fisheries, and Food Security
- Climate Change and the Environment
- Decent Work and Inclusive Economic Growth (Labour Market Participation and Social Protection, Employment, Productive Resources, and Entrepreneurship, Digital Technologies, Tourism and Services, The Blue Economy (Optional)
- Education for All
- Elimination of Gender-Based Violence and Discrimination for Human Security
- Health and Well-being (Sexual and Reproductive Health, Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs), Healthy Outcomes for Men and Boys and Men, COVID-19- Recovery and Resilience)
- Leadership and Decision-making (Women in Parliament and Politics, Women in Policing and Security Forces, Equal Participation in Society)
- Rule of Law, Justice, and Gender Rights
- Special groups for gender mainstreaming (Older Persons, Youth, Persons with Disabilities-PWDs, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Intersex-LGBTI people, Adults in the Justice System, and Migrant-foreign-born Populations)
Support for Individuals and Families
With the assistance of UNICEF, the Ministry has been able to complete the drafting of the National Social Protection Policy and Action Plan. The vision of the policy is the attainment of Universal Social Protection and to support a high quality of life for the people of the Federation. The Government, through the actions of the Ministries with responsibility for social protection services and programming, will protect the population against chronic poverty and hunger, shocks, destitution, and social exclusion through programmes designed to ensure equitable human capital development and enhanced capacity of the population to manage their livelihoods and welfare better. Our goal is to contribute significantly to the alleviation and eventual eradication of poverty and vulnerabilities in our Federation by building an efficient, effective, and integrated social protection system. All of this would ensure that our Federation remains the best place to grow up and grow old across the world.
The vision, aims, and objectives of the National Social Protection Policy are built on a human rights-based approach to social protection. This approach includes gender responsiveness in understanding and responding to the different needs of women and men and girls and boys and ensuring that they can exercise agency in decisions that affect their lives. It also includes child- friendly and responsive social protection that recognises that poverty and vulnerability disproportionately affect children and can have severe negative lifelong and generational impacts. Rights herein are universal (all hold rights), indivisible (all rights held, and none excluded from any person) and equal (rights held without discrimination).
Support for Children
Through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) funded, Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) Commission implemented Juvenile Justice Reform Project; the Federation has received technical support to complete the National Diversion, Rehabilitation and Reintegration Strategy and Standard Operating Procedures. This Strategy is intended to pave the way for a more structured and considered approach to how diversion, both pre and post-charge, rehabilitation and reintegration is administered. It is designed to offer meaningful guidance to all of the stakeholders working within the Child Justice System, including probation officers, social workers, police and judicial officers. It is designed to be a user-friendly document that embodies the proposed frameworks for diversion, rehabilitation, reintegration, and all of the most important forms and other relevant tools considered necessary to support effective implementation of the Child Justice System.
With the adoption of the complimentary regulations to support the execution of the Child Care and Adoption Act and the Child Justice Act, the Probation and Child Welfare Board and the Ministry are better positioned to protect effectively and efficiently the most vulnerable amongst our population – our children and adolescents.
Other Significant Developments for 2022:
- Rebranding of the Counselling Department to the National Counselling Center: Recognising the need to support the mental health and wellness of the citizens, nationals and residents of this Federation, the Counselling Department will be rebranded in 2022 to the National Counseling Center. With this rebrand, the Center would be able to increase its outreach and network to introduce new services and fee structures to serve the population’s needs better.
- Cabinet adoption of the National Ageing Policy: The continued erosion of close family ties, which serves as a bedrock for the support of our senior citizens as they transition from active employment to retirement, thereby opening new opportunities for engagement and development, presents the most significant challenge to active and empowered ageing for our population. While it is never the intent of a government to legislate behaviour, the time has come to restore basic responsibilities for the care of seniors and other vulnerable populations by those who share a familial (blood or legal) bond. The Government is committed to ensuring the graceful ageing of our population as one cohort transitions, thereby opening up opportunities for the next generation while paying homage and respect for those who paved the way. This is our commitment, but one which cannot be recognised without an all of society approach beginning with familial and societal partners.
- Cabinet adoption of the National Policy for Persons with Disabilities: Following the ratification and adoption of the International Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities by the Federation in 2019, the local adaptations and amalgamations of the tenets of this Convention has to commence to ensure compliance with its intent. Key to this process is the local declaration of our intention for the tenets. This declaration will be clearly expounded in the National Policy for Persons with Disabilities, which expands the Special Needs Policy drafted with assistance from the European Union.
The Ministry continues to be eternally grateful to its social partners who continue to engage willingly, collaborate, and support us in attaining the Sustainable Development Goals agenda 2030. These partners include, but are not limited to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) Commission, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), along with our local partners Mickey’s Hope, A Time for Us Foundation, Garden of Rebirth, The Rotary Clubs of St. Kitts and Liamuiga, Social Security Board, Business and Professional Women (BPW), the Chamber of Industry and Commerce (CIC) and the numerous other individuals and agencies who assisted in our Covid response and the realisation of our adapted programmatic schedule for the populations we serve.
Finally, commendations and appreciation are being extended to the management team and staff of all departments and units that serve under the ambit of the Ministry of Social Development and Gender Affairs. Your sacrifice and service continue to mimic the highest call of our nation, “Country Above Self.” May you take comfort in knowing the lives you have positively impacted by using yourself, your time, talents, and skills to make the Federation truly the best place to grow up and grow old. Blessings to each of you as faithful and humble servants.