Minister of Health and Social Development Honourable Carvin Malone has hailed women’s contribution to the health and social response to COVID-19 in the British Virgin Islands at UN ECLAC’s 60th Meeting of the Presiding Officers of the Regional Conference on Women in Latin America and the Caribbean that began on February 23. His comments were highlighted in a Government Information Services release.
In his presentation to the conference on the Territory’s implementation of the Santiago Commitment that calls on governments to support and protect women during the COVID
-19 pandemic, the Minister said, “I would like to pay tribute to the many women who are at the heart of the health services and social services in the British Virgin Islands without whom we could not have mounted a robust health and social response to COVID
-19. Women are disproportionately represented in the health and social sectors.”
Honourable Malone went on to describe the Government’s support to women on the frontlines, saying, “Throughout the pandemic we have done everything in our power to ensure these brave women have the personal protective equipment (PPE) needed to safely do their jobs. We are also ensuring that as we rollout our vaccination programme that they get the needed vaccination, so they are protected from illness. They remain on the frontline of containing the virus. Their lives are continuously at risk in doing everything from testing to monitoring to policy development, coordination and implementation. As minister responsible for health and gender, I am truly grateful.”
In addition, the Minister highlighted the negative impact of COVID
-19 on women, particularly in the tourism sector, and the response by the Government and other partners to assist the vulnerable.
“In response to the financial challenges facing women and other vulnerable persons, we approved a modest economic stimulus package that provided financial and social assistance, including unemployment payments to laid off persons, financial assistance to impacted businesses, and also financial assistance to civil society. We have continued to work with local NGOs such as the Family Support Network to ensure that struggling families are fed. Women are disproportionately benefitting from the assistance being provided by the Government in collaboration with Civil Society, the private sector and international partners,” Honourable Malone said.
He further stated, “We have continued to campaign through targeted messaging and the stepped-up efforts of our social services offices and the police to discourage the abuse of women and children, and to intervene as required.
In regard to economic recovery from COVID
-19, Honourable Malone emphasised the importance of women as tourism steadily rebounds and the economy strengthens on the back of robust health and entry protocols that are keeping COVID
-19 under control and the public safe.
According to the Health Minister, “Our well-functioning system will allow us to receive greater numbers of tourists that will boost our economy and create more jobs. This will help to absorb those women who need employment. To support this effort, we are providing retraining with the generous assistance of the International Labour Organisation.”
Speaking on the BVI’s participation in the regional UN meeting on women, Honourable Malone said, “It is extremely important that we remain engaged with the wider Latin America and Caribbean region on the impact of the global pandemic on women. It was useful to share our experience over the past months and to hear how others are supporting women in their own context with respect to social protection and economic recovery. Everyone learns and gains from such exchanges, which will help to make our COVID
-19 responses more effective.”
Honourable Malone was joined by Acting Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Health and Social Development Ms. Tasha Bertie, Director of the International Affairs Secretariat Ms. Najan Christopher, Special Envoy of the Premier Mr. Benito Wheatley, Assistant Secretary for External Affairs Ms. Dwynel Davis, Programme Officer Ms. Xyrah Wheatley, Director of the BVI London Office Ms. Tracy Bradshaw and Deputy Director of the BVI London Office Ms. Siobhan Flax.
The BVI is a Vice Chair of UN ECLAC’s Presiding Officers of the Regional Conference on Social Development, as well as a Vice Chair of the regional body’s Caribbean Development and Cooperation Committee (CDCC).