The United Nations Joint SDG Fund has injected nearly $1 million into a programme designed to empower women, youth, and people living with disabilities.
The programme launched on Monday, May 30 takes steps to facilitate the sustainable economic empowerment of women, youth and people with disabilities and their greater access to financial mechanisms, knowledge sharing and capacity building, particularly in areas of agribusiness and fishing. The Building Back Equal through Innovative Financing for Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment Joint Programme is funded by the United Nations Joint SDG Fund and in partnership with the Governments of The Bahamas and Bermuda.
The participating UN agencies, include UN Women, UNDP, UNESCO and FAO. The Bahamas Development Bank (BDB) is the primary implementing partner.
In his remarks, UN Resident Coordinator in Jamaica, The Bahamas, Bermuda, The Cayman and Turks and Caicos Islands, Dr Garry Conille highlighted that the programme was grounded in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Dr Conille said: "The project is designed and expected to catalyze millions more in additional investment to support Bahamas’ achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals; in particular, SDG 5 – gender equality; SDG 8 – decent work and economic growth; and SDG 9 – reduced inequalities.”
Minister of State for Social Services & Urban Development Lisa Rahming was on hand to express the Government’s commitment to the Multi-country Sustainable Development Framework (MSDCF) and to achieving the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The launch of this project, according to Dr Conille, signals growth in the United Nations – Bahamas relationship since becoming a signatory to the MSDCF in February.
Senator Quinton Lightbourne, BDB Chairman, stated that over the last year, the BDB has implemented a gender policy that commits to the pursuit of equity in access to finance for all Bahamians.
Senator Lightbourne said: “We recognize that men and women face differences in accessing socio-economic resources including financing. Men and women have different needs that shape how capacity building and programmes must be delivered to ensure that every person has equitable access to opportunity.”
The BDB is the first Caribbean Institution to be a part of the 2XCollaborative, a global industry network of capital providers for gender lens investing, the body that convenes the entire spectrum of investors to promote gender lens investing.
Representative for UN Women Multi-country Office – Caribbean Tonni Ann Brodber, said UN Women’s work on innovative financing and with the 2X collaborative “tells us that the public and private sectors must collaborate to create an enabling environment for women’s full engagement in economic growth.” Ms Brodber also said: “UN Women and Portland Private Equity, a Caribbean-based private equity and venture capital firm, have pioneered a partnership which aims to bring in USD500M of gender smart risk capital to advance impact-driven investments for SMEs and medium-large companies in the Caribbean.”
“Building back from the kinds of impacts like COVID-19, Hurricane Dorian and the food and energy crises often start with women and youth; they can transform families and communities. This is not about leaving anyone out or behind, including men, this is about developing and implementing initiatives that meet people where they are for the greatest return on investment.”
Her sentiments were echoed by Heewoong Kim, Head of Reporting, United Nations Joint SDG Fund, who stated in the televised address that “this joint project is not only designed to build forward better in the post-COVID-19 pandemic era, but also to demonstrate how innovative financing vehicles, digital platforms, and the tools and frameworks of the Women’s Empowerment Principles can be leveraged to close the financing gaps that women and youth face in the agriculture, sustainable tourism, and creative and cultural industries in Small Island Developing States (SIDS)”.
Also giving a televised address was Saadia Sanchez-Vegas, Director and Representative, UNESCO Cluster Office for the Caribbean, who told attendees that in the cultural and creative industries, women play a remarkable role. “Nonetheless, UNESCO's report titled "Gender and Creativity: progress on the precipice", launched in 2021, reveals that although the culture and entertainment sector are major employers of women, gender equality is a distant prospect. Wide gender imbalances in creative positions are still a significant challenge. For example, only 33% of film award recipients are women.”
Ms Sanchez-Vegas also added: “In Caribbean societies, the full realization of women's potential to participate in and meaningfully contribute to the culture, creativity and the arts is often hindered and compounded by intersecting factors that lead to inequality, exclusion and discrimination.”
Denise Antonio, UNDP Resident Representative, Jamaica, the Bahamas, Bermuda, Cayman Islands and Turks and Caicos Islands talked about the importance of this “Building Back Equal” Project in the lives of women in The Bahamas: “With females including young women accounting for an estimated 51.4% of the population and 63.23% of the labour force in 2020, their economic empowerment is without a doubt a catalyst and prerequisite for Bahamas sustainable development.”
“Tourism serves as the primary source of revenue and employment for women in The Bahamas and, since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, they have been disproportionately impacted by the economic downtown experienced. Therefore, this investment in women and youth economic development couldn’t be more timely as it will boost the government’s economic recovery and contribute to social development and contribute to reducing poverty levels.”
The agribusiness sector will also be supported, according to Dr Crispim Moreira, FAO Representative in Jamaica, the Bahamas and Belize. Dr Moreira said: “By supporting agribusinesses and those with the drive for Agri-perineurial pursuits to increase food production and processing, we aim to encourage the economic empowerment of women, youth, and persons with disabilities.”
“The FAO agribusiness incubator model to be used will help to improve the economic status of youth and women and empower those who face difficult livelihood conditions. Empowering women and ensuring gender equality is fundamental if our food and agriculture sector is to operate at full capacity to address the growing challenges we face today. Hence, the Agribusiness Incubator services will use technological tools and approaches to match business opportunities presented in the agri-food system.”
"Tourism serves as the primary source of revenue and employment for women in The Bahamas and, since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, they have been disproportionately impacted by the economic downtown experienced. Therefore, this investment in women and youth economic development couldn’t be more timely as it will boost the government’s economic recovery and contribute to social development and contribute to reducing poverty levels."- Denise E Antonio, UNDP Resident Representative