The one-day forum, part of a series of activities of the 12 CWA provided a unique opportunity to raise the issue of the economic empowerment of women amongst policy-makers in the Region. The Forum was held under the theme `Expanding Economic Opportunities for Women in Agriculture in the Caribbean and the Pacific'. It was organized by the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA), the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA) and the United States Department of State.
Delivering the feature address at the opening of the Forum, the Hon. Jennifer Webster, Minister of Human Services and Social Security, Guyana, reiterated that the empowerment of women was a catalyst for development in every society, especially in the Caribbean. This was particularly so, she said, in the area of food and nutrition security.
Highlighting examples of the impact women in Guyana were making in the agriculture sector, the Minister said that prospects for women in agribusiness in both the Caribbean and the Pacific, were promising.
"The good news is that women in agribusiness are the `new sexy' in developmental circles," she said.
As she focused on efforts to empower women in the agriculture sector, Minister Webster called for the general support for and protection of women's right to securing food for their families, communities and countries, in light of natural disasters, social and economic challenges and other vulnerabilities.
Innovative ways to create new opportunities and expand existing ones had to be found, she said, while pointing to the power of networking and the establishment of linkages between agriculture and other industries to motivate women's involvement, increase economic gains and enjoy food and nutrition security.
"There is also a greater need for financial support for women in agribusiness. Micro credit has made it possible for many women to do business. We need to make access to financing for projects to be undertaken by our women more accessible through more competitive rates which could be negotiated through incentive regimes with the commercial banks. It is therefore necessary to expand and reorient training programmes, which target skills training development in these and other new areas of agribusiness. Similarly, as a matter of urgency, we need to address the issue of packaging and labeling our products, as we seek to compete in today's globalised world and in a highly competitive market place," the Minister told the well-attended Forum.
The Forum's objectives are discussion on economic opportunities for women in the Caribbean and Pacific; development of an Inter-Regional Action Plan for Caribbean-Pacific collaboration; development of a Caribbean Action Plan for Economic Empowerment of Women; and sensitizing the Alliance of Ministers of Agriculture and Pacific Ministerial delegations present at the CWA on the specific support needed for women's farmers and entrepreneurs.
Sessions included those on strengthening the image of farmers and farming, focusing on success stories; building business relationships to link to greater markets and stakeholders in tourism, supermarket and distributive trade; and promoting capacity building, networking and knowledge sharing.
The CWA is being held under the theme `Linking the Caribbean for Regional Food and Nutrition Security and Rural Development. Although activities began on 4 October, the Caribbean's premier agricultural event will be formally opened on Wednesday 9 October. CWA concludes on 12 October.