The Caribbean, a region known for its vibrant culture and rich tapestry of music, art, cuisine, and literature, continues to face pressing human rights concerns, particularly gender inequality. Despite ongoing efforts by activists, organisations and governments, gender disparities persist across various spheres, from education to socioeconomic opportunities. These disparities are further entrenched by social, political, and economic systems steeped in patriarchy and historical colonial experiences.

Recognising this, UNESCO has identified gender equality as a global priority and has intensified efforts to promote gender equality in the region through its different areas of competence including education, the sciences and culture. UNESCO aims to dismantle barriers, address negative gender norms, and celebrate women’s voices and contributions. However, inequalities continue to be pervasive, particularly in the creative and cultural industry sectors, both globally and in the Caribbean and Latin America.

The gender gap is most notable at the C-suite level: “...the industry often positions women as supporters of the system rather than active collaborators or creators...” asserts Lisabona Rahman, the founder of the Sinematik Gak Harus Toxic (Cinema does not Need to be Toxic) campaign in Indonesia, in the UNESCO 2021 report, “Gender & creativity: Progress on the Precipice, Special Edition.”1 In the Caribbean, the film and animation sectors exemplify this gender gap. More women work in production than directing or assistant directing, and leadership in the film industry remains predominantly male. Interestingly, the animation industry presents a different gender gap profile, tipping the scale in favor of women. However, the C-suite is still predominantly male.

The repercussions and social and economic fallout of not addressing the gender gap in the Caribbean and Latin America’s creative and cultural industries are significant. As part of UNESCO’s ongoing work into this issue, the special edition report previously mentioned highlights key findings and conclusions, underscoring the need for global, comprehensive, and robust data to monitor gender equality in the culture and creative sectors. 

The report calls for urgent policy interventions to promote gender-equal access to and governance of cultural and creative sectors. Furthermore, it emphasises the need for policies and measures dealing with safety and well-being in cultural industries, as those who identify as women or as gender diverse are much more likely to suffer from harassment, abuse, and a general lack of safety in cultural and creative workplaces.  The increased vulnerability of marginalised groups, including women, during moments of crisis, is also highlighted. Importantly, it calls for initiatives to support artists and creatives affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, to use an intersectional gender lens.

Key recommendations, including working towards global, robust, transparent, and comparable data that monitors gender equality in culture and creative sectors are also offered in the report, including  moving faster from research and data-gathering to policy design, implementation, and assessment, as well as strengthening communication and collaboration between state-funded cultural agencies, activists, civil society organisations, representatives of cultural professionals’ associations, and academics. Closing the digital gender divide that disproportionately affects women and working to promote gender equality in the digital cultural environment is also recommended. Additionally, the report noted that the shift to digital domains during COVID-19 lockdowns worsened the pre-existing gender inequalities in fields like art and music — due to disparities in access to the internet and digital tools. “The digital divide remains a pressing concern, with women disproportionately facing obstacles to access digital tools for artistic creation and distribution including digital music platforms, online tutorials, and sound-mixing software,” the report notes, adding that “worldwide, 250 million fewer women than men use the Internet”.

Despite women’s educational success, they face lower pay, lack of support, and other obstacles to career progression in this sector.  Reports highlight the need for policy measures to reach gender parity in the cultural and creative industries, addressing issues like the digital divide, workplace safety, and underrepresentation of women in leadership roles.  These challenges underscore the ongoing struggle for gender equality in the creative and cultural industries in the Caribbean, a region rich in culture and arts. 

These challenges are being addressed through the development of national gender policies in different Caribbean countries and efforts to bridge the digital divide, an important tool in levelling the playing field. The safety and well-being of all genders in the workplace are being further prioritised, including through legislative measures such as sexual harassment acts and changes to workplace standards, such as gender-sensitive language and intersectionality, both of which are being promoted. Artists and cultural organisations play a significant role in this transformation, using their platforms to promote gender equality, educate and raise awareness, advocate for policy changes, and support women artists. Men and boys are also included in the fight for gender equality and by creating safe spaces for all genders efforts towards the commitment to meaningful and sustainable gender equality change, in the region's creative sectors. 

Central to the success and sustainability of these initiatives and crucial for achieving SDG 5, is developing the capacity for gender-sensitive investing, which is essential for advancing gender equality and women’s empowerment in a sector that is woefully under resourced. This approach can effectively address barriers and challenges faced by women entrepreneurs, fostering their growth, and enhancing their decision-making capabilities. Youth-led research in The Bahamas, under the UNESCO Youth as Researchers initiative, pointed to the need of providing and adapting capacity development, networking, mentoring and financing opportunities to the specific needs of women and youth to enhance women entrepreneurship and empowerment.

The European Union (EU) and Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) have a long-standing partnership, based on shared values, history, and culture, as well as solid economic ties and common interests. This partnership is of geopolitical importance in today’s contested world and Caribbean culture plays a significant role in this strategic association. They are allies on many of the global challenges of our times, including sustainable development, climate change and protection of biodiversity, human rights, fair and free trade and of course, gender equality. 

Within this ongoing EU-LAC partnership and cooperation, addressing persistent gender inequalities in the creative and cultural industries and the need for transformative actions, is clear. It also highlights the significance of gender-responsive resilience building in the region, plurality and diverse cultural expressions, as enshrined in the 2005 Convention2. Central to the protection and promotion of the diversity of cultural expressions is a commitment to gender equality; however, this work continues to be at risk, as long as gender inequalities prevail. 

In conclusion, what is centrally important is sustained policy dialogue that brings together a variety of stakeholders in the design and implementation of innovative measures and comprehensive policies in the pursuit of meaningful and sustainable gender equality in culture and creative sectors across the Caribbean. Stakeholders and policy makers must continue to bridge the research-policy nexus by producing and sharing data, analysis and reflections, and exchanging effective policy practices. Awareness-raising must be constantly renewed and reiterated: progress cannot be assumed or guaranteed, particularly during moments of uncertainty and crisis.

1 UNESCO, & Conor. (2021). Gender & creativity: progress on the precipice, special edition. UNESCO 2022 Global Report: Re|Shaping Policies for Creativity: Addressing Culture as a Global Public Good.

2 2005 Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions. The Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions is an international treaty adopted in October 2005 in Paris during the 33rd session of the General Conference of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO). In response to the fears that globalisation would lead to an increasingly uniform global culture, it allows states to protect cultural diversity by promoting and defending their own cultural industries. It also establishes international co-operation to help protect the cultural industries of developing countries, including the creation of the International Fund for Cultural Diversity. It reaffirms many of the principles of the 2001 UNESCO Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity but, unlike that declaration, it is legally binding and requires legal ratification by member states. The convention is the first international treaty to give cultural goods a special status, having cultural as well as economic value.

 

 

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