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Forum of CARICOM First Ladies and Spouses to move forward – Every Caribbean Woman, Every Caribbean Child Initiative

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A Forum of the Caribbean Community’s (CARICOM’s) Spouses of Heads of State and Government on the Every Caribbean Woman, Every Caribbean Child (ECWECC) initiative will be held on 16 February 2017, in Georgetown, Guyana. It kick-starts a two day programme, including a Technical Meeting  to hammer out the specifics on the  way forward for this initiative.The ECWECC initiative revolves around opportunities to improve the lives of women, children and adolescents. It focuses on four priority issues: teenage pregnancy; violence against women and children (including trafficking in persons); cervical cancer and mother to child transmission of HIV in the Caribbean.Guyana’s First Lady, Mrs Sandra Granger, said the initiative evolved out of the Every Woman, Every Girl (EWEG) Initiative of former United Nations Secretary-General Ban ki Moon which was launched in 2014. She explained that ECWECC took on board Caribbean realities, resulting in the four areas for priority intervention and the expanded focus to include the child, irrespective of gender.Those  realities include the Caribbean  having the second highest rate of teenage pregnancy in the world after sub-Saharan Africa, with an estimated  20 percent giving birth before the age of 19; cervical cancer (a vaccine-preventable disease) being the second leading cause of cancer deaths among Caribbean women  aged 15 to 49,   accounting for 13% of all cancer cases and 10.4% of all cancer deaths; and the high rate of  violence against women and girls, which also involved trafficking in persons.  Mrs. Granger informed that   such trafficking was not limited to prostitution but included slave labour.The Forum on the ECWECC initiative is expected to identify specific actions and interventions to address the underlying factors, gaps and challenges associated with the priority areas. In this process, it seeks to promote the synergies between national and regional agencies, programmes and policies; mobilise resources; and establish strategic partnerships for its interventions.Mrs. Granger identified partnerships as being one of the essential elements for a successful initiative. Referring to the forum, the First Lady said“… invitees include regional and international partners who have expressed a willingness to come on board to assist…, providing resources, both financial and intellectual to push it [the initiative] forward”.The Forum is funded by Gilead Sciences, Inc., and organized by the Office of the First Lady of Guyana in collaboration with the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Secretariat.  Its projected outputs include a summary report capturing the plans for the implementation of the initiative and  the establishment of the Caribbean Network of First Ladies.CARICOM Heads of Government endorsed the ECWECC initiative at their 37th Regular Meeting in 2016.  The Report of the Forum is expected to be presented to them at their 28th Inter-Sessional Meeting which is taking place in Georgetown on 16-17 February.

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