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Remove barriers for every individual to end gender inequity, says first female head of Rotary International

Rotary International president Jennifer Jones meets with King Charles ( )
Rotary International president Jennifer Jones meets with King Charles ( )

The first female Rotary International president in the organisations’s 117 year history said a number of barriers remain for women in the workplace, particularly for those who could not work during the Covid pandemic.

“The pandemic has exacerbated, unfortunately, the crisis for families, particularly women who were not able to work during the pandemic. It is a critical time right now for us to understand how we can raise children together jointly,” said Jennifer Jones.

“But there are a lot of single mums as well that are struggling and struggling to find employment and take care of their families at the same time.

She said that a “fundamental part of achieving gender balance” is to create dialogue.

Ms Jones spoke while on a five day visit to London which included attending the Commonwealth service at Westminster Abbey and speaking with King Charles.

She said opportunities are opening up for women in roles that were once traditionally male-dominated but we need to create dialogue and provide space in order to achieve gender balance.

Jennifer Jones speaking at the House of Commons about Rotary's campaign to eradicate polio (© Rotary International)
Jennifer Jones speaking at the House of Commons about Rotary's campaign to eradicate polio (© Rotary International)

“When we speak openly about our goals, it provides space to educate those around us to the opportunities and sometimes the challenges that we face in creating equal space,” she said.

She also spoke at a panel briefing at the House of Common on Rotary’s work towards eradicating polio.

Ms Jones is the first female head since the global network for advancing world peace was founded in 1905.

Last year, the United Nations think tank published a report, which highlighted that its goal to reach gender parity would not be reached by the end of 2030.

The report launched by the UN Women and the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN DESA) further highlighted the economic disparity between men and women, with the latter losing approximately USD 800 billion in income in 2020 due to the Covid pandemic.

It reported a downward trend, as women participated less in labour markets in 2022 than in 2021.

But Ms Jones added that as roles shift, we are “looking towards creating inclusion and equity”.

Earlier this week, Chancellor Jeremy Hunt’s proposals were commended as he announced a major uptick in state-funded childcare in a bid to remove barriers for women seeking employment, as many households in England could receive up to 30 hours of free childcare for children as young as nine months, from September 2024.

Jennifer Jones with two London members of Rotary at the Commonwealth Service at Westminster Abbey (© Rotary International)
Jennifer Jones with two London members of Rotary at the Commonwealth Service at Westminster Abbey (© Rotary International)

Commenting on the Commonwealth Service at Westminister Abbey earlier this week, the member of the Rotary Club of Windsor-Roseland, Ontario, Canada spoke of the need to “speak about and recognise” injustices rather than to “erase them”

“If we don’t erase them, we can acknowledge them and we can learn from them and that’s how we become better people.

“If we don’t gather together collectively to be able to talk about it and and establish ways to move forward and acknowledge and reconcile some of these things then I think we do more harm than good,” she told The Standard.

She was speaking a day after King Charles made his Commonwealth speech, against anti-monarchist protests.

Last year, Canada’s federal government rejected proposals from the country’s separatist party to severe ties with the Commonwealth, as injustices linked to the British monarchy towards its indigenous community stirred sentiments that it should break away from the club.

She said that one of the most pressing issues of our time was climate change, which was also highlighted in the King’s Commonwealth Speech.

“Climate change created quite a lot of political angst with some people. It’s hard to turn away right now from understanding what our world is seeing.

“Climate oriented disasters are happening at a more rapid and deeper pace.”

Rotary International has more than 46, 000 network of clubs around the world, working to tackle issues around poverty and diseases such as polio.