“Island States are not homogeneous” – Adelsia Duarte, Cape Verde


Adelsia de Jesus Almeida Duarte is a Professor for gender and local development at the Cape Verdean Institute for Social and Legal Sciences in Praia, the capital of Cape Verde. Photo:UN Women/Annina Gonzenbach
Adelsia de Jesus Almeida Duarte is a gender and local development expert from Cape Verde. Photo: UN Women/Annina Gonzenbach

With a population of just over half a million, Cape Verde is an archipelago of 10 islands that lies off the western coast of Africa. Due to its semi-arid climate, the island state confronts frequent water shortage and erosion problems. Adelsia de Jesus Almeida Duarte is a Professor for gender and local development at the Cape Verdean Institute for Social and Legal Sciences in Praia, the capital of Cape Verde. A passionate advocate for women’s rights, she has worked with human rights and development NGOs, a network for survivors of gender-based violence, and now also works on gender issues for the Cape Verdean Institute for Gender Equity and Equality.

Adelsia speaks to UN Women about the specific challenges her country faces and what she expects from the upcoming SIDS conference.

Why do we need to make noise about the unique challenges that Small Island Developing States are facing?

We need to make noise to make sure that gender issues are properly framed at the next conference and that civil society institutions that work on gender issues are heard and taken into account. We need to make noise so that they realize that the island States are not homogeneous and that the development process must include men and women equally beyond the political sphere.

Have gender equality concerns been meaningfully addressed in SIDS Conferences and discussions so far? If not, how do we ensure they are this time?

I think not, gender issues have not been significantly addressed. Gender equality concerns will only be taken into account if civil society institutions, researchers and technicians who are specialized in gender issues of the respective countries are heard in the conference. They are the ones who know the specifics of the issue and those who deal directly with situations of inequality. The key recommendations made to countries in important reports such as CEDAW have also not been taken into account.

What specific gender and SIDS-related action is Cape Verde undertaking as it reviews progress towards the Beijing Platform?

Cape Verde is developing a set of actions with respect to Beijing+20:

  • Gender mainstreaming in rural areas, especially given the issues of climate change and food security for women;
  • The preparation of a second national plan of equality and gender equity;
  • The preparation of the second national plan to combat gender-based violence;
  • A mainstreaming of gender issues in various sectors, such as education, health, justice and police, through staff training;
  • Empowering women for their participation in politics through the same training;
  • The inclusion of gender concerns in water and sanitation issues.

What do you hope will be achieved at this SIDS conference in Samoa?

I hope that clear and enforceable measures that promote the development of SIDS will be defined. I also hope that the international community clearly establishes the goals set out in a commitment to transfer technological and economic resources to promote the training of human resources and consequently the development of countries. It is important that the process of decision-making might be as participatory as possible. Besides involving the governments of the different island States, it should give a special emphasis to civil society institutions that work on gender issues. We have to take into account the environmental and economic vulnerabilities these States confront and that these vulnerabilities have a greater impact on women.