Minister of Labour and Social Security, Hon. Derrick Kellier, has given the Government’s commitment to addressing the needs of women and senior citizens, whom, he said, are among the most vulnerable groups in the society. Addressing an event held on Thursday, March 7, on the grounds of the National Council for Senior Citizens (NCSC) in St. Andrew, Mr. Kellier hailed the country’s women and seniors for their significant contribution to national and economic development. He said that the Government remains steadfast in ensuring the care and independence of senior citizens, in keeping with the United Nations Principles for Older Persons. “We are also committed to preserving the rights of older persons through participation in the Organization of American States Convention on Human Rights of Older Persons, which is currently being negotiated among different countries through a working group,” the Minister stated. He noted that the administration continues to work to develop and implement programmes to facilitate the ageing process and in January this year, increased pension benefits under the National Insurance Scheme (NIS). “Useful support is also provided to seniors through the Programme for Advancement Through Health and Education (PATH), National Health Fund (NHF), and the Jamaica Drugs for the Elderly Programme (JADEP). Currently, there are over 50,000 PATH beneficiaries 60 years and over,” the Minister said. Minister Kellier also commended the leadership and work of the NCSC as it continues to develop programmes and outreach activities for seniors with an emphasis on active ageing. Thursday’s event came ahead of Friday’s (March 8) worldwide observation of International Women’s Day (IWD) under the theme: ‘The Gender Agenda: Gaining Momentum’. Mr. Kellier said senior citizens make up approximately 11 per cent of Jamaica’s population, with the majority of the number being females. In highlighting the significance of the theme for this year’s celebration, he said it is “really appropriate as we consider the progress made by women in Jamaica and worldwide, in their struggle for equality in the economic, political and social arenas, as well as human rights.” “As we celebrate, we are conscious that more needs to be done. In fact, this year’s International Women’s Day theme underscores the continuing challenge that must be undertaken and the momentum that must be gathered and maintained to push the agenda for women’s advancement and national development,” he stated. Wife of the Governor-General, Her Excellency the Most Hon. Lady Allen, said that women and the elderly have made invaluable contributions to nation building. She said that while progress has been made in terms of gender equality, the struggle still continues in a number of countries around the world. The celebration of IWD marks the increasing recognition of the struggles of women against all forms of discrimination and exploitation, and focuses on the need for equality, national liberation, democracy, peace and progress in all countries of the world. The day was first celebrated in Jamaica in March 1978.