National mechanism for gender equality and the empowerment of women in Latin America and the Caribbean region
María Dolores Fernós
Since the 1990s, despite some setbacks, Latin American and Caribbean countries, have advanced in the process of setting up national mechanisms for the advancement of women and have managed to carve out a formal space in the state apparatus as part of the democratization process that has transpired in the region in the past few years. In the more developed countries in the region truly significant advances have been accomplished in recent years.
Crucial in this re-structuring of society have been the last four Regional Conferences on Women in Latin America and the Caribbean1 called upon by ECLAC between 1997 and 2007 that have provided a privileged space for the drafting of a regional agenda and for the generation of new knowledge, perspectives and strategies to meet the challenges of emerging issues.
National mechanisms have shown increased leadership in achieving the gender agenda. However, political will has been uneven and adequate resources generally lacking, which has limited its capacity development and the mechanisms’ efforts to impact a critical mass of support.
National mechanisms have emphasized the adoption of law reforms although there are evident efforts towards concrete practices and implementation strategies, capacity building, socialization of information, prevention and efforts towards the empowerment of women. Latin America has registered impressive gains and has been in the last decade the fastest growing region in terms of increase in the number of women in legislative positions.
The study examines the creation and development of new secondary mechanisms which have come to complement and support the efforts of the principal national machineries which have maintained their normative responsibilities of promoting public policies.
Factors such as state institutionality, respect for the rule of law, economic crisis and violent civil strife limit the effect that national mechanisms can have in transforming conditions and achieving cultural change. In some countries, there does not appear to be yet a clear understanding that gender equality is a matter of basic human rights and an essential element towards democratic development.