The Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) called today for taking innovative and effective measures to guarantee the full exercise of Latin American and Caribbean women’s rights, at a time when societies in several of the region’s countries have risen up to demand an end to gender violence and to the inequalities that affect their well-being and quality of life.
On Monday, the United Nations regional body launched the document Equality and women’s autonomy in the sustainable development agenda, which will be discussed by the authorities, international officials and representatives of civil society attending the XIII Regional Conference on Women in Latin America and the Caribbean, due to be inaugurated tomorrow in Montevideo, Uruguay.
Over the last few decades, the region has recognized the importance of and the need for gender equality as a substantive element of democracy and justice, ECLAC highlights in the report, stressing that challenges remain with regard to the three spheres of women’s autonomy (physical, economic and in decision-making processes) and how they interrelate.
The Commission warns about critical issues such as violence against women, their overrepresentation in poor households, their insufficient own income, the excessive burden of unpaid domestic and care work, their difficulties in deciding freely about their sexual and reproductive lives, and their inadequate representation in powerful posts, to name a few.
“The new challenges facing Latin America and the Caribbean call for innovative and effective public policies that support and are supported by a gender equality architecture based on solid and interconnected institutions, as well as on clear gender mainstreaming and participation processes,” said Alicia Bárcena, ECLAC’s Executive Secretary. “Without gender equality, sustainable development is neither genuine development nor sustainable”.
Every day at least 12 Latin American and Caribbean women die on average, just because they are women. According to data from the Gender Equality Observatory for Latin America and the Caribbean (OIG), a total of 2,089 women were victims of femicide in 25 countries of the region around the year 2014.
Furthermore, whereas in 2002 there were 107 women for every 100 men living in poor households, by 2014 that figure had risen to 118 women. Paradoxically, poverty in the region fell during the same period from 43.9% to 28.2%.
According to the report, 29% of women do not have their own income (versus 12.5% of men) and 26% earn below the minimum wage (versus 18.3% of men). On the other extreme, just 7% of Latin American women receive income that is equal to or exceeds the equivalent of four minimum wages, a percentage that rises to 16% in the case of men.
For both men and women, the main source of income is wages and salaries, which corresponds to 54% of the total volume of personal income. For that reason, ECLAC reiterates that “the labour market is the master key to equality, since that is where the redistribution of income and rights occurs.”
In the region, 78.1% of women who are employed work in three sectors that are defined as being low in productivity (agriculture, commerce, and social, community and personal services), which implies lower pay, reduced social security coverage and less contact with technologies and innovation.
Despite the fact that the wage gap narrowed by 12.1 percentage points between 1990 and 2014, on average women are paid just 83.9% of what men receive. The greatest difference can be seen in the population with the highest education levels, the document underscores.
Meanwhile, women do between 71% and 86% of the total unpaid work that households require, depending on the country. What’s more, half of all women living in households where there are children under 7 years of age are outside the labor market.
The document released today by ECLAC proposes considering labor market instruments, such as the minimum wage and a shorter working day for men and women, in order to enable timewise the shared responsibility of care, while also analyzing the effects that implementing a universal basic income would have on gender equality.
With regard to the third dimension of autonomy, the regional body highlights that women’s presence in decision-making posts in the various branches of government does not surpass 30%: legislatures (29.9%), supreme courts (29.1%), town councils (27.3%), cabinet ministries (23.9%) and mayors’ offices (12.3%). In this sense, parity is set forth as a governing principle of democracy.
For the United Nations organization, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its 17 goals (SDGs)—approved by the international community in September 2015—“open up an important window of opportunity for strengthening women’s empowerment and autonomy.” It also calls for “repositioning gender equality plans as the backbone of medium- and long-term national strategies for sustainable development.”
The XIII Regional Conference on Women, which will be held through Friday, October 28 in Montevideo, is organized by ECLAC and the Uruguayan government, through its Foreign Relations Ministry and the National Institute for Women. The conference will include a series of thematic panels, roundtables and side events.
Women’s affairs ministers are expected to attend along with other senior authorities from countries such as Argentina, Barbados, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Jamaica, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay and Venezuela, among others.
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