The economic crisis could increase unemployment among women in Latin America and the Caribbean in productive sectors such as commerce, the manufacturing industry (maquilas and textiles), financial services, tourism and domestic help services.
Inequality, informal employment and lack of social protection may also rise among women in lower income groups. This scenario requires, among other things, redefining fiscal pacts in order to ensure resources for public policies, and strengthening official development assistance, such as the provision of loans from multilateral financial institutions.
These were the main points raised by ECLAC during the Forty-second meeting of Presiding Officers of the Regional Conference on Women in Latin America and the Caribbean, held December 4-5 in Commission headquarters in Santiago, Chile.
The Regional Conference, a subsidiary body of ECLAC, gathers government officials responsible for gender issues and policies for monitoring gender equity in the region.
During two days, the Presiding Officers discussed the impact of the crisis on women and progress made in the establishment of an Observatory on Gender Equality for Latin America and the Caribbean, which will coordinate and collect gender studies and statistics in the region. The Observatory is to be officially launched on March 8, 2009.
The Presiding Officers also agreed on the contents and preparation for the Eleventh Regional Conference to take place in Brazil in 2010, and discussed the United Nations campaign to eliminate violence against women, as well as advances in reforming gender policies within the UN.
The delegates to the meeting reiterated their call on governments to follow through on their commitments with regard to official development assistance.
They also urged governments to further strengthen the regional integration process as an opportunity in light of the current crisis. Moreover, they called for greater efforts to prevent expenditure on social policies from plunging as a result of the crisis, particularly policies that foment gender equality, and to avoid the loss of paid jobs and the rise of non-paid domestic employment.
ECLAC expressed satisfaction for the increasing number of initiatives geared at developing national observatories linked to the regional Observatory on Gender Equality, such as those already underway in Brazil, Uruguay, Colombia and Mexico.
The Commission suggested that the next Regional Conference focus on new challenges: the economic empowerment of women for greater achievements in employment, agricultural work, possession of assets and access to finance under equal conditions.