Alicia Bárcena, the Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), received recognition for business excellence today from the Powerful Women Forbes Forum 2018 for her “tireless work against inequality and high levels of poverty, along with her crusade in favor of women’s economic empowerment.”
The award was bestowed by the editorial team of Forbes México during the Powerful Women Forbes Forum 2018, which is being held in Mexico City.
“We were looking for someone who could defend these initiatives (Forbes Declaration), we found someone who has never stopped promoting equality among men and women, and closing the gender gap (…) there was no better person to receive this award than Alicia Bárcena,” said Jonathán Torres, the editorial director of Forbes Latinoamérica.
During her talk entitled “The inefficiency of gender inequality: The role of women’s autonomy,” which she gave after receiving the award, ECLAC’s Executive Secretary indicated that equality is not just a necessary ethical principle but also an indispensable condition for achieving autonomy, recognition and dignity.
She said that equality has a focus on rights, meaning that it goes beyond the redistribution of income which promotes equity and considers other dimensions such as capacities, social protection and access to public goods.
The senior United Nations official called for “overcoming the culture of privilege, which naturalizes inequalities, discrimination and social hierarchies. We must move toward the culture of equality.”
In addition, she called for untangling the four critical knots that exist in terms of gender equality: socioeconomic inequality and the persistence of poverty in the framework of exclusionary growth; patriarchal, discriminatory and violent cultural patterns and the prevalence of the culture of privilege; the sexual division of labor and the unjust social organization of care; and the concentration of power and relations of sexual hierarchy in the public and private spheres.
“Empowerment is the key to emancipation and this can be achieved by defeating poverty and inequality,” Alicia Bárcena stated.
“Let’s undo the four knots, let’s overcome socioeconomic inequality so there is substantive equality, let’s break with patriarchal cultural patterns,” she added.
She recalled that Latin America and the Caribbean is the most unequal region of the world, where 20% of the population concentrates 60% of income while the poorest 20% of people has just 6% of total income.
She added that poverty has the face of a woman, noting that for every 100 poor men there are 108 female victims of the same scourge.
ECLAC’s most senior representative warned that although it is a region without war, Latin America and the Caribbean is marked by the violence of femicide, an extreme expression of inequalities and privileges.
She also pointed to teenage pregnancy rates in the region, where 20% of women had their first child at between 15 and 19 years of age due to a lack of access to sexual and reproductive health.
With regard to economic autonomy, Alicia Bárcena noted that 1 out of every 3 Latin American and Caribbean women does not have her own income.
“If in Latin America and the Caribbean we could close the gaps in income and labor market opportunities, we would have a rise in household income that would help reduce poverty by between 2 and 12 percentage points,” she stated.
The Powerful Women 2018 recognition of excellence seeks to highlight the work and ideas of female Mexican leaders who make their mark on the transformation of that country. Every June, for the last six years, Forbes has presented its list of the 100 Most Powerful Women in Mexico, which includes ECLAC’s Executive Secretary.