Making progress on women’s autonomy and gender equality in Latin America and the Caribbean is not just a matter of social justice – it is also an indispensable factor for the sustainable development of the region’s countries, ministers of women’s affairs, specialists and international officials emphasized today while participating in the fifty-seventh meeting of the Presiding Officers of the Regional Conference on Women in Latin America and the Caribbean, at ECLAC’s headquarters in Santiago, Chile.
The meeting, which will conclude on Tuesday, July 31, was inaugurated on Monday by Alicia Bárcena, the Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC); Mariella Mazzotti, Director of the National Women’s Institute (INMUJERES) of Uruguay, in her role as president of the Presiding Officers of the Conference; Isabel Plá, Chile’s Minister of Women and Gender Equity; and Silvia Rucks, Resident Coordinator of the United Nations System in Chile.
Along with recognizing the advances made on gender equality in recent years, Bárcena called for continuing on this path, especially considering the current global context, plagued by uncertainties on geopolitical, economic, trade-related, environmental and social matters – tensions that are already having an impact on the region, she said.
“The elusive economic autonomy of women will continue to be one of ECLAC’s priorities. This is about breaking the statistical silence with regard to women’s total work and with regard to the inequality of income, of wealth and of full access to the world of work with all rights. This is about breaking the glass ceiling once and for all,” the senior official sustained.
Bárcena asked countries to make steady progress on implementation of the Montevideo Strategy for Implementation of the Regional Gender Agenda within the Sustainable Development Framework by 2030, the road map approved in 2016 during the Thirteenth Regional Conference on Women in Latin America and the Caribbean, which will be evaluated at the Fourteenth Conference to be held in 2019 in Santiago, Chile.
“We are convinced that untying the critical knots of gender inequality that are addressed in the Montevideo Strategy is a question of justice and that we must urgently move from the culture of privilege to the culture of rights and of equality. The culture of privilege is expressed in prioritizing and valuing what is deemed masculine and it crystallizes and reproduces unequal power relations between men and women over time. It is manifested in unequal access to power and to resources and in the use of time,” she explained.
“At this meeting of the Presiding Officers,” Bárcena stressed, “we have to address these issues with responsibility and with foresight to see how, during the Conference in Chile, we can take proposals to governments, businesspeople and civil society and thereby ensure that gender equality will become the future that we all desire.”
During her speech, Mariella Mazzotti agreed that the challenge is to understand “that equality and freedom are not just about a problem that women experience, but rather a question of our countries’ sustainable development.” For this reason, she underscored, it is necessary to deepen the articulations and concrete linkages between economic policies, productive policies and policies on equality.
She added that “ECLAC and its gender units have played an enormous role in pressing our countries to develop policies that are ever more sustainable, cross-cutting and profound.”
In her remarks, Minister Isabel Plá affirmed that “Chile, and very particularly the government of President Sebastián Piñera, has not only ratified its commitment to the Montevideo Strategy, but we are also furthering a very challenging agenda because we have proposed to make significant leaps forward in the matter of gender equity.”
Plá conveyed the Chilean government’s satisfaction about hosting the next Regional Conference on Women in Latin America and the Caribbean, which she assured “has left a very important mark in the last 40 years” in the region.
In this framework, the Chilean Minister called for developing the Conference’s debates around three core ideas. The first, she said, is related to the need to have strong democracies, economic growth and societies that are respectful of human rights. The second, she added, is the conviction that gender equality, in addition to being an act of social justice, is one of the challenges of progress. And third, she noted, is the obligation to make the gender agenda cross-cutting in governments, private businesses, civil society, men and women.
Finally, Silvia Rucks, the Resident Coordinator of the United Nations System in Chile, highlighted the importance of having these spaces so that Latin American and Caribbean countries can expose the pending challenges on gender equality and advance in a united way.
During the meeting, a debate will be held about women’s autonomy in changing economic scenarios, bring together representatives of the executive and legislative branches of Antigua and Barbuda, Chile, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Peru, Saint Lucia, Suriname and Uruguay, among other countries.