Vice Presidents, Foreign Ministers, Women’s Affairs Ministers and other authorities, along with representatives of international organizations and civil society – particularly women’s and feminist organizations – highlighted today the contribution of the Regional Gender Agenda, forged over the last 45 years, to policies for gender equality and women’s autonomy in Latin America and the Caribbean and agreed on the need to move towards a care society, on the last day of the Special Meeting of the Presiding Officers of the Regional Conference on Women in Latin America and the Caribbean, held at ECLAC’s central headquarters in Santiago, Chile.
The two-day event – organized by the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) in coordination with the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women), using a hybrid format – had the aim of reviewing the preparations for the XV Regional Conference on Women in Latin America and the Caribbean, which is the main intergovernmental forum on women’s rights and gender equality in the region and which will meet in Argentina on November 7-11 under the theme of “The care society: horizon for a sustainable recovery with gender equality.”
The final day of this meeting featured a commemorative session marking the 45th anniversary of the First Regional Conference on the Integration of Women in the Economic and Social Development of Latin America, held in Havana, Cuba, and the beginning of the process to build the Regional Gender Agenda. The session was divided into two high-level panels, the first on the “Contribution of the Regional Gender Agenda to policies on gender equality and women’s autonomy in Latin America and the Caribbean” and the second on “Partnerships, achievements and challenges in advancing the Regional Gender Agenda.”
The panelists welcomed the progress made, recognized the contribution of women’s and feminist movements, reiterated the need to overcome the structural constraints of gender inequality and stressed the urgency of averting setbacks, quickening the move towards a development pattern that would put the sustainability of life at the center, and translating the commitments on gender equality and women’s economic, physical and political autonomy into concrete, measurable actions with adequate budgets.
The authorities emphasized that, after the first conference held in 1977 in Cuba, Latin America and the Caribbean became the only region in the world with a space where governments, the United Nations system and civil society could gather to promote an ambitious, deep and comprehensive Regional Gender Agenda.
They also pointed to numerous challenges for continuing to consolidate the Regional Gender Agenda and move towards a care society, especially at a time of multiple crises, when it is necessary to face the immediate impacts of the pandemic and the war in Ukraine, as well as the negative consequences of climate change and disasters that are disproportionately shouldered by women in all their diversity.
The Regional Gender Agenda encompasses the commitments to women’s autonomy and rights that the region’s governments have approved at the Regional Conferences on Women in Latin America and the Caribbean – which convene every three years – and it is also fueled by the capacity, strength and creativity of women in the region and of women’s and feminist organizations.
Antonia Orellana, Minister of Women’s Affairs and Gender Equity of Chile, in her capacity as Chair of the Presiding Officers of the Regional Conference on Women in Latin America and the Caribbean, praised the space for gathering and exchanging experiences that the Conference has meant for the region’s countries and what it has articulated in terms of standards. The Chilean official ratified the commitment of President Gabriel Boric’s government to “implementing a gender and feminist approach in all public policies,” and she sustained that “we are interested in making the issue of care a top priority. By putting the care society, care for life and for the planet at the center, we have the opportunity to re-legitimize democracy and broaden our notion of what the rule of law entails.”
Ana Güezmes, Director of ECLAC’s Division for Gender Affairs, explained that women’s autonomy is a central component of the Regional Gender Agenda and recalled that the next Conference’s core theme is focused on the care society. “We know it is not possible to achieve gender equality and women’s autonomy without a redistribution of time, power and resources. Women can wait no longer. It is not possible for us to continue shouldering the disproportionate amount of care work that falls to us,” she said, adding: “It is critical to reaffirm the State’s central role in the process of building a care society, through actions that have as their horizon the universalization of quality services, the coordination of cross-sectoral policies, financial sustainability and co-responsibility.”
Finally, María-Noel Vaeza, Regional Director for the Americas and the Caribbean of UN Women, stressed the value of this forum, saying: “We hope that at the Regional Conference on Women, the agenda for a care society is consolidated and that the Declaration includes a firm commitment to making progress on policies and comprehensive care systems, which are adequately assessed in terms of cost and have budgets.” She also reaffirmed her confidence in this intergovernmental space, adding that “we have borne witness on numerous occasions that with the steadfast and determined commitment of Women’s Affairs Ministries, as the lead entities of States, in coordination with civil society and with the support of United Nations System agencies, we can overcome the obstacles to achieving gender equality and put joint initiatives into place that would have a significant impact, with concrete results in women’s lives.”
Participating in the commemorative session were Antonia Urrejola, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Chile; Marta Lucía Ramírez, Vice President and Minister for Foreign Affairs of Colombia; Beatriz Argimón, Vice President of Uruguay (via video); Antonia Orellana, Minister of Women’s Affairs and Gender Equity of Chile; Elizabeth Gómez Alcorta, Minister for Women, Gender and Diversity of Argentina; Osmayda Hernández, Member of the National Secretariat of the Federation of Cuban Women; Alicia Bárcena, former Executive Secretary of ECLAC (online); Enrique V. Iglesias, former Executive Secretary of ECLAC (via video); and Nadine Gasman, President of the National Women’s Institute (INMUJERES) of Mexico (online).
They were joined by Adis King, Minister of Youth Development and Empowerment, Youth at Risk, Gender Affairs, Seniors' Security and Dominicans with Disabilities of Dominica; Dean Jonas, Minister of Social Transformation, Human Resource Development and the Blue Economy of Antigua and Barbuda (online); Diana Miloslavich, Minister of Women and Vulnerable Populations of Peru (online); Irene Montero, Minister of Equality of the Government of Spain (online); and Juan Carlos Holguín, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Human Mobility of Ecuador (via video).
Additional speakers included María-Noel Vaeza, Regional Director for the Americas and the Caribbean of UN Women; Gladys Acosta Vargas, Chair of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (via video); Alejandra Mora Mora, Executive Secretary of the Inter-American Commission of Women (CIM) of the Organization of American States (OAS) (online); Virginia Vargas, co-founder of the Flora Tristán Center of Peru; Ayesha Constable, founder of Young People for Action on Climate Change Jamaica (online); and Paola Yáñez, General Coordinator of the Network of Afro-Latin American, Afro-Caribbean and Diaspora Women, among other representatives.
The Special Meeting of the Presiding Officers drew the in-person and virtual participation of Women’s Affairs Ministers, high-level authorities from Mechanisms for Women’s Advancement and delegations from 32 Member States of ECLAC and three of its associate members, along with representatives from 16 agencies, funds and programs of the United Nations System, six Resident Coordinators and an official from the United Nations Development Coordination Office, as well as representatives from 15 intergovernmental organizations and 87 civil society organizations, in addition to two former Executive Secretaries of ECLAC: Alicia Bárcena and Enrique V. Iglesias.