Women’s Affairs Ministers and authorities from mechanisms for women’s advancement in Latin America and the Caribbean advocated for incorporating a gender perspective into the policies for responding to the pandemic to tackle the multiple forms of violence and inequality that affect women, while also reaffirming their commitment to take all necessary measures to accelerate effective implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, and the Regional Gender Agenda in order to contribute to a transformative and sustainable recovery with gender equality.
The representatives participated from Tuesday, February 23 through Thursday, February 25 in the 60th Meeting of the Presiding Officers of the Regional Conference on Women in Latin America and the Caribbean, 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).
In the gathering’s resolutions, the authorities agreed to promote a Regional Partnership for the digitalization of women in Latin America and the Caribbean, led by Chile in its capacity as Chair of the Presiding Officers of the Regional Conference, with the goal of reducing gender gaps in information and communications technologies in terms of access, skills development and use by women and girls, and promoting women’s full participation in the digital economy.
Furthermore, the Regional Fund in Support of Women’s and Feminists Organizations and Movements was set in motion, with initial contributions from Mexico and UN Women, the agency that will be in charge of administering the fund.
Participating in the event’s closing session were Alicia Bárcena, ECLAC’s Executive Secretary; María-Noel Vaeza, UN Women’s Regional Director for the Americas and the Caribbean; Gladys Acosta Vargas, Chairperson of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW Committee); and Mónica Zalaquett, 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.
“As we have reaffirmed at this meeting, the full digital inclusion of women and the forging of a care society are indispensable for an egalitarian and sustainable recovery. To that end, we will be promoting, with Chile’s leadership, the Regional Partnership for the digitalization of women in Latin America and the Caribbean, which constitutes a decisive step forward. We highlight that Uruguay and Costa Rica are the first two countries to have expressed interest in forming part of this Partnership along with Chile,” Alicia Bárcena sustained. “We also take note of the request by Costa Rica’s Vice President, Epsy Campbell, to promote a Regional Compact for care, which should incorporate governments, businesses, social organizations and academia.”
According to Bárcena, “regional integration must play a key role in the strategies for emerging from this crisis and can be the basis for reorienting international trade towards a transformative recovery with gender equality and sustainability.”
“This is not an era of crisis, it is the crisis of an era. And it is an opportunity to build that inspiring future for all women, young women, adolescents and girls. It is urgently necessary to redistribute time, resources and power to move towards a new development pattern based on gender equality and sustainability,” she stressed.
Meanwhile, María-Noel Vaeza, from UN Women, pointed up “the important declaration adopted by the Ministers at this meeting, which demonstrates once again how Latin America and the Caribbean comes at the world, and global matters, with a very progressive consensus, which shows that progress is happening and we want more.”
“We are concerned about the underrepresentation of women in politics at both a national and local level, as well as in the committees for responding to the COVID-19 crisis, especially women who are indigenous, Afro-descendent, migrants, young people, women with disabilities, and those representing sexual diversity. It is urgently necessary to accelerate legislative and regulatory reforms and innovative policies and to allocate the resources needed to eradicate the structural barriers that underpin discrimination and gender inequalities. During these days of the Regional Consultation, Latin America and the Caribbean has reaffirmed a position at the vanguard, setting sights on a democratic, parity-based and inclusive horizon,” María-Noel Vaeza said.
In her remarks, Gladys Acosta Vargas recalled that “the mandate for complying with the CEDAW, a convention ratified by 189 countries, is not just for the Executive Branch, but also for the Legislative and Judicial Branches, and for non-state agents who have the same responsibility to respect the Convention.” She also anticipated that “we are preparing a General Recommendation on the rights of indigenous women and girls, where the contribution of Latin American and Caribbean countries will be fundamental.”
Chilean Minister Mónica Zalaquett underscored that “these days, the relevance of our Santiago Commitment has been reaffirmed, as it constitutes an essential instrument for promoting a transformative recovery with gender equality. It is indispensable that we urgently put our foot to the accelerator for its successful implementation. Equity can wait no longer.”
Prior to the closing session, Minister Zalaquett presented the declaration by Ministers and High-level Authorities of National Machineries for the Advancement of Women from Latin America and the Caribbean for the Sixty-fifth Session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), which will take place on March 15-26, 2021.
In the declaration, authorities propose, among other things, to “redouble efforts and commitment to make gender parity a State policy and to ensure women's equal access to decision-making positions in all branches and areas of the State, including the judiciary, and in national, subnational and local governments, through legislative and electoral initiatives and measures to ensure parity representation in all areas and levels of political power.”
In the agreements reached at the meeting, the Ministers also took the opportunity to congratulate Gladys Acosta Vargas, a Peruvian sociologist and lawyer, on her appointment as Chairperson of the CEDAW Committee from January 2021 to December 2024.
At the three-day meeting, the speakers included the Vice Presidents of Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador and Uruguay, the Foreign Ministers of Chile and Panama, Women’s Affairs Ministers and other authorities from mechanisms for women’s advancement, in addition to international officials and representatives of women’s and feminist organizations, Afro-descendent and indigenous women’s organizations and movements, and of civil society more generally.
In total, representatives from 34 Member States of ECLAC participated, along with 10 associate members, 16 agencies, funds and programs, 5 intergovernmental bodies and around 260 civil society organizations.
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