Women’s full participation in the strategies for emerging from the crisis that has stemmed from the COVID-19 pandemic, with emphasis on their digital inclusion and on the forging of a care society, is indispensable for an egalitarian and sustainable recovery in Latin America and the Caribbean, authorities and international officials agreed today during the inauguration of the 60th Meeting of the Presiding Officers of the Regional Conference on Women in Latin America and the Caribbean, which is taking place virtually through Thursday, February 25.
The meeting – which features the participation of the Vice Presidents of Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador and Uruguay, along with Foreign Ministers, Women’s Affairs Ministers and authorities from mechanisms for women’s advancement, among other representatives – is being organized by the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), which holds the Conference’s Secretariat, in coordination with the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women).
Speaking at the opening session were Alicia Bárcena, ECLAC’s Executive Secretary; María-Noel Vaeza, UN Women’s Regional Director for the Americas and the Caribbean; and Mónica Zalaquett, Minister of Women 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. The segment also featured the special participation of Chile’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Andrés Allamand.
Alicia Bárcena recalled that the COVID-19 pandemic has revealed the structural nature of gender inequalities in Latin America and the Caribbean as well as women’s heavy exposure to the effects of the crisis. In the health care sector alone, which is under intense pressure due to the pandemic, women represent 73.2% of all employed persons, with a salary gap of 23.7% versus men. “We must spearhead actions, policies and partnerships to protect the progress achieved on women’s rights, to avoid rollbacks, and to promote a transformative recovery with gender equality,” ECLAC’s Executive Secretary stated.
“To do so,” she added, “we must make urgent progress on three fronts simultaneously: strengthening the institutional framework on gender in the response to the pandemic, consolidating information systems on gender, and ensuring sufficient resources for equality policies.” She added that this strategy must consider digital inclusion and the forging of a care society to be essential foundations.
María-Noel Vaeza, Regional Director for the Americas and the Caribbean of UN Women, indicated that “only with women’s effective participation, both in politics as well as in the economy and the social sphere, will our region successfully leave this crisis behind,” and she highlighted the intergovernmental Regional Consultation prior to the 65th session of the Commission on the Juridical and Social Status of Women (CSW65) that will take place during this meeting. “Our region is going to offer a joint, modern voice, a voice that comes from Santiago, to say where women should be in order to achieve parity democracy,” she added.
In a similar vein, Minister Mónica Zalaquett sustained that “it is indispensable that all the initiatives and strategies for response, recovery and reactivation ensure the participation of women in all areas and at all levels and that they have a clear gender perspective.” She continued: “We have seen how each day, more countries in the region take this path, using their creativity, flexibility and resilience to propel the Regional Gender Agenda forward, despite the current adverse context: fiscal efforts aimed at women, legislative modifications to promote comprehensive care systems, campaigns for co-responsibility, strategies to reduce the digital gap, and the use of technological tools to make services to address violence against women more accessible, are only some of the examples.”
“Just over a year ago, the XIV Regional Conference on Women in Latin America and the Caribbean was held at ECLAC’s headquarters in Santiago, Chile. At that time, we were unable to grasp the magnitude of the challenges that we would have to face as a region and as a country. But even in that context, advancing on the concept of ‘women’s autonomy in changing economic scenarios’ and adopting the Santiago Commitment was very significant, and perhaps pioneering, as their conclusions are more relevant than ever. The Regional Conference and its Presiding Officers are platforms that allow for promoting coordination, regional cooperation and implementation of the agreements achieved with new verve and vigor,” the Foreign Affairs Minister of Chile, Andrés Allamand, emphasized.
During her remarks, Alicia Bárcena warned about the increase in poverty and the excessive burden of unpaid work on women. The crisis, she underscored, has produced a setback of more than a decade on the progress achieved in terms of women’s labor participation.
“It is urgently necessary to move towards a social redistribution of care tasks and to promote the care economy as a sector that can help drive a recovery with equality,” ECLAC’s highest authority sustained.
“To tackle the crisis while keeping equality and sustainability on the horizon, social, political and economic compacts are needed that would guarantee care as a right, include redistributive taxation, the provision of quality public goods and services, and increased investment with productive diversification based on a gender and intersectionality approach. And this is only possible through broad dialogues and partnerships, with full participation by women, that would allow us to move towards the effective implementation of the Regional Gender Agenda and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development,” she concluded.