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Latin America and the Caribbean must move towards a caring society that puts the sustainability of life and the planet at the center

A strong call to avoid setbacks in terms of gender equality and women’s autonomy in the current global crisis scenario and to move towards a caring society in the region, which puts the sustainability of human life and the planet at the center, international authorities and officials made today during the inauguration of the Extraordinary Meeting of the Presiding Officers of the Regional Conference on Women in Latin America and the Caribbean, which is being held in hybrid form at the headquarters of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (CEPAL) in Santiago, Chile.

In the event, which lasts two days and includes the participation of Ministers for Women and authorities of the Mechanisms for the Advancement of Women of the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean, as well as representatives of international organizations, academia and civil society, the preparations for the XV Regional Conference on Women in Latin America and the Caribbean, which will take place from November 7 to 11 in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and whose main theme will be precisely “The society of care : horizon for a sustainable recovery with gender equality”.

In the opening session of the meeting -which also celebrates the 45th anniversary of the Regional Gender Agenda- Raúl García-Buchaca, Deputy Executive Secretary for Administration and Analysis of Programs of ECLAC; María-Noel Vaeza, Regional Director for the Americas and the Caribbean of the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women); and Antonia Orellana, Minister of Women and Gender Equity of Chile, in her capacity as President of the Board of Directors of the Regional Conference on Women in Latin America and the Caribbean. Subsequently, Ana Güezmes, Director of the Division for Gender Affairs of ECLAC, presented the progress made in preparing the position paper for the XV Regional Conference.

Raúl García-Buchaca recalled that the crisis resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic “has deepened the structural knots of gender inequality and has limited the economic, physical and decision-making autonomy of women” in the region. For this reason, she highlighted the role that Chile -since the Presidency of the Conference Board- and Argentina -as host of the XV Conference- are currently playing in the formulation of gender equality policies from a feminist perspective, especially those aimed at build national care systems.

Latin America and the Caribbean is the only region in the world in which a Regional Gender Agenda has been promoted for 45 years, an instrument that serves as a guide for public policies, actions and decisions in our countries to promote gender equality and sustainable development, stressed the ECLAC representative.

“The theme of the XV Regional Conference on Women will be, precisely, how to move towards a caring society where time, work, resources and power are redistributed. Because a sustainable recovery with gender equality is urgent. We need to change the course of this configuration that has inequality at its base and adopt a different style of development that recognizes the interdependence between people and that puts the sustainability of human life and the planet at the center”, stated García-Buchaca .

María-Noel Vaeza, Regional Director for the Americas and the Caribbean of UN Women, along the same lines, stated: “Care is essential. If we don’t have care systems, we won’t have time to participate in politics or the economy, or at the negotiating tables, which is our right. We need the Academy, the private sector, civil society and, mainly, the political will of the States. We hope that this will be very present in the XV Regional Conference on Women”. In addition, he referred to the 45th Anniversary of the Regional Conference, highlighting the strength of this intergovernmental space for regional cooperation, noting: “I like to imagine a strong Regional Conference on Women, with vision and the firm determination to achieve objectives and results, as well as solutions so that the governments of our region can put women at the center”.

During her speech, Antonia Orellana, Minister of Women and Gender Equity of Chile, in her capacity as President of the Board of Directors of the Regional Conference on Women, highlighted “the valuable and committed work that has been carried out for 45 years to turn our Regional Gender Agenda into a reality that transforms women’s lives every day”. It is a tool that requires political and financial will for its fulfillment, she said and stressed: “If not, they are agreements that do not materialize.”

In the current challenging context, Minister Orellana added, “we identify a setback in the rights of women, their autonomy and their economic empowerment” in the region, for which “affirmative actions are required in the field of fiscal, labor and , productive, economic and social, that protect the rights of women achieved in the last decade, that avoid setbacks and that confront gender inequalities in a short, medium and long term scenario in a context of growing delegitimization of democracy and multilateralism as possibilities for solving day-to-day problems”.

Although ECLAC shows a recovery in labor participation in the region, it is very uneven. Only men will return to participation levels prior to the crisis, while women barely reach the labor participation registered in 2008 (49.1%).

As a result of the pandemic, the care workload of households – and especially of women – increased substantially. Even before the pandemic, women spent three times as much time as men, on average, on care work. The countries of the region that have measured the economic value of unpaid household work (10) indicate that this would represent between 15% and 27% of GDP, and that it is women who contribute close to 75% of this value .

The Regional Conference on Women in Latin America and the Caribbean is organized by ECLAC in coordination with UN Women. It is the main intergovernmental forum on women’s rights and gender equality in the region, and is convened every three years.

On Thursday 23, within the framework of the Extraordinary Meeting, a session will be held to commemorate 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, in 1977, and the Regional Gender Agenda.

The Regional Gender Agenda includes the commitments to women’s autonomy and rights that the governments of the region approved at the Regional Conferences on Women in Latin America and the Caribbean, and is also nourished by the capacity, strength and creativity of the women of the region and of women’s and feminist organizations.

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Written by Editor TLN

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