Concluding there is Still Much Ground to Cover
Women all across Latin America and the Caribbean joined the recent global celebration of International Women’s Day in March for a day of reflection and commemoration, highlighting the huge strides made in the region towards ending gender discrimination and inequality. Nearly every country in Latin America has currently signed onto international or regional treaties whose focus is equality and non-discrimination. And all the countries have established institutions promoting equality of the sexes. Consider the examples of Bolivia and Dominican Republic: Bolivia’s new constitution outlines equal conditions between men and women, while it prohibits and penalizes those who discriminate simply based on gender. Women occupy 28% of Bolivia’s parliament seats and Pres. Evo Morales’ cabinet of 10 women and 10 men is indicative of his insistence on gender reform. One of the region’s most recent constitutional laws adopted in favor of gender equity was passed in Dominican Republic. It prohibits any moves undermining it as well as inviting the application of measures that will ultimately obliterate gender discrimination and inequality.
Yet, many a challenge remains to be met, particularly in the aspect of applying and enforcing the progressive, new laws and constitutional reforms that are being formulated in favor of women. Virginia Olivo, Head of the Venezuelan Observatory of the Human Rights of Women Coalition, pointed out that such enforcement “is hindered by the complex economic, social, cultural and political fabric of our societies, lack of funds and other resources, and the weakness of many of the institutions in charge of enforcing them.”
Despite the obstacles, progress marches on. A new study by the Inter-Parliamentary Union show that in the political arena, women in many parts of Latin America have made more progress than have women in the US or Canada over a similar time period. Latin America and Europe is above the world average for the amount of women serving in government.
According to the report, Cuba is in 4th place boasting 43.2%, Argentina in 11th place with 38.5% and Costa Rica at nearly 14%. There have been four women serving as Presidents in the countries of Argentina, Chile, Nicaragua and Panama, with President-elect Laura Chinchilla of Costa Rico becoming the fifth.
Inequality in pay is still one of the most highly perpetrated forms of injustice. A case in point is that of Brazil where women earn 30% less than men for the same work. Another is Chile, where women outnumber men in all areas of education and make up 42% of the work force, yet they earn too only 30% of what their male counterparts make.
Also, according to a report released by the United Nations Development Program me’s (UNDP) Regional Bureau for Latin America and the Caribbean, violence against women is the most “hidden” an “most invisible face “ of public insecurity in the region.
This was the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day. It was honored for the first time in 1911 in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland, where women championed their right to work, vote, be trained, hold public office and end discrimination.