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07 de March de 2016Five challenges to achieve gender equality in Latin America
1img - Five challenges to achieve gender equality in Latin America

The participation of Latin American women in the economic and political life has increased but, in coming years, the region must put an end to gender violence and achieve equal pay  

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The gender roles that traditionally relegated women to the care of children and the home are changing in Latin America. As an example, in the past 20 years more than 70 million women joined the labor force in the region, helping, among other things, to significantly reduce poverty and promote the rise of the middle class.

In any case, gender inequalities persist: women earn less than men for the same jobs; their representation in public institutions is also lower; domestic violence ended the lives of 1,678 women in 2014; and women continue to suffer poverty, discrimination, and exploitation in a disproportionate manner.  

Gender equality does not only imply benefits for women and society, but also for the economy. It is estimated that if women had the same employment and entrepreneurship levels as men, the region's GDP could increase by 14 percent (if it equals the country with the best performance in the region).

Following are the five challenges faced by Latin America to achieve real equality between men and women:

  • Economic empowerment: women have a huge potential to energize the economies of the countries, but many times gender discrimination frustrates these expectations. Often women end up performing non-remunerated and unsafe jobs, and continue to hold less executive jobs in companies. In addition, their lower access to financial systems limits their participation in the economic life. In this front, it is important to promote the creation of more financial products to increase financial literacy among the population, and the creation of entrepreneurship programs to provide income independence. 

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  • More political representation: although the share of women in parliamentary seats in the region reaches 24 percent -the highest in the world- there are still cultural and economic barriers that prevent a higher representation of women in public positions. The representation of women in the national legislative increased from 15 percent in 2000 to 23 percent in 2012, but several countries of the region have very low percentages. In countries such as Brazil, Panama, and Barbados, women represent less than 10 percent of the total number of legislators. These figures show that women continue to lag with respect to their political representation and, more so, if the fact that women represent a majority of the region's population is taken into consideration.

 

  • Work and salary equality: despite great advances in past years, the economically active population is significantly lower for women compared with that of men (54 percent and 72 percent, respectively). In addition, men continue to earn more than women when doing the same job. Women tend to have jobs in the services or domestic services sectors and not in the areas of high technology or qualified jobs. In  Chile, Brazil, Mexico, and Peru, professional males may earn up to 25 percent more than females. To improve this scenario, it is necessary to have public policies that encourage the participation of women in the labor force, and the increase of women in decision-making positions in the private sector.  Tweet
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  • Mitigate gender violence: In 2014, more than 1,678 women died simply because they were women. A total of 20 Latin American and Caribbean countries currently have laws to protect women from violence, although only in eight of these countries specific resources are assigned in their national budgets. Fourteen countries have defined the crime of femicide, and two have established it as an aggravated homicide for gender reasons. Almost all the countries of the region have laws against domestic violence, and in coming years efforts should be aimed at applying these laws. 

 

  • Strengthening of institutions and legislation aimed at gender issues: It has been estimated that in the past fifty years, restrictions to the property rights of women, as well as the legal obstacles that prevented women to fully participate in public life, have been reduced by 50 percent. Laws are essential to achieve real equality between men and women. For example, they could require an increase in the gender quotas of electoral lists; provide stronger punishment for sexual harassment and gender violence; grant maternity leaves in accordance with labor reality; or guarantee the representation of women in public institutions.   
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