What Kind of State? What Kind of Equality? : The ECLAC Conference
FRIDAY FILE: With the presence of more than 700 delegates from 33 countries in the region, government authorities and civil society representatives, the eleventh session of the Regional Conference on Women in Latin America and the Caribbean took place in Brasilia, from July 13-16, 2010. (1)
By Gabriela De Cicco
“The Regional Conference on Women in Latin America and the Caribbean is a subsidiary body of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC)”, which has been convened on a regular basis since 1977, when the first conference was convened in Havana, Cuba.*
Every three years, the government ministers and authorities that oversee issues of equality; meet to identify and evaluate how their countries are doing; highlighting advances, analysing setbacks at the regional and international levels, and planning next steps for governments in order to reach gender equality in the region.
This conference on women’s rights, with its long historical tradition, is now one of the most important political meetings in Latin America and the Caribbean,making a regional dialogue and analysis possible.
What Kind of State? What Kind of Equality?
“What kind of State? What kind of equality?” was the theme of the eleventh Regional Conference. ECLAC presented a position document (2)examining “the achievements made in gender equality and the challenges still facing the Governments of the region in this regard, in light of the interplay between the State, the market and families, as the social institutions, laws,norms and customs, that together establish the conditions in which social and gender hierarchies are changed or perpetuated.”
The objective of the recent conference was to examine the regional achievements and challenges, with a particular focus on women’s autonomy and economic empowerment, based on the assessment of the main advances and challenges concerning the fulfilment of the commitments arising from the Fourth World Conference on Women (Beijing, 1995) and the regional conferences on women. (3)
Alicia Bárcena, Executive Secretary of ECLAC, in a presentation of a document of almost 100 pages, pointed out that in the same way: “we emphasize the importance of State responsibilities in this regard, the protection and achievement of human rights in an integral manner, by means of the articulation of social,political, economic and cultural rights, and the agreement of the executive,legislative and judicial powers for the design and implementation of universal public politics that assume intrinsically that the labour politics are indissolubly linked to the necessary mechanisms to transform the social reproduction of a collective work.
This also stresses the necessity to direct the politics towards conciliation between work and family life, and presents the State and society in partnership to strengthen the initiatives, so that women can overcome obstacles that impede the min accessing improved mobility and work trajectories without discrimination to fully exercise their rights as citizens.
In addition, this emphasizes the advances in economic and social rights, and the political prominence of women. At the same time if offers information that helps end the continuation or the emergence of new inequalities that, far from demonstrating lineal advances in the region,demonstrate a complex map which denotes the existence of intersecting inequalities between the economic, political and social development of women,evidence of the roadblocks and resistance to change.”
The Brasilia Consensus
15 years after the implementation of the Platform for Action of the Fourth World Conference on Women (Beijing, 1995) the “BrasiliaConsensus”, recognises the achievements and improvements that stand out:“the increased access to education by women and the attention given to health,the adoption of egalitarian laws for the construction and strengthening of mechanisms for the advancement of women, the design of plans and programmes for gender equality, the definition and development of national plans for equal opportunities, the endorsement and fulfilment of legislation to prevent all forms of violence against women, to sanction those who exercise and guarantee the human rights of women, the growing presence of women in decision making positions and measures directed towards the fight against poverty.”
Besides declaring these advances, the “Consensus” integrated more recent themes that had not been raised in this way in regional documents, such as those on femicide.
The “Consensus” also recognised those obstacles that limit or impede true gender equality and those that make evident the urgency and necessity to increase efforts in order to end all forms of violence against women. Amongst these obstacles the text highlights the “feminisation of poverty, the discrimination in the labour market, the sexual division of work, the lack of social protection and full access to education and health services, including sexual and reproductive health, unpaid domestic work, racial and/or ethnic discrimination, unilateral measures contrary to international law and the Charter of the United Nations, whose fundamental consequences fall on women, girls and adolescents.”
Agreements for Action
The Agreements for Action proposed in the “Brasilia Consensus” are the following eight:
-Realise actions that will make possible the attainment of greater economic autonomy and workplace equality. Amongst the proposals: "develop active labour market and productive employment policies to boost the female labour-market participation rate, the formalization of employment and women’s occupation of positions of power and decision-making, as well as to reduce unemployment rates, especially for Afro-descendent, indigenous and young women who suffer discrimination based on race, sex and sexual orientation, in order to ensure decent work for all women and guarantee equal pay for equal work;
-Enhance the citizenship of women, promote and strengthen State policies that ensure respect for and the protection and observance of all the human rights of women of all ages and walks of life as the substantive foundation for democratic processes;
-Broaden the participation of women in decision-making processes and the exercise of power and to increase and enhance opportunities for the equal participation of women in making and implementing policies in all spheres of public authority;
-Confront all forms of violence against women through the adoption of preventative and punitive measures as well as measures for protecting and caring for women that further the eradication of all forms of gender based violence, and to guarantee effective access to justice, and to free legal assistance for women;
-Facilitate women’s access to new technologies and promote egalitarian, democratic and non-discriminatory practices by the media;
-Promote conditions for the integral health and sexual and reproductive rights of women and guarantee the conditions and resources for the protection and exercise of these rights throughout the lifecycle and across population groups, free of all forms of discrimination, based on the integrated approach promoted in the programme of action of the International Conference on Population and Development;
-Carryout training and activities for exchanging and disseminating experiences with a view to the formulation of public policies based on the data collected by the Gender Equality Observatory for Latin America and the Caribbean;
-Promote international and regional cooperation for gender equality. (4)
During the Conference, two Resolution projects were presented, which were taken up in the“Brasilia Consensus”: one concerning the new UN Women entity, and the second, in Solidarity with the situation in Haiti and Chile after the earthquakes.
In regards to UN Women a point that was made was the importance that this new entity create clear mechanisms of significant civil society participation, particularly by women’s organisations, at all levels; to ensure the importance of funding by donors for the UN Women entity and to not cutback the funding of existing agencies within the UN or for civil society. Already in various spaces it has been affirmed that this agency should not absorb all the limited resources that exist, but that it must be a catalyst for new funds; resources that serve to support women’s movements and organisations in all regions.
A Chorus of Alert Voices
Various declarations were produced from previous forums at the eleventh Conference or from meetings related to the conference.
One of these is from the Forum of Feminist Organisations (Foro de Organizaciones Feministas), another from the Network ofAfro-Latin-American, Afro-Caribbean and Diaspora Women (Red de Mujeres afrolatino americanas,afrocaribeñas y de la Diáspora) and a Declaration of Indigenous Women (la Declaración de Mujeres Indígenas)
The participation of Indigenous and Afro-descendant women was very strong and vital; they made important contributions during the conference, and their lobbying work was key in influencing the “Brasilia Consensus”, that finally reflected clearly some of their demands.
To read about young feminist participation, see the open letter of “Reflections of young feminist at ECLAC” in Spanish.
*To produce this article, we based our information on the official website of the Conference, and the report and analysis conducted by the Gender Equality Observatory.
2- Document “What Kind of State? What Kind of Equality?”
3- Videos and presentations (in Spanish)
4- Report and analysis in Spanish of the conference by the Gender Equality Observatory (Observatoriode Género y Equidad)
Translated into English by Karen Murray