Civil society debates on progress and challenges for the political participation of women in Latin America and the Caribbean

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On Monday, February 22, the NGO Committee for the Juridical and Social Condition of Women in Latin America and the Caribbean held a meeting with representatives of different civil society organizations that discussed the progress and challenges for political participation of women in the region towards the 65 meeting of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), to be held in New York from March 15 to 26.

The debate brought together more than 150 representatives of women’s civil society organizations from across the region.

On the occasion, the different representatives of the participating countries discussed two specific topics:

How far have we women in Latin America and the Caribbean advanced in the field of political participation?

What are the challenges to achieve their full participation in spaces of public decision?

With an introduction by Mabel Bianco, president of the Foundation for the Study and Research of Women (FEIM) the presentations by Rocío Rosero Garcés, an Ecuadorian feminist, by Paola Yañez Inofuentes of the Network of Afro-Latin American, Afro-Caribbean and Diaspora Women; Tarcila Rivera from ECMIA.orgigualdad and Clyde Soto from Articulation Feminista Mercosur, contextualized the situation that is happening to women, Afro-descendants, indigenous people and the LGTIBQ community in the political sphere. The opening by the speakers was the starting point of the work in commission that they carried out, to be able to write a report that from civil society will be presented to the women ministers of the countries that will participate in the next meeting of the CSW.

According to the meeting, although Latin America and the Caribbean register advanced laws regarding parity, the data show that the participation of Afro-descendant, indigenous and disabled women in the lists of candidates continues to be low. Likewise, it was observed that the feminist agenda, diverse and intergenerational, is not taken into account to be included in State policies due to the persistence of patriarchy in the political culture that creates barriers to the full participation of women.

Some of the considerations expressed during the presentations and the subsequent debate indicate that:

“One of the negative effects of gender inequality is seen in political participation. Resources are unevenly distributed ”, Rocío Rosero

“In parity laws, the ethnic-racial perspective must be incorporated as an agenda item for all women in the region”, Paola Yañez Inofuentes.

“Indigenous women consider violence as one of the priority issues in the region to which we contribute with the dimension of collective rights, taking care not to be impeded by prejudices or barriers”, Tarcila Rivera.

“We are looking for a parity democracy not only in numbers but to define what we understand by democracy, what we want power to be like, how to consider the different levels of exclusion”, Clyde Soto.

“The feminist agenda has been created in the heat of social struggles. It is central to the progress towards a parity democracy ”, Rocío Rosero.

In this pandemic we see that inequalities have been increasing and migrant and refugee women have been excluded from all protection in most of the countries, participating in the event.

We must ensure that parity is intersectional, so that not only are the most privileged those who go to political positions, but there are racialized women, young people, LGBTIQ, etc., says a participant in the debate.

It is important to look at the structural barriers. The persistent sexual division of labor and the predominance of women in care work entail the need to raise the issue of access to public services, in them care, considers participant.

Violence and political harassment continue to be a risk for women with political participation, concludes one of the working groups.

This is how patriarchy operates, the more women participate in politics, the more they resist, says a discussion group.

How to support political training for women who decide to participate in politics, including the disabled and sexual diversity? Challenges for feminism in the region, adds discussion group.

Laws are not enough, it is important to influence and convince political parties and decision-makers about the fundamental participation of women, it is stated among the conclusions at the close of the debate.