Being a woman in Latin America has never been nor is it an easy task. As a woman, and as an Ecuadorian, I can say with certainty that women have a latent disadvantage in all areas of life, the result of a past marked by a patriarchal culture, which to this day continues to have an impact on our lives.Historically, women in Latin America have been marginalized, especially on issues of social, political, and economic importance.
But the last few decades have given us hope for gender equality.
Although we have not yet achieved complete equality, we have made tremendous progress. The fight for gender equality has been a struggle of much effort, patience, and above all passion. It gives me great joy and satisfaction to know that today there are many empowered, independent, and courageous women who have rejected the idea that simply because they are females they would never make it. In Latin America in particular, efforts to address violence against women, their access to education, their political participation, and their equality in the workplace are gaining wonderful momentum, as many of the countries in the region understand the need for cultural and social change to ensure respect for women’s rights. Our region has come together to demand such respect, and this step towards equality deserves recognition.
While the truth is, we have made progress; it must be said that this struggle is not yet over. There are still large gaps of inequality between men and women in the world and much remains to be done to achieve a world of equality and respect, a world where being a woman does not define your limits. Day by day, millions of women around the world still face great obstacles to defend their rights; they are victims of injustice, discrimination, and violence. The numbers and figures are a strong indicator that we still have a long way to go:
- At least 3529 women were killed in 2018 for gender reasons in 25 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean
- In Latin America, there are 124 women living in extreme poverty for every 100 men
- Women earn 17% less than men per hour worked even though they have increased their presence in the workforce
These figures represent a challenge in terms of sustainable development in the region. Women are a key element in creating a more sustainable and equitable world, as we have the potential to drive development in our countries, breaking cycles of poverty through economic empowerment, contributing to the well-being of our communities, and participating in decision-making processes. It is societies that need to change culturally and socially, ensuring that parity is part of the agenda of any community, business, organization, and government. The best way to promote equality between men and women is through educating our societies and encouraging women’s participation in all areas. Gender equality must continue to be a cross-cutting issue in the region’s development, since it is necessary to take advantage of and recognize the contribution of women in our Latin America and the Caribbean. In addition, measures to protect women must be strengthened by adopting and strengthening concrete legal tools that make respect for women’s rights a priority, and put an end to impunity for violence.
As the first Latin American woman and the fourth woman in the history of the United Nations to preside over the General Assembly, I became a clear example that women have the power to access leadership positions and participate in decision-making for the development of our region. I also managed to position gender equality as one of the seven key pillars to be addressed in the organization’s agenda, recognizing that the empowerment of women is fundamental to the transformation of our societies. It is truly a great honor to be able to break down barriers for future generations of Latin American women, and I am sure that if we continue to fight together, we will one day be able to ensure that we, our daughters, and future generations enjoy a world that is completely equitable for all.
Maria Fernanda Espinosa