Category

Happenings

Category

Zain Bahrain, a leading telecommunications provider in Bahrian Kingdom is pleased to announce its ‘Women in Tech’ summer internship program for young inspired female university students starting July 1, 2019. Zain Bahrain ‘Women in Tech’ summer internship program comes under Zain’s Youth empowerment program as a key pillar in contributing to the society and Zain Bahrain goal of embedding a socially responsible culture through Zain operations in general. 

The training internship will help young female university students who are majored in a relevant technical field such as IT and network to discover their capabilities and identify their career path through exploring their true potential and understanding the dynamics of the corporate workplace in the technology divisions. In addition, the internship will provide coaching, career planning through real working exposure, International Productivity certificate and community services  

“The first step for identifying a career path is self-exploration, and internships are a great way for students to acquaint themselves with the field they are interested in. Zain Bahrain Women in Tech summer internship will allow young female students to work in their desired field and help them to feel confident in choosing a career in the technical field,” said Dana Bukhammas, Zain Bahrain Director Human Resources.

Zain Bahrain ‘Women in Tech” summer internship will start on July 1, 2019, and will last for two months until 29 August at Zain tower. For more information, please visit our website or Instagram account (@Zain.youth.bh).

 Zain Bahrain continues to create a unique platform to promote leadership and encourage young female university students to reach their career goals. 

Source: Startup MGNZ

The Human Rights Council this afternoon held a clustered interactive dialogue with Dubravka Šimonović, Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences, and Maria Grazia Giammarinaro, Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially women and children.

Ms. Šimonović said that her thematic report analysed 25 years of the mandate, the current challenges, and the way forward. The global context of women’s rights was marked by a rise in various women’s movements across the world which called for an end to gender-based violence against women and girls. At the same time, she said, there was a mounting backlash against women’s rights and a rise in retrogressive movements, confirming the endemic and widespread nature of violence against women and its normalization in all areas of public and private lives. The momentum linked to the upcoming Beijing+25 review and the five-year review of the Sustainable Development Goal 5 must be used to develop a new global system-wide approach to eliminate violence against women and girls and bridge implementation gaps between international and national policy levels, she said, before introducing reports on her visits to Canada and Nepal.

Ms. Giammarinaro stressed the importance of innovative and transformative models of social inclusion of victims and survivors of trafficking in persons and related challenges, and noted that the idea of having been trafficked was not an irreversible condition. The social inclusion of victims of trafficking was not solely the responsibility of civil society; it was deeply rooted in the human rights obligations of States, particularly due diligence standards and the right to an effective remedy for people subjected to human rights violations. Combatting stigma associated with trafficking had been identified as one of the major challenges across all continents, she said, and underlined the importance of the economic empowerment of survivors, which was paramount to their psychological well-being: it increased self-esteem and self-fulfilment, contributing to social recognition and inclusion. The Special Rapporteur then presented the report on her visit to Nigeria.

Canada, Nepal and Nigeria spoke as concerned countries. The Canadian Human Rights Commission addressed the Council in a video message.

In the ensuing interactive dialogue on violence against women and girls, many speakers noted the mounting opposition against women’s rights that was getting stronger by the day, and shared the concern about this global backlash against feminism, gender equality, and women’s and girls’ rights and empowerment, which contributed to an increase in gender-based violence against women and girls. Today, as many as 70 per cent of women worldwide had experienced violence in their lifetime, while 200 million women and girls had undergone some form of female genital mutilation or cutting; in the majority of cases, girls were cut before the age of five. This showed the necessity for future measures and efforts, speakers said, and welcomed the Special Rapporteur’s proposals that aimed to bridge the gap between the mechanisms with specific focus on violence against women to avoid fragmentation.

In the discussion on trafficking in persons, it was noted that modern slavery was one of the gravest criminal offences, with over 40 million victims and profits of $32 billion annually. The common fight must be accelerated to tackle not only the symptoms but the underlying causes such as lack of opportunities, abject poverty, or conflicts. There was strong support for the recommendations that called on States to ensure that victims of trafficking received comprehensive and long-term protection and support to enable them to integrate into society and lead fulfilling lives with dignity and respect. States should adopt a holistic strategy for the social inclusion of victims of trafficking, while international cooperation in crafting responses to multidimensional crises that many countries were dealing with at their borders, was of paramount importance.

Speaking in the discussion were the following States: European Union; Finland (on behalf of a group of countries); Uruguay (on behalf of a group of countries); Angola (on behalf of the African Group); Rwanda (on behalf of a group of countries); Russian Federation; UN-Women; Pakistan; Togo; Libya; Holy See; Liechtenstein; Australia; State of Palestine; Tunisia; Belarus; India; Lithuania; Croatia; United Arab Emirates; Burkina Faso; Israel; Uruguay; Algeria; Cuba; Italy; Thailand; Montenegro; Paraguay; Spain; Bahrain; Venezuela; Germany; Egypt; Sovereign Order of Malta.

Brazil spoke in right of reply.

The Human Rights Council will next meet at 9 a.m. on Friday, 28 June, when it will hold the second part of its annual full-day discussion on women’s rights, during which it will address the rights of older women and their economic empowerment. It will then conclude the interactive discussion on violence against women and on trafficking in persons, and start the interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteurs on extreme poverty and on internally displaced persons.

Clustered Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteurs on Violence against Women, its Causes and Consequences, and on Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children

Documentation

The Council has before it the Report of the Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences (A/HRC/41/42). (**Advance version **A/HRC/41/42).

The Council has before it an addendum **to the **Report of the Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences – visit to Canada **(A/HRC/41/42/Add.1). (Advance version **A/HRC/41/42/Add.1)

The Council has before it an addendum **to the **Report of the Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences – visit to Nepal **(A/HRC/41/42/Add.2). (Advance version **A/HRC/41/42/Add.2)

The Council has before it an addendum **to the **Report of the Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences – comments by Canada **(A/HRC/41/42/Add.3). (Advance version **A/HRC/41/42/Add.3)

The Council has before it the Report of the Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially women and children (A/HRC/41/46).

The Council has before it an addendum **to the **Report of the Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially women and children – visit to Nigeria (A/HRC/41/46/Add.1).

Presentation of Reports

DUBRAVKA ŠIMONOVIĆ, Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences, said that her thematic report analysed 25 years of the mandate, the current challenges, and the way forward. When the mandate had been established in 1994, violence against women had not been recognized as a human rights violation; today at the normative level, it was recognized as a human rights violation and a form of discrimination against women. The global context of women’s rights was marked by a rise in various women’s movements, such as #MeToo, #Ni Una Menos, and Break the Silence, and their various manifestations across the world, which called for an end to gender-based violence against women and girls. At the same time, the Special Rapporteur said, they were witnessing a mounting backlash against women’s rights and a rise in retrogressive movements, both confirming the endemic and widespread nature of violence against women and its normalization in all areas of public and private lives.

The report outlined the shortcomings and fragmentation of the current system and called for the development of a system-wide approach to eliminate violence against women, including through the institutionalization of the platform of international and regional independent mechanisms on women’s rights and violence against women, set up in 2017, and which had to date issued joint statements on several issues, including on the current pushback against women’s rights and on intimate partner violence against women as an essential factor in the determination of child custody. Ms. Šimonović emphasized that the momentum linked to the upcoming Beijing+25 review and the five-year review of the Sustainable Development Goal 5 must be used to develop a new global system-wide approach to eliminate violence against women and girls and bridge implementation gaps between international and national policy levels.

Turning to country reports, the Special Rapporteur commended an array of policy initiatives on violence against women at various levels of the Canadian Government, some of which represented good practices that could be replicated at the global level; she also raised concern about different levels of protection of women’s rights and protection gaps across the territory, and was particularly worried about the situation of indigenous women. In Nepal, Ms. Šimonović noted that regardless of the protection from violence against women in the Constitution, eliminating violence against women and girls and attaining gender equality remained elusive, due to patriarchal social norms and discriminatory harmful practices such as child marriage, witchcraft, and others. Of particular concern were violence against Dalit women and impunity for sexual violence against women and girls.

MARIA GRAZIA GIAMMARINARO, Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially women and children, stressing the importance of innovative and transformative models of social inclusion of victims and survivors of trafficking in persons and related challenges, said the idea of having been trafficked was not an irreversible condition. As it could be overcome, the label of “victim of trafficking” should be permanently removed. Social inclusion of victims of trafficking was not solely the responsibility of civil society; it was deeply rooted in the human rights obligations of States, particularly due diligence standards and the right to an effective remedy for people subjected to human rights violations. Combatting stigma associated with trafficking had been identified as one of the major challenges across all continents. It was extremely concerning that many countries had not yet implemented the international principle of non-punishment of trafficked persons for their involvement in unlawful activities to the extent that such involvement was a direct consequence of their situation as trafficked persons. Criminal records should be cleared to ensure that survivors could take back control of their lives.

Trafficked persons, whether returned to their country of origin or integrated into transit or destination countries, should feel safe to live an independent life. Access to long-term medical services and affordable accommodation was also essential for the physical and mental well-being of trafficked persons. For survivors, economic empowerment was paramount to their psychological well-being: it increased self-esteem and self-fulfilment, contributing to social recognition and inclusion. Civil society organizations had proven particularly creative in ensuring survivors’ economic empowerment. The private sector also had an important role to play in facilitating their integration.

Turning to her visit to Nigeria, the Special Rapporteur thanked the Government for its cooperation, and pointed out the remaining challenges. The prevention of trafficking in persons had been identified as one of the main priorities; the reintegration and rehabilitation of trafficked person had proven challenging, especially following returns from Libya and other countries; and civil society organizations had identified corruption, lack of confidence in the judicial system, and lack of training and specialized knowledge amongst law enforcement officials and members of the judiciary, inter alia, as issues of concern.

Statements by Concerned Countries

Canada, speaking as a concerned country, said it welcomed the Special Rapporteur’s recommendations, which it was carefully reviewing. Canada continued to invest in important initiatives and had taken steps that were reflected in many of the recommendations. New initiatives, like those in Canada’s National Housing Strategy, would help create or repair at least 7,000 shelter spaces for those fleeing family violence. In 2016, the Government had launched the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. Since its launch, Canada had taken steps to address early recommendations, including with respect to health support and victim services support, and establishing a commemoration fund. Canada welcomed the Inquiry’s final report earlier this month, the recommendations of which it was thoroughly reviewing. It would continue to work with indigenous partners in Canada to determine next steps and indigenous-led action that included the perspectives and full participation of indigenous women, girls, and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and two-spirit people. Canada remained committed to opening up its human rights performance to international scrutiny.

Canadian Human Rights Commission, in a video message, commended the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls for taking a broad human and indigenous rights-based approach to the causes and consequences of violence and discrimination against women and girls in the country. It expressed support for, and endorsed, the 231 Calls to Justice contained in the report. Many of the changes proposed would make Canadian society more just, not just for indigenous women and girls. Expressing optimism that Canada would take the recommendations made by the Special Rapporteur seriously and act on them, the Canadian Human Rights Commission assured that it would do its part and encourage everyone in Canada to do the same.

Nepal, speaking as a concerned country, said it appreciated the Special Rapporteur’s constructive engagement in the country, and took positive note of the important observations and recommendations that she had made. Nepal was party to all major international human rights instruments and had been sincerely implementing them. As a member of the Human Rights Council, Nepal’s commitment to the promotion and protection of all human rights was total and unwavering. As per the Constitution of Nepal, no woman shall be subjected to any form of violence or exploitation on any ground whatsoever; any such acts were punishable and the victim had the right to obtain compensation in accordance with the law. The empowerment of women was critical for promoting gender equality and effectively addressing violence against women. The Government had taken measures to eradicate all kinds of harmful practices. Intersectional issues of discrimination and violence based on vulnerabilities of various sections of society were also well addressed within the ambit of legal protection. Challenges related to violence against women in Nepal could and would be addressed. Nepal attached importance to the insights and expertise of the Special Rapporteur.

Nigeria, speaking as a concerned country, expressed its appreciation for the Special Rapporteur’s visit in 2018. Nigeria welcomed the report, which it considered to be comprehensive and reasonably balanced, and was committed to the legal and institutional frameworks to alleviate the suffering of the most vulnerable groups, particularly women, girls and children. The Government had never relented in its efforts to combat trafficking in persons. It had been collaborating with the global community towards ensuring that this menace was appropriately addressed and would continue to do so. Acknowledging the challenges posed by the negative perception and stigmatization of some victims of human trafficking, as mentioned by the Special Rapporteur, Nigeria reiterated its commitment to ensuring that its counter-trafficking operations were in tandem with its international and domestic human rights obligations, and said it would work in synergy with the global community to appropriately address and nip in the bud the menace of human trafficking.

Interactive Dialogue

In the ensuing dialogue on violence against women and girls, many speakers noted the mounting opposition against women’s rights that was getting stronger by the day, and shared the concern about this global backlash against feminism, gender equality, and women’s and girls’ rights and empowerment, which contributed to an increase in gender-based violence against women and girls. A speaker noted that extreme structural and institutionalized forms of gender inequality and targeted violence against women might constitute potential risk factors for mass atrocities, and in this context emphasized the importance of the links between the women, peace, and security agenda and the responsibility to protect.

Most delegations appreciated the focus in the report on the mandate’s challenges, which were also evident in the fact that today, as many as 70 per cent of women worldwide had experienced violence in their lifetime, while 200 million women and girls had undergone some form of female genital mutilation or cutting; in the majority of cases, girls were cut before the age of five. Those figures showed the necessity for future measures and efforts, they said, and supported the Special Rapporteur’s proposals that aimed to bridge the gap between the mechanisms with specific focus on violence against women to avoid fragmentation.

The Special Rapporteur was asked to provide concrete advice on how coordination between relevant United Nations actors and their cooperation with the monitoring mechanisms provided by regional instruments could be further enhanced, and to explain what could be done, in the context of Beijing+25, to highlight the links and interdependence between discrimination and violence against women.

In the discussion on trafficking in persons, a speaker stressed that modern slavery was one of the gravest criminal offences; it had over 40 million victims and generated a profit of $32 billion annually, and it effects were disastrous. The common fight must be accelerated to tackle not only the symptoms but the underlying causes such as lack of opportunities, abject poverty, or conflicts. There was strong support for the Special Rapporteur’s recommendations that called on States to ensure that victims of trafficking received comprehensive and long-term protection and support to enable them to integrate into society and lead fulfilling lives with dignity and respect. The social inclusion of the trafficked persons was not only about their empowerment but about their acceptance by families and society as a whole; in this process, enhancing their economic independence played a key role. States, therefore, should adopt a holistic strategy for the social inclusion of victims of trafficking. A speaker stressed the paramount importance of international cooperation in crafting responses to multi-dimensional crises that many countries were dealing with at their borders.

A number of questions were asked during the debate, including how to strengthen synergies between regional initiatives to fight human trafficking and international human rights mechanisms, and about best practices for adoption by States of viable long-term measures aimed at social inclusion when designing anti-trafficking policies.

Interim Remarks:

DUBRAVKA ŠIMONOVIĆ, Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences, expressed appreciation for the steps that Canada and Nepal had taken to implement her recommendations, and especially their referencing of other mechanisms for the elimination of violence against women, such as the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. It was exactly the kind of synergies that the Special Rapporteur was trying to emphasize, because different international human rights instruments were providing different layers of recommendations which were then to be implemented at the national levels. It was important to note that there were still States that had not ratified those international and regional human rights instruments, and this was a task that must be soon completed in order to close protection gaps in countries.

MARIA GRAZIA GIAMMARINARO, Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially women and children, on the question raised about good practices in the private sector, noted the example of Polaris which had entered into corporate partnerships with a number of companies in different sectors. In Ethiopia, a number of companies were cooperating with the International Organization for Migration, in the context of the mass-return of migrants, in order to create employment for some of the 200,000 returnees. As for the role of the private sector in their voluntary social compliance initiatives, the focus so far was on victim identification and detection in the supply chain and not so much on the destiny of the exploited workers, the Special Rapporteur said. The right to effective remedy to victims of crimes, including victims of trafficking, was a part of the human rights obligations of States, to the maximum of available resources. Long-term social inclusion of trafficked persons should be prioritised, especially when victim compensation was not possible.

Source: Relief Web

The president of the Fédération Internationale de Football Association, FIFA, Gianni Infantino has requested assurances from the Iranian Football Federation that women will be allowed to attend 2022 World Cup qualifiers.

According to the BBC Sport, Infantino who wrote to the Football federation also expresses his disappointment that Iran has gone back on its commitment to open up stadiums.

Last October, female fans were allowed into a match in Tehran for the first time following a 40-year ban.

In November, hundreds of women also attended an Asian Champions League final match which saw local team Persepolis lose to Japan’s Kashima Antlers.

But Infantino said in the letter it was “disappointing” to learn that fans were turned away from Iran’s friendly match with Syria on 6 June and that a number of fans were detained by authorities.

Writing to Iranian Football Federation president Medhi Taj, he said: “This is not in line with the commitments given to us in March 2018 by [Iran] President Rouhani when we were assured that important progress would be made on this matter soon.

“Whilst we are aware of the challenges and cultural sensitivities, we simply have to continue making progress here, not only because we owe it to women all over the world, but also because we have a responsibility to do so, under the most basic principles set out in the FIFA statutes.

“In the circumstances, I would be very grateful if you could inform FIFA, at your earliest convenience but no later than 15 July 2019, as to the concrete steps which both the FFIRI [Football Federation Islamic Republic of Iran] and the Iranian state authorities will now be taking in order to ensure that all Iranian and foreign women who wish to do so will be allowed to buy tickets and to attend the matches of the qualifiers for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022, which will start in September 2019.”

Infantino’s letter comes after FIFA admitted it was wrong to eject two fans from a Women’s World Cup match in France for wearing T-shirts calling for Iranian women to be let into stadiums.

FIFA said the message was “social, not political” so not against its rules and added it “will do its best to ensure similar situations do not occur at future matches”.

Source: BBC

Canada’s minister of gender equality has announced a new initiative aimed at creating a sustainable model to fund women’s rights organizations in developing countries and at home.

Maryam Monsef said the Equality Fund brings together 11 organizations from the philanthropic, non-profit and financial sectors, including the Canada-based Match International Women’s Fund, the African Women’s Development Fund and Oxfam Canada.

“This is the first time that we are seeing a collaboration of this kind to advance gender equality in Canada and around the world,” Monsef said after her announcement Sunday.

The federal government has invested $300 million through the fund specifically for women in the developing world, said Monsef, who is in Vancouver this week to attend the Women Deliver conference, which is expected to draw thousands of advocates for gender equality. The purpose of the fund is “to ensure that funding flows to those organizations on the ground who are doing great work on shoestring budgets,” she said.

The money would be doled out through various community groups and is meant to support a range of projects such as those tackling gender-based violence, bolstering economic security and advancing women in leadership positions.

“The whole point of the Equality Fund is to create a self-sustaining funding mechanism,” Monsef said of the perpetual model. “These dollars are going to grow.”

In addition to the federal contribution, the fund has already raised $100 million, with an aim to reach $1 billion over the next 15 years, Global Affairs Canada said in a release.

The government also pledged to match donations for domestic programs of up to $10 million each for three groups – Community Foundations of Canada, the Canadian Women’s Foundation and Grand Challenges Canada.

Grand Challenges would focus on supporting Indigenous women innovators and entrepreneurs while the women’s foundation would support Indigenous women in remote and northern regions, Monsef said.

She said the government will immediately start matching donations dollar for dollar.

Jess Tomlin, co-founder of the Equality Fund, said the Match International Women’s Fund, which she heads, is already partnered with 40 developing countries in regions including Africa, Southeast Asia, the Middle East and Latin America.

The Equality Fund is currently working to create new partnerships, she said.

The Match Fund invests directly in women leaders driving change at the local level, said Tomlin, who noted the fund supports a range of initiatives such as campaigns to fight child marriage and to encourage women to run in local elections.

“As the designers of the Equality Fund it was always instrumental for us that this not just be a global equation. We’ve done work to bring (on) domestic partners,” she said, adding the Community Foundations of Canada works in 191 Canadian communities, which would help the Equality Fund reach women through their local organizations.

Campaigners urge government to ban employers from forcing footwear on female staff

A group of Japanese women have submitted a petition to the government to protest against what they say is a de facto requirement for female staff to wear high heels at work.

The KuToo campaign – a play on words from the Japanese kutsu, meaning shoes, and kutsuu, meaning pain – was launched by the actor and freelance writer Yumi Ishikawa and quickly won support online.

Campaigners said wearing high heels was considered to be near-obligatory when job hunting or working at many Japanese companies.

Ishikawa told reporters after meeting labour ministry officials: “Today we submitted a petition calling for the introduction of laws banning employers from forcing women to wear heels as sexual discrimination or harassment.”

The actor explained how a government official had told her she “was a woman and sympathetic to our petition … and told us that this is the first time voices of this kind had reached the ministry”.

“It’s the first step forward,” Ishikawa added.

Ministry officials were not immediately available for comment.

The case underlines what some experts say is a deep-seated problem with misogyny in Japan. Last year, an MP from Japan’s governing party said women should have multiple children. Women who preferred to remain single would become a burden on the state later in life, added Kanji Kato.

A tweet by Ishikawa earlier this year, complaining about the requirement to wear high heels for a hotel job, went viral, prompting her to launch the campaign.

She said in response to the global anti-sexual-harassment #MeToo movement: “As I realised that so many people face the same problem, I decided to launch the campaign.”

Campaigners said the shoes were akin to modern foot-binding. Others also urged that dress codes such as the near-ubiquitous business suits for men be loosened in the Japanese workplace.

A similar petition against high heels at work was signed by more than 150,000 people in the UK in support of the receptionist Nicola Thorp, who was sent home from work for wearing flat shoes. She was told to go home by the City accountancy firm PwC on her first day as a temporary receptionist in May 2016 for refusing to wear 2-4in heels.

The case prompted an inquiry on workplace dress codes by a committee of MPs, which highlighted other cases in the UK where women were required to wear heels, even for jobs that included climbing ladders, carrying heavy luggage, carrying food and drink up and down stairs and walking long distances.

However, the government refused to change the law, claiming scope for redress already existed under the Equality Act 2010.

In 2015 the director of the Cannes film festival apologised over women being denied access to the red carpet for not wearing high heels. Cannes kept the dress code, despite a protest by the actor Julia Roberts, who went barefoot the next year.

In 2017, Canada’s British Columbia province banned companies from forcing female employees to wear high heels, saying the practice was dangerous and discriminatory.

Earlier this year, Norwegian Air was widely criticised for requiring female cabin crew to carry a doctor’s note if they wanted to wear flat shoes. Ingrid Hodnebo, a women’s spokesperson for the country’s Socialist Left party, accused the airline of being stuck in the “Mad Men universe from the 1950s and 60s”.

Source: The Guardian

In pursuit of gender equality in Africa, the president of Zambia, Edgar Lungu has said that his government will set up a Gender and Equity Commission that will address the many challenges facing women including gender inequalities.

The President said documents such as the National Gender Policy of 2014 and the Anti-Gender Based Violence Act number 1 of 2011 require further support to yield the required results.

He said there is also need for revolutionary thinking in tackling gender inequalities which have continued to overshadow the progress of women.

President Lungu said women are still facing a lot of social injustices such as lack of access to finances, fair justice and access to land among other issues. He was speaking when he officiated at this year’s International Women’s Day which is being celebrated under the theme: Think Equal, Build Smart, Innovate for Change. And Gender Minister Elizabeth Phiri has reaffirmed support to all women that are devoted to educating, empowering and mobilizing fellow women towards poverty Eradication.

And Mrs. Phiri has called on small-Scale women farmers to come together to close the gender divide in the agriculture sector. She was speaking during the First Women in Agriculture Conference 2019 Awards ceremony in Lusaka. She said President Edgar Lungu understands the importance of gender equality hence the appointment of a female Vice President Inonge Wina and others in positions of leadership.

Five women were awarded during the inaugural ceremony which included categories such as the overall woman farmer of the year by innovation volume, value addition and market share.

Other categories included the emerging farmer, poultry and livestock farmer among other awards.

Not long ago, in 2014, Latin America had four female presidents: Laura Chinchilla in Costa Rica, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner in Argentina, Dilma Rousseff in Brazil and Michelle Bachelet in Chile. Today, there are none, and leaders in the region are pushing for more women to secure top leadership positions so that gains in the political arena are not lost.

Three female Latin American leaders — Peruvian Vice President Mercedes Aráoz, Honduran Vice President Olga Alvarado and Bogota Councilwoman Angela Garzón — spoke on the issue Friday at Ana. G. Mendez University in Miami. They shared their experiences as women in politics and analyzed advances and setbacks of gender in leadership roles throughout international organizations, and national and local governments.

Though there are currently no female heads of state in Latin America, there are several vice presidents and there is an increase of women in parliamentary bodies.

“The empowerment of women must be permanent. It is everyone’s responsibility to achieve that true equity that our peoples are claiming, because that hope is required in Latin America and women have come to stay and mark a different story, bring hope,” Alvarado said.

Aráoz and Garzón highlighted the need for more women leaders so that gains in the political arena are not lost.

“There is a setback, but I think there is also a process of reform of political systems, because political systems exclude women a lot. There has also been a contamination by corruption issues. We have to work on a paradigmatic change in the political structures and in how the political parties participate so that they help train women in politics, representing society,” Aráoz said.

“Women should educate themselves as leaders, this is how we will avoid setbacks. Participation must continue to grow, we must continue to break paradigms,” Garzón added.

Over the past two decades there has been the implementation of policies in the region that has influenced a growing support and acceptance of women in leadership positions.

“Women entered national congresses thanks to gender quotas. Quotas have stimulated an increase of women’s participation in national leadership. I think there this is a good mechanism, although adjustments have to be done in order to get more participation and gender equality,” Aráoz said.

Aráoz explained that the region has developed laws and social policies to address vulnerable sectors of the population which include women. She sees an improvement in some areas but recognizes that the gender gap persists.

“Women’s progress still needs more mechanisms to sustain and expand female representation. There is still a significant gap in terms of salary and responsibilities. Today a woman has access to better jobs, but because there is inequality in the domestic front, in terms of housework and taking care of the children, now she has much more to do, like two jobs,”Aráoz said.

Garzón said there must be an increase in women’s role in politics and their success in seeking leadership positions at the highest levels.

“In Colombia, we have already many good laws. It is necessary to take action. Women are struggling to conquer and advance to achieve parity. In terms of laws, we have made progress, but moving from paper to reality is a challenge at this time”, said Garzón, who also aspires to the be the first female mayor of Bogota.

Garzón highlighted the importance of equal education for boys and girls as a way to transform the region.

“It worries how some girls in our region do not go to school, they are taught to do housework since they are very little. Empowerment starts from when you are a child, you must become familiar with concepts of respect and equality from a young age”, the councilwoman said.

Political Crisis in Venezuela

Aráoz said Venezuelan women play an important role in the struggle for democracy in their country.

“María Corina Machado and Lilian Tintori, are examples of very brave women. There are also many Venezuelan women leaders in our countries, leading movements and marches of Venezuelans. I believe that women have played an important role, many have seen their partners taken as prisoners and have taken the lead. That equates men and women in the struggle for freedom and democracy. It is a very great legacy that these women are going to leave to the future Venezuelan generations,” she said.

She reiterated Peru’s support for National Assembly President Juan Guaidó, an opposition leader who declared himself president of Venezuela in place of President Nicolas Maduro.

“We have recognized President Guaidó. We support him in his efforts to restore democracy in that country. In Venezuela there is a humanitarian catastrophe. In just one year, Peru received 600,000 Venezuelans escaping from a situation where there is hunger, lack of medicines and huge inflation,” Aráoz said.

“We support the restoration of true democracy. Not to a usurper as is the case of Mr. Maduro. He has made fraudulent elections, without observers, without clear mechanisms, ” she added.

Garzón also opted for the reestablishment of democracy in Venezuela.

“Colombia has received thousands and thousands of Venezuelans. We have been in solidarity with them and we will continue to be, but the first thing is to fight for the restoration of democracy in that country. We recognized Guaidó as the legitimate president in charge of Venezuela and we will continue to support him.

Source: UPI