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Women Seek Greater Economic Empowerment

A Chilean woman waves at camera. Photo by Flickr user andreasnilsson1976.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

In recent years, Latin America has made notable strides at addressing gender inequality and bringing women into the workforce. However, data shows there is much work still to be done. “In Latin America, women have achieved parity in access to education and healthcare, but have yet to attain political and economic parity,” writes AS/COA's President and CEO Susan Segal in an article for Americas Quarterly. Segal emphasizes in her op-ed that it is important for women to attain economic power to help ease poverty and put a stop to gender-based violence.

That issue of AQ takes a look at how far has the region progressed in gender equality, but also presents a varied analysis of the hurdles still in place. Beyond Equal Rights, an AQ article written by UN Women Executive Director and former Chilean President Michelle Bachelet, shows that although female labor participation is above 50 percent, adult women still experience an average unemployment rate of 6.3 percent, compared to 3.7 percent for men. As Bachelet says,“without the capacity to generate income, women face barriers to reaching higher levels of education, health care and autonomy to participate in politics.”

Latin America ranks as the most unequal in the world in terms of income distribution. A 2010 regional report by the United Nations Development Program ranked Chile as one of the six worst South American countries in terms of income distribution disparity. This negative ranking undoubtably regresses the development of women and minorities.

Although in terms of politics data shows women exert greater community participation than men, particularly in Chile and Argentina, this has not translated into full political empowerment across the region. According to the World Economic Forum, only 18 percent of the gap in political empowerment has closed. As Segal points out, it’s highly critical to address women’s empowerment at every level of society in order to make a lasting impact in Latin America. She adds,

“These changes will only be accomplished through education, training and mentorship in school and in the workplace…All this makes plain economic and political sense…The time for women’s empowerment has arrived.”

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