Today is the 101st observation of International Women’s Day, a time to shine the global spotlight on the economic, political and social achievements of women. From my perspective, although Caribbean women are still victims of sexism, machismo and other forms of discrimination—unfortunately as in every other region in the world—their successes have been remarkably profound. The right of a woman to education and political participation is hardly denied. A number of Caribbean women are parliamentarians and ministers; the current prime ministers of Jamaica and Trinidad & Tobago are female.
International media are beginning to notice. The Independent (UK), in a ranking of “The Best and Worst Place to Be a Woman,” announced that the Caribbean is the best place for women to be a journalist and that the region has the highest percentage of women—almost 60 percent—working in high-skilled jobs. The Bahamas is ranked the highest for economic participation and opportunity for women. This progress shows that more people are finally divorcing from their prejudices, stereotypes and misconceptions about the societal status of women. However, as we rejoice in this euphoria it is crucial to issue a clarion call for change in areas where basic female rights are still violated, the most glaring of which is reproductive health.
Women and girls must have access to all options of modern contraception to make informed and responsible decisions about the size of their families. But this is not so. Women and girls in the Caribbean are still marginalized and negatively impacted by antiquated laws such as Sections 56 and 57 of Trinidad & Tobago’s Offences Against the Person Act, which fail to account for their sexual and reproductive rights. When I asked on Twitter about which reproductive rights matter most to women in the Caribbean, one follower noted the “need [for] access to affordable, safe and legal abortions for the pregnant poor teenagers as well as the 'successful' married women.”
At the end of February, Americas Society released a white paper titled Political Representation & Social Inclusion: A Comparative Study of Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, and Guatemala as a part of its Social Inclusion Program.
The white paper aims to answer the question: Does the increased presence of Indigenous and Afro-descendant representatives in national legislatures make a difference for these populations? The report presents the findings and conclusions of Americas Society’s Ford Foundation-funded research on political inclusion, with a goal to help bring greater attention to the gains and challenges of race- and/or ethnicity-based political representation in Latin America. It analyzes how political representation of traditionally marginalized populations has changed over time, from 1986 to 2012, and if it has affected policy in favor of these populations.
The report draws on field research conducted in Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, and Guatemala—four countries with sizable Indigenous and/or Afro-descendant populations. The comparative report and individual country case studies explore the unique political and social movements and constitutional reforms that paved the way for greater ethnic or racial representation and their effectiveness in representing and defending their communities’ demands once in office. In total, 12 congressional sessions and two constituent assemblies between 1986 and 2012 are observed.
Access the full white paper: Political Representation & Social Inclusion: A Comparative Study of Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, and Guatemala.
At the end of February, Americas Society released a white paper titled Bringing Youth into Labor Markets: Public-Private Efforts amid Insecurity and Migration as a part of its Social Inclusion Program. This white paper presents the findings of Americas Society’s Ford Foundation-funded research on innovative practices that foster youth access to formal labor markets. The report highlights innovative private-sector programs that promote youth employment as well as public policy efforts to foster opportunities for young workers in El Salvador and Mexico—countries grappling with youth unemployment along with security and migration challenges. The focus is on initiatives that further skills training, entrepreneurship, and support for at-risk youth.
• Mechanisms should be established to subject private-sector led programs to rigorous evaluations with the goal of ensuring the continuity of successful initiatives.
• The private and public sectors should provide incentives, such as guaranteed internships/apprenticeships or education scholarships, for youth who study the skills that nationwide employment trend forecasts determine are in highest demand.
• Nationally recognized accreditation systems in technical and non-technical skills should be created so that young job-seekers and employers can verify employment preparedness.
• Employers must reverse the bias and discrimination that prevents the hiring of at-risk youth.
Access the full white paper: Bringing Youth into Labor Markets: Public-Private Efforts amid Insecurity and Migration.
A través del hemisferio occidental, activistas ciudadanos fuera del sector público luchan cotidianamente por los derechos humanos y una sociedad más justa e igual; en la comunidad maya guatemalteca, Aura Lolita Chávez es una lideresa que defiende los derechos de los pueblos mayas, y recién la entrevisté.
Ella fue nacida en Santa Cruz del Quiché—160 kilómetros al noroccidente de la capital guatemalteca. Lolita es la fundadora y coordinadora del Consejo de Pueblos K’ichés, una instancia integrada por lideres indígenas de distintas regiones del departamento de Quiché y que busca fomentar una mayor participación de los sectores marginados y discriminados de la sociedad guatemalteca.
Su constante lucha a favor de los pueblos indígenas le ha costado una serie de acciones en su contra como denuncias en el Ministerio Público y en otras instancias judiciales porque constantemente lucha por la defensa de la vida, madre naturaleza, la tierra y el territorio. También, propugna mensajes de lucha y resistencia ante las políticas estatales que marginan o relegan a los indígenas a posiciones no deseadas, una de sus fuertes luchas es contra la explotación y exploración minera y la mala utilización de los recursos naturales, también es conocida por la organización de protestas y el bloqueo de carreteras para que las autoridades atiendan las peticiones de los pueblos indígenas.
Entre sus principales metas está el lograr una mejor calidad de vida para los pueblos de Quiché—por ello en una actividad recientemente declaró que los pueblos indígenas están en contra de las mínimas regalías que las grandes empresas mineras dejan al Estado sin que las comunidades afectadas se vean beneficiadas. Por ello exclamó, “Decimos sí a la vida y no a las regalías, porque nuestra tierra no se vende, se recupera y se defiende.”
While most of the world knows about Brazil’s burgeoning economic strength, much fewer people are fully aware of the country’s multiethnic diversity. This celebration is on full display in the state of Bahia and its capital of Salvador: the nucleus of Afro-Brazilian culture. Here are some examples of Salvador’s unique qualities. All photos courtesy of Fafá Araújo. All captions courtesy of Paulo Rogério.
Peruvian Minister of Development and Social Inclusion Carolina Trivelli yesterday concluded a three-day visit to Washington DC during which she met with Under Secretary of State for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights Maria Otero, as well as other senior officials from the Departments of State, Education, Agriculture, and Health and Human Services. The purpose of Trivelli’s trip was to deepen the U.S.–Peru relationship on economic and social development issues.
According to State Department sources, Trivelli’s delegation discussed a range of topics including early childhood education, nutrition, women’s empowerment, and boosting social inclusion for Indigenous and other marginalized groups.
An early outcome of Trivelli’s U.S. visit was the announcement of a $1 million commitment by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) for a three-year pilot program on early childhood education. Since taking power in 2011, President Ollanta Humala’s government has stressed the need to accelerate and improve assistance to those still living in conditions of extreme poverty. As head of the government ministry charged with achieving poverty-reduction goals, Trivelli hopes to attract increased development assistance from bilateral aid agencies and multilateral donors alike.
Vanderbilt University's Latin American Public Opinion Project (LAPOP) released a new report yesterday on whether educational attainment, a key indicator of socioeconomic status, is related to skin color in Latin America and the Caribbean. "Pigmentocracy in the Americas: How is Educational Attainment Related to Skin Color?" is written by Edward Telles and Liza Steele, both at the Department of Sociology of Princeton University, and is part of LAPOP's AmericasBarometer series.
Based on data from LAPOP's 2010 AmericasBarometer, Telles and Steele's analysis concludes that people "with lighter skin color tend to have higher levels of schooling than those with dark skin color throughout the region, with few exceptions." The authors go on to say that "the negative relation between skin color and educational attainment occurs independently of class origin and other variables known to affect socioeconomic status."
For more analysis, read "The Effects of Skin Color in the Americas", an AQ Web Exclusive by the authors of this LAPOP report.
"Plaza Sésamo" reaches out to traditionally marginalized Nahuatl communities by broadcasting a full episode in the Nahuatl language. Here is a clip, used with permission from Sesame Workshop.
Learn more about opportunities and challenges for women in the CARICOM region, featuring Kerlin Charles from Grenada and Michelle Summer Williams from Guyana.
Después de las elecciones generales realizadas en Guatemala en septiembre del año pasado y de la toma de posesión de esa autoridades electas el mes pasado, se ha constatado que la inclusión de más mujeres en puestos de toma de decisiones sigue siendo un reto tanto para las autoridades y una de las demandas del movimiento de mujeres en este país, pues los datos muestran nuevamente un estancamiento en el tema.
Para Dora Amalia Taracena—de la organización Convergencia Cívico Político de Mujeres—un hecho histórico en el país es que por primera vez asumió una mujer como Vicepresidenta de la República, Roxana Baldetti, lo que se considera un avance innegable y digno de reconocer.
Taracena señaló que en el Congreso de la República la situación hasta este momento es la misma, pues en esta nueva legislatura se reporta la presencia de 19 diputadas de 158, al igual que a nivel de alcandías donde de 333 puestos, sólo siete son ocupados por mujeres.
La profesional indicó que a nivel de ministerios, de 14 sólo tres están dirigidos por mujeres: educación; desarrollo social; y ambiente y recursos naturales. Se está a la espera de la oficialización de las secretarías para saber cuántas mujeres serán incluidas.
June 1: This AQ-Efecto Naím segment looks at sustainable cities in the hemisphere.