By Cynthia Hui
The world has seen one of the most remarkable revolutions in the past few decades: female empowerment. When looking at women’s political, educational, and technological contributions it is hard to imagine their economic dependence on men just a century ago. Activists like Malala Yousafzai advance equal educational opportunities for females. Benevolent philanthropists like Priscilla Chan devote their time and money to the health sector. Finally, tech-savvy women like Melinda Gates reshape the gender dynamic in the technology field. All these women and others show the world that social change is real.
However, while change is happening in some places, it is not omnipresent. In 2017, YMUN delegates were grappling with the issues of gender equality and social progress.
Let’s Talk Politics.
Globalization made the world more connected. Enhanced communication led to friendly international competition in the quality of human life and equality of rights, which indirectly increased female participation in Latin America’s political sphere. Female involvement in legislation is an implicit index that allows countries to measure their progress in human rights and personal freedoms.
In UN Women, delegates representing Latin American countries expressed their satisfaction towards progress made in gender equality policy. Cuba said that, “Because of the quota and laws, the Cuban government has a lot of women in employment.” However, while there seems to be improvement, delegates also argued that much of the progress made remains superficial. When asked why the changes targeting gender inequality were made, the Cuban delegate shrugged and said, “It looks good for Cuba.”
In Latin America, where patriarchy is still omnipresent, especially for the older generation, and where organized religion promotes the status quo, feministic ideals are often resisted and silenced. The social and cultural climate suffocates governmental efforts like setting quotas for different genders to push for greater equality.
In discussing the future of democracy in Brazil following president Dilma Rousseff’s impeachment, the debate in the Advisory Panel on UNIÃO Reform became heated when delegates attributed Rousseff’s political failure to her opposing opinions and gender. There has been speculation among both supporters and opponents of Rousseff that she has been used as a scapegoat because of her being a female. In UNIÃO, Luiz de Inácio Lula da Silva argued that “they don’t like her because she’s a woman.” In agreement, Otaviano Alves de Lima said that it is difficult for women to enter politics as “men typically don't like strong women.”
But Mom, What IS a Woman?
There are still whispers in the Organization of American States (OAS) Colombia's gender identity cleansing policy and the 312 transgender deaths in Brazil in 2013. Latin American countries face scrutiny from the international community over LGBTQ+ rights issues and have newly-developed laws and systems to protect these rights. Women may suffer from some gender inequality in these nations, but transgender women are ostracized. The church has resisted any progress in transgender women’s rights.
The exclusion that transgender women face is elucidated on various different levels. The delegate of Canada aptly said that “transgender women in Latin America face social exclusion on two levels: informational and institutional erasure.” The international community is ignorant of the full extent of harassment that transgender women face as their gender identity is not recognized by conservative Latin Americans.
OAS delegates proposed creating a database to gather necessary data that does not misrepresent people’s preferred identity to bridge the current information gap. Educating the public could help it acknowledge the spectrum of gender identities, and especially transgender females.
Canada’s further elaboration, “gender inequality is further emphasized by the fact that the police would wrongly identify transgender women as gay men,” illustrated the weak foundations of the social perception that wraps around gender identification, contributing to the seemingly permanent status of gender inequality.
Rihanna Says, “Work.”
A woman's ability to give birth does not prevent her from working. Although females are increasingly accepted into the community of breadwinners of Latin America, the gender wage gap is an indicator of the gender inequality still rampant in those countries. YMUN’s Social, Humanitarian and Cultural Committee also explored the current status of females in the workplace and potential solutions for existing issues.
Most Latin American delegates in the moderated caucuses discussed reproductive rights in the workplace. These opinions presented an optimistic account of their own countries’ treatment towards working pregnant women. Venezuela claimed that the majority of Latin American countries offer a three to four month maternity leave, as enumerated in law. In discussing why the barriers for female employment in stable and well-paid jobs are still extremely high, Venezuela attributed the issue to poor enforcement of existing legislation.
The delegate of Venezuela said that “the police is simply unable and unwilling to enforce what we wrote in black and white, and this directly stems from lack of educational infrastructures and awareness of women's rights.”
Gender inequality constituted a large part of the discussion in YMUN and delegates collaborated and debated to find the best solutions to the global problem. These solutions included: establishing educational infrastructures, increasing NGO involvement, and improving health facilities. The applause following the resolutions presented in UN Women, SOCHUM, OAS was a reminder of the optimism and motivation that is needed to face these global issues. With enlightening discussions today, YMUN sets the right tone for gender equality tomorrow.