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A call for gender policies

"When we finance a development project, we want to instigate change. And this requires women. Women are important social agents and they add value to all development projects," said Ruth Cardoso at the IDB.

Ruth Cardoso, a former First Lady of Brazil and the current President of "Comunidade Solidaria" – a program that fights poverty and social exclusion in her country, examined progress to date on including gender policies in Latin America and the Caribbean. She noted that although almost everyone agrees on the importance of that goal, no one seems to know how to achieve it.

Working with gender issues means working toward a cultural change in the region, she added. Incorporating women into the workforce is neither simple nor quick, considering their traditional roles in society and their needs to establish a balance between their private lives and work, obtain reasonable salaries, and arrange for childcare.

We have to look at the labor market with a vision of social change through the incorporation of women, said the former first lady. But cultural change must be the basis upon which governments begin to adopt wide-ranging policies aimed at the inclusion of women, and that’s the challenge, she added. “This proclaims women’s equality in society over an inequality based on cultural patterns”, she said. “This isn’t a fight to improve women’s social status or even to implement policies that benefit women; these are policies that will bring development to our societies."

Cardoso said, “women’s fight for gender equality is deeply rooted in our society.” It is not an idea that was imposed on us by the world’s industrialized countries; on the contrary, Latin American countries are sending both short- and long-term proposals to international organizations of governments to address the issue and collaborate on integrating it into the region’s economic and social development.

Latin American women know that “they need to work for their independence and their participation in the economy and their communities,” Cardoso said at a seminar on gender equality, human development and economic growth, which took place at the Bank on June 4.

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