Social Responsibility: Interpreting Facts on Gender Power Relations in Latin America

The 2014 United Nations Development Program’s (UNDP) Report on Human Development indicated that most Latin American countries remain in early developmental stages.

Even though progress in the region is visible, the majority of the population remains in the lower income brackets, and political corruption, as well as cultural and economic challenges severely diminish the possibilities for people to climb up the social ladder and generate sufficient income to support themselves and their families.

It is also no secret that Latin America functions under a male-dominated culture, evidenced by a recent report by UN Women which found many Latin American countries to have higher-than-average domestic violence. UN Women also reported that out of the 25 countries in the world with “high” or “very high” UN rankings for femicides, more than half are in The Americas.

This is not the only way in which women are affected by a culture of machismo, a different study carried out by the World Bank in 2012, gathered data which indicated that, in disadvantaged segments in Latin America, girls’ enrolment in primary and secondary school remains below that of boys. For example, in Guatemala the illiteracy rate among indigenous women is 60%.

The same report stated that women frequently work in traditionally “female sectors” with lower earnings, and that in the agricultural sector they often harvest smaller crops of lower value products that those harvested by men (Muñoz Boudet 2011).

A combination of low income, low employment opportunities, and gender inequality, leaves many women in the region with few opportunities to support themselves, and makes them vulnerable to enduring abuse in their households and in the workplace. When attempting to alleviate the gender inequality in Latin America, there is a clear need for women’s empowerment and independence in a culture that privileges men.

Scholars struggle with providing a definition of development that encompasses all aspects beneficial to a society, the uniqueness of each country and the disparities found among social classes are evidence that development is not exclusive to economic growth.

Factors like gender equality, life quality, access to basic resources, and wealth distribution are all relevant to the development of a country. Therefore, one of the main vehicles for development is providing women with opportunities to become independent from men, to have a disposable income and use their purchasing power to engage in their current economy and be able to provide for themselves and their families.

It is important to note that not all female artisans are victims of abuse or illiterate, but in a climate that is prone to the abuse and disadvantage of women, it is imperative that there are ways in which they can find opportunities to raise their standards of living.

Article continues on page 3 – beyond coffee and diamonds…