Women Empowerment Time to 'Step It Up'

  

We can proudly claim that Colombia is one of the only 22 countries in the world that has ratified this convention that safeguards the labour rights of Domestic workers and brings them under the social security system. Workers now have the right to claim minimum wages set by the government, fixed working hours, access to healthcare and registration in the national social security system.

H.E. Mónica Lanzetta Mutis

Colombia's Ambassador to India

Speach

Every year when the International Women’s Day starts approaching, we are bombarded with several gifts all carrying a touch of pink to it, spa coupons, sale discounts, free drinks to name some. And one wonders, is this what the women demanded in the spring of 1908 when they took on the streets of New York? Certainly not, they demanded equality, safety and freedom. And this is what we have to keep reminding ourselves. I thank FICCI, FLO and The Diplomatist to provide this opportunity to evaluate our achievements and encourage each other to unlock the future ones.

Since 1908, we have come a long way. To fulfil the United Nations Goal of Planet 50-50 for the year 2030, we really have to ‘Step It Up’. We all know that women’s equal participation in all spheres is essential to the sustainable development of a country. Within this framework and our commitment to the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, Colombia is moving towards a more inclusive society for women.

I would like to start by saying that since 2011, Colombia’s National Development Plan that guides the country’s policies for growth and development contains a comprehensive chapter on Public National Policy of Gender Equality for Women. Consequently, over the years Colombia has passed important laws that have strengthened the position of women in the society, such as the land restitution bill that gives special protection to women affected by internal conflict, 30 percent quota for women in political representation and the law that guarantees equal wages to women and men.

Additionally, the government launched the National Program of Labour Practices with Gender Equity 2013-2016 with the aim to: Firstly, prevent discrimination and inequities in the work place based on gender; Secondly, reduce employment gaps between men and women, and gender occupational segregation; Thirdly, reduce informality concentrated in women, and Fourthly, promote social dialogue and create mechanisms for monitoring indicators of gender gaps in the labour market.

I would like to mention some of the initiatives that Colombia has taken to achieve these objectives.

In September 2015, my country signed the C-189 Convention of International Labour Organization. We can proudly claim that Colombia is one of the only 22 countries in the world that has ratified this convention that safeguards the labour rights of Domestic workers and brings them under the social security system. Workers now have the right to claim minimum wages set by the government, fixed working hours, access to healthcare and registration in the national social security system. Non compliance to any of these requirements brings legal implications to the employer. Given that 96 percent of domestic workers in Colombia are women, this ratification had a significant social impact.

Interesting concrete initiatives have been developed by the government in collaboration with the private sector, which is a major employer in Colombia. The Program Equipares, launched by the Ministry of Labor, is one such initiative. It is aimed to eliminate gender discrimination at workplace. Private companies are ranked and they receive certification from the government according to the number of women employees at all levels. Regular checks are conducted by government representatives to ensure the compliance to the practice. Such initiatives have started giving results. According to the report Women in Business and Management Gaining published by the ILO in 2015, Colombia is the second country in the world with the higher proportion of women in management jobs with a share of 53.1 percent.

The government is also taking affirmative steps to promote entrepreneurship among women at all levels in urban and rural areas. Programs such as Women Heads of Household, promotes women entrepreneurs of low-income group by providing training and credits for income generation and poverty alleviation. Other program called Expo-Empresarias, promotes micro-enterprises run by women that are competitive at national, regional and local market.

Having said that, we are aware that no matter how progressive the laws and programs are, their implementation poses a very important challenge. And in this respect, Colombia is not an exception. For example, the salary gap between male and female is 23 percent, which means women earn 23 percent less than their male counterpart for doing the same work, and the employment gap is of 21 percent despite the fact that Colombian women are more educated with better tertiary education record than men. These are some of the glass ceilings that are needed to be broken if we want to truly achieve an equitable society. In the Information and Technology sector, frequently biased against women, Colombia has initiated a program named ‘Geek Girl’ that funds Techenterprises run by women to encourage more participation in otherwise male dominated field.

In terms of political representation, in 2011, the law that stipulates all political parties to reserve 30 percent of the seats for women candidates in the election list was approved. Since its application, the participation of women at local and national level has been improving. In 2015, the percentage of women participation in local and national level elections went from 22.1 percent to 36.5 percent. There is no doubt that more participation of women in politics will result in more representation at the time of policymaking.

To conclude, reminding us all our individual and collective responsibility to never settle for anything that compromises our rights.

Thank you.

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