Lack of Resources for Women in Latin America, Says UNIFEM Director

By Dialogo
June 24, 2009

The regional program director for the Andean region of the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), Moni Pizani, considers that one of Latin America’s fundamental problems has been that “women have always been at a distance from money.” Pizani, who participated in the International Forum on Sexual and Reproductive Health in Madrid, explained in an interview with EFE that “in Latin America there is legislation that respects human rights, but resources are not devoted to guaranteeing those rights.” “There are countries in Latin America that have good laws, second-generation laws adjusted to the human-rights framework, but the facilities for getting services to women do not exist; there are no working systems of protection because there are no resources,” she said. Despite the fact that Latin America is the only region of the world in which there exists an international convention on gender-based violence, Pizani pointed out that “out of a hundred cases reported there, only ten make it to the courts.” This is the case, according to the UNIFEM representative, because the judicial system has also collapsed in this area, as a result of which there may be police reports filled, but in end the offenders are not punished. “If you don’t assign sufficient resources to keeping women from dying during pregnancy, what difference does it make having a law guaranteeing women’s lives?” she reflected. “Health-care workers have to be trained, and there also has to be a budget for the education of boys and girls from infancy.” Pizani explained that UNIFEM tries to influence national budgets so that they specifically cover women’s needs. In Latin America, she said, rates of maternal mortality are in the second rank behind the developed countries, but there are many differences between countries, given that Cuba, Argentina, or Chile have very low rates, but rates rise up in Bolivia or Ecuador. She also emphasized the need “to get men involved with the problem in order to combat gender-based violence.” “Last year there was a campaign in Venezuela specifically directed at men. Afterwards, an impact study was done, and the results were very encouraging,” she indicated. “For this reason the role of the communications media is also fundamental.” The UNIFEM representative insisted that the hard part is “changing cultural patterns, and these are not changed by decree, but rather by working to reconstruct them.” “Unfortunately, there is not a great deal of difference between the developed and the developing countries when it comes to the problem of violence against women,” she said. “What happens is that laws are introduced or modified, and you see a rise in cases because the violence becomes more visible.” “Gender-based violence is more visible and more penalized today, but there is not more of it than before,” she specified.