In Latin America and the Caribbean, UN Women works to foster women's rights and participation, with a particular focus on strengthening institutions to protect and promote these rights. In line with UN Women's corporate priorities, initiatives aim at reducing feminized poverty and enhancing women's economic security rights, ending violence against women, reversing the spread of HIV and AIDS, and advancing gender justice in democratic governance. UN Women also works with indigenous and afro-descendant women's networks in these four thematic areas.
In Bolivia, the Law of Popular Participation established participatory development of local development plans and vigilance committees as two of the main citizenship participation mechanisms at the local level. Supported by UN Women, the Instituto de Formación Femenina Integral (IFFI) of Cochabamba has mobilized and trained members of local women’s organizations to use these opportunities and bring a gender perspective into local public policies, specifically into the municipal budget. Gender-responsive budgeting examines how the allocation of public funds benefits women and men equally; UN Women has supported this approach in more than 40 countries. As a result of IFFI’s advocacy campaign, an article was introduced in the municipal budgetary guidelines, which obliges municipalities to allocate budgetary resources to programmes that promote gender equality and to provide services for women’s victims of violence.
In Mexico City, the burgeoning public transport system has gotten a facelift aimed at preventing violence against women in buses and subways. The Safe Travelling programme provides specialized security personnel in select locations, and dedicated women-only buses at certain hours, along with reserved entrances and compartments within subway cars. For the women in one of the world’s largest cities, these measures mean better access to education, health services and job markets.
In Ecuador, UN Women supported efforts to reform the ancestral indigenous justice system in Kichwa communities in the province of Imbabura, to better respond to cases of violence against women. A set of “Rules for a Good Coexistence” was created by indigenous women and is currently being used by the communities, with technical and financial support from UN Women. Following an invitation by the Secretariat of the National Plan to Combat Violence against Women, the indigenous women leaders presented their experience as a successful example of ways to curb gender-based violence in indigenous communities.
Through sub-regional workshops held in the Caribbean, which included representatives from Jamaica, Saint Lucia, Guyana, Bahamas, Belize, Antigua, British Virgin Islands, Turks and Caicos, Barbados, Grenada, Saint Vincent and Suriname, UNIFEM (now UN Women) assisted national AIDS commissions in mainstreaming gender in national AIDS policies. In training workshops, government officials consulted with gender experts and systematically reviewed the gender implications of their national AIDS strategies. They identified gaps and learned to design responses to promote women’s rights in the context of HIV and AIDS.
UN Women, UNAIDS and other UN and civil society partners are supporting the development of regional policy guidelines for the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Legal and Ethics Committee on the social protection of Caribbean sex workers’ rights. UNIFEM (now UN Women) supported a gender analysis of the Pan Caribbean Partnership’s Caribbean Strategic Framework on HIV and AIDS. The framework is an important regional instrument that shapes the development of national planning processes and informs the content of regional work supported by the Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.
In Barbados, UNIFEM (now UN Women) provided technical support to help develop the National Strategic Policy and Action Plan on HIV that was accepted by Parliament in 2008. The final policy incorporates strategic actions to support women’s empowerment in HIV and AIDS programming. In Ecuador, UNIFEM (now UN Women) seized an opportunity to support the Coalition of People Living with HIV and AIDS to establish an HIV-positive women’s commission to address their specific needs.
UNIFEM (now UN Women) supported sustained efforts in Ecuador to draft a more inclusive and democratic Constitution, responding to women’s demands on issues such as reproductive rights, protection from gender-based violence, and gender equality in electoral processes, the labour market and education. The mobilization paid off: 95 percent of the demands were included in the text of the 2008 Constitution.
In Peru, where rape was rampant during the internal armed conflict, women’s groups with UNIFEM’s (now UN Women) assistance persuaded the Truth and Reconciliation Commission to recognize rape as a systematic method of warfare and recommend that victims of sexual violence were entitled to reparations. Subsequently, UNIFEM (now UN Women) has supported efforts to ensure implementation of the Commission’s recommendations.
In Colombia, where internal conflict has caused an estimated two to three million people to flee their homes, UNIFEM (now UN Women) has collaborated with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees on a gender evaluation of the national policy on displaced people, and provided recommendations to the UN and the Government on ways to protect refugee women.
In Mexico, UNIFEM (now UN Women) has initiated a process for promoting legal reform according to the standards of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). With technical assistance from UNIFEM (now UN Women), legislation was passed in 2007 on women’s right to a life free from violence. The process of legal harmonization initiated in Mexico is intended to be replicated in other countries in Central America. UNIFEM (now UN Women) has also supported the calculation and publication of the Latin American Index of Fulfilled Commitment, a study of the implementation of national commitments to gender equality in 18 countries of the region, which gives women’s groups a baseline for advocacy.
When the Government of Haiti started to prepare the submission of its first report to the CEDAW Committee, a quarter-century after signing the Convention, UNFEM provided the Ministry of Gender with technical assistance. Based on lessons learned from other countries, UNIFEM (now UN Women) organized a CEDAW Mock Session with the Ministry of Gender delegation, to prepare it for presenting its report to the CEDAW Committee, resulting in improved understanding of the Convention and a greater sense of national ownership.