International Women’s Day

I hope the day will come when we don’t need an International Women’s Day

International Women’s Day

I hope the day will come when we don’t need an International Women’s Day

Interview with María Cecilia López Collazo, General Coordinator, Catholic Workers’ Circle of the Uruguay Mutual Fund (Círculo Católico de Obreros del Uruguay Mutualista), Uruguay, in connection with International Women’s Day on 8 March 2024.

María Cecilia López Collazo

In your view what are the most important barriers to gender equality today?

The barriers that need to be tackled urgently include the lack of financial opportunity and poverty affecting women and girls in particular; growing violence against women and girls from within the family; inadequate access to education or a lack of opportunities when accessing education, health care and the job market; and the excessive burden on women taking on care responsibilities. Then there are other issues including the lack of women in leadership positions, the barrier of wage inequality and discrimination in the recruitment of women.

The lack of legislation to protect girls and women, and to promote gender equality, is completely unacceptable. Child marriage and female mutilation are practices that violate the rights of girls and women. Personally, these practices leave me feeling distressed and powerless. We need to address the main barrier: the persistence of social and cultural norms that stand in the way of equality.

When you hear the theme of this year “Investing in women”, what possible measures come to your mind to accelerate progress?

Aside from the fact that gender equality is a right and should be upheld without the need for further justification, highlighting the undeniable fact that women contribute to development and progress could certainly prompt people to reflect and to realize the urgent need for change.

Countries developing public policies and the budgets to finance them should act with a view to promoting gender equality. We need the right legislative framework and plans in place. There are some examples of measures that drive change: universal health coverage; a care system; parental leave policies; the promotion of equal pay; restrictions and penalties linked to complaints of discrimination, bullying or harassment in education or employment; a law on parliamentary quotas. Progress could be accelerated by increasing the number of women in education and improving access to the labour market. It would help to have more women in leadership positions in business and organizations, and more women in parliament, the judiciary or government. There is no freedom without equality.

How can the social security system of your country strengthen its enabling role for gender equality?

In Uruguay, Law No. 19.846 gives effect to international human rights law commitments on equality and non-discrimination between women and men, including the principles of formal and substantive equality and the recognition of such equality. The Government is required to guarantee various labour standards linked to gender equality in areas such as maternity, paternity, breastfeeding and care, work and health, sexual abuse and harassment, and of course social security. Women have a right to welfare benefits upon the decease of their husband, in some circumstances. For men the right arises only if they are incapacitated for any occupation. Women are entitled to an additional year towards their pension for each live birth or child adopted. These are some examples of how social security can have an enabling role in this area. Of course, there is still a long way to go.

What is your message to all ISSA members on International Women’s Day?

I’d like to thank all ISSA members who listen to us, and the women in every organization who develop and implement ideas to achieve gender equality. Personally, I’d prefer it if there were no International Women’s Day because that would imply that we had met our objective.

Ever since I was a child, my dream has been to study, have a career, go to work, start a family and teach my children that we can live in a fairer society. I am grateful for my life and for all the men and women I have met along the way. I’ve had opportunities but I’ve also faced barriers. I know how difficult it can be for a woman in a leadership position but it is worth fighting for our dreams.

For the sake of my daughter Pía, and all girls in the world, I call on you to join forces with us. Together we can drive the change that will lead to a more civilized world.