Interview with Ana Marilyn Ortiz Ruiz, General Manager of the Social Security Institute of Guatemala (Instituto Guatemalteco de Seguridad Social) on the occasion of International Women's Day, 8 March 2022.
How do you see the role of social security in promoting gender equality and empowering women in society?
Social security is a guarantee of social welfare that society develops at a certain stage in its history, therefore, it is a project at the service of the population that seeks to create the basic conditions of protection at the national level. Given our conditions of development, it is evident that people pushed to the margins of society characterises an unequal society, segmented and polarised by social injustice, which has had repercussions on the very foundations of human solidarity. Historically, social security has served as a social compensator within this economic and political dynamic; however, its social regulatory role is based on an institutional system that, through the Social Security Institute of Guatemala, has contributed to the improvement of the social conditions of its members for more than 75 years. This has been achieved through the different programmes that have been created during that time. In this sense, it is important to state on this international anniversary the contribution that social security has made to societies, and in particular in the Guatemalan society, the promotion of gender equality, as well as the empowerment of women within the social dynamics. We recognize that much more is needed, however the progress that has been made in this area encourages and guides us to move forward to transfer to women and society full use and participation of their rights.
Have you seen changes in gender equality since the outbreak of the pandemic and, in your view, what role has social security played to reduce the economic and social impact of the pandemic on women?
Clearly, the pandemic caused by COVID-19 has highlighted the need to rethink many of the practices and policies, one of the lessons learned from this health emergency is to reflect on the care of those segments that have historically been excluded by society. In our case, given the characteristics of our social security system, its actions have been in line with the principles of equality and equity, and this has evidently been the case. However, we have observed that at the level of Guatemalan society that deficits persist, and in terms of gender equality they have not been overcome or at best have been reduced. It is therefore of special interest and desire on the part of the Social Security Institute of Guatemala to contribute to the national effort, both at institutional and civil society level, to champion gender equality. Women have shown leadership and resilience in this pandemic. We see many women in the field of health and social security: intensive care physicians, internists, paediatricians, professional and auxiliary nurses, who have been in charge of the medical care of patients with COVID-19. In addition pharmaceutical chemists, biological chemists, laboratory technicians, women in charge of vaccination brigades in the rain, heat, crossing mountains, rivers, and so on, with long working days saving lives. Women medical directors have been managing in urban and rural areas. Women have proved their worth, their professionalism and their dual role by coming home to take care of their homes and families. It is worth mentioning that the Institute is working on the development of a redesigned and adapted institutional framework. To this end it has initiated a process of developing an Institutional Strategic Plan for the short and medium term in which it will continue with its commitment to strengthen its capacities and services that improve the social inclusion of its affiliates and beneficiaries, particularly of women.
As a female leader of a major social security organization, what is your message to the global social security community on International Women’s Day?
We need a society with equality, with decent jobs for women, to reduce gaps in pensions and salaries, for families as a whole to take care of the elderly, children and people with disabilities, so that not only women are in charge of these issues. We are moving towards a fairer and more egalitarian society, with safe environments free of harassment and discrimination against women, so we must continue with policies and alliances to reduce gender gaps. Therefore I say that it is a timely event that recognizes and commemorates our reality and situation that women live in worldwide, a reality that is not yet free of complex situations of marginalization, discrimination and inequality. We believe that it is possible to overcome this state of affairs, as long as we act consistently, remembering that for us as representatives of Social Security, its principles. Over time different societies have achieved social development and that many other societies have managed to overcome them and leave them behind. Therefore, it is also a message of hope and unity, since the institution that I represent has advanced along this path and has become one of the most representative institutions in the achievement of social welfare in Guatemala. Consequently it is also a message of solidarity with all sectors, I would like them to know that sooner or later they will overcome their difficulties, and that they can count on the support that this noble Guatemalan institution can provide through our experience and knowledge, which for more than 75 years has been a source of support.