Call for gender justice in the challenging context of Latin America and the Caribbean

My name is Laura, I am part of the Gender Justice Community Practice that members of ACT Alliance in Latin America and the Caribbean formed in 2017. This initiative has allowed us to know and connect the work of ACT members in the region and articulate efforts and share experiences of promoting woman and LGBTI rights, which has been very inspiring. The gender policy of the alliance has been a great support and motivation for us.

Latin America and the Caribbean is the region classified as the most unequal in the world, where gender inequality is one of the factors that most slows inclusive and sustainable development. In the region, we have the highest rates of femicides, low access to and poor quality of sexual and reproductive health services and the highest rates of maternal mortality and teenage pregnancy.

Almost half of the female workforce is employed informally in the region, which implies job instability, low income, and a lack of protection and rights. Although it is mainly women who work the land in Latin America and the Caribbean, only 18 percent of them own the land that they work on.

Therefore, It was inspiring to find the firm and committed work of organizations with a long history in the region, who, through specific programs and projects, support initiatives for the food sovereignty of women of indigenous and African descent, initiatives of social and solidarity economy of women and the LGBTI community, and advocate  the promotion of women’s sexual and reproductive health, as well as developing advocacy action against gender-based discrimination and violence.

In this scenario, the continuity and sustainability of the efforts made by ACT members is threatened mainly by: a) the political, economic and social instability experienced by the countries of the region, b) the growth of alliances between political parties and religious fundamentalists that put work with a focus on human rights at risk, and c) by the absence of policies aimed at reducing gender gaps in the Latin-American and Caribbean countries.
In this context, sustaining the initiatives that churches and FBOs are carrying out in the region requires a theological perspective compatible with human rights based on the deep conviction that our role as Christians is to accompany those who most suffer with love.

We need a better understanding of the realities that affect women in the region in order to give an effective response in the building of more just relationships. Churches and FBOs should not be an obstacle to the advancement of rights, rather we have an important educational, pastoral and prophetic role to play.

I am part of the Ecumenical Regional Advisory and Service Center, CREAS, an ACT member in Latin America. In the work we do, we recognize the indispensability of the strengthening of women’s capacities, because it has a multiplying effect on the well-being of their personal, family and community life. That is why we support economic empowerment of women and why we work for the regional articulation of their initiatives, promoting alliances that creates conditions for the sustainability of the autonomy of women.
Through the reflection and practice of CREAS and from the regional Gender CoP, we as Faith Based Organizations know that in order to “leave no one behind”, we must act together and urgently push back the inequality that affects women, therefore, our call is to work in partnership to:
1. Express and publicly support rights-based positions against debates about “gender ideology” and about electoral manipulations and policies that make use of religious sentiment.
2. Strengthen alliances and practices with churches and ecumenical and Christian organizations for the rights of women and the LGBTI population.
3. Promote zero tolerance of violence against women and girls, denouncing and repudiating violence towards girls and women by churches and FBOs.
4. Promote the exercise of masculinities that counteract the practices and behaviors that generate violence and inequality especially within our congregations and communities of faith.
5. Convene inter-church dialogue to promote understanding and take a critical look at the factors that generate high rates of adolescent and child pregnancy and mortality and morbidity due to non-compliance with sexual and reproductive rights.
6. Strengthen, with our diakonia programs and projects, the entrepreneurial capacities of women and their initiatives for the sustainable development of their families and communities.
7. Offer special welcome and attention to the women of migrant communities and their families, not only through timely humanitarian assistance, but also through spiritual support and psychosocial assistance.
8. Develop gender policies in our organizations that guide the incorporation of the gender perspective in all strategic areas of our work.
We call on all of society to join this urgent purpose for equality; we as members of ACT are committed allies in this goal to achieve a full life for all.