The unfair division of domestic work between men and women should be the target of public policies, and not just a family issue, argues UN Under-Secretary-General Asa Regner.
“There is an idea that what happens within a family is something that cannot be improved with political decisions, but it is not true,” she said in an interview with Folha . For Regner, Minister for Gender Equality in Sweden between 2014 and 2018, the world is far from having achieved the objectives proposed for gender equality at the Beijing Conference, an international step in the matter.
The plan of action adopted by 189 countries in 1995 includes ending violence against women, promoting economic equality and ensuring access of women and girls to health services, including reproductive health. .
The secretary also says that, without supervision, quotas for women in politics are ineffective.
What is the main concern of UN Women in relation to gender equality today? Last year, when we look at the 25th anniversary of the Beijing Conference, we realize that we are behind on the agreed platform. We have seen that member countries have taken initiatives regarding legislation on violence against women, Latin America has good examples of laws in this regard and 90 countries have already established rules for men and women to women can stay at home with their newborns. But the problem is that after these laws are passed, few resources and little support are given for implementation. So we find that gender equality goals are progressing more slowly than they should.
Is Brazil one of the countries below expectations? We did not rank member countries in this regard. What I can say is that in Latin America the good news is that the region is better than the world average in terms of female participation in the labor force. At the same time, levels of violence against women are high, as is femicide. What concerns us in Latin America is that a large proportion of women were employed informally, and these jobs have disappeared. [com a pandemia], leaving them without income, without social protection, without unemployment insurance.
The whole world is feeling the social and economic consequences of the pandemic, and women have been hit harder than men. But in Latin America, there is a deterioration in the situation of employment and violence against women compared to previous local indices.
Ms. Do you think the rise of right-wing governments makes it difficult to accelerate these goals? We see a trend towards more nationalism and right-wing movements and governments around the world. Often, but not always, these parties or leaders have a traditional view of the family, which usually means seeing the family as a couple of men and women in which the husband provides financial support. This model is coming back or gaining momentum, but that doesn’t mean that all right-wing parties will prioritize it. In the Scandinavian countries, for example, there are parties that can have this point of view internally, but they will not try to impose it if they reach the government.
But the gender equality agenda is associated, sometimes pejoratively, with a left-wing platform. How do you get him out of this spectrum? The instruments we have in this regard are international treaties, such as the Beijing Declaration. These documents are neither left nor right, they are agreements between countries, not between specific governments. When a country accepts and ratifies an agreement, it is tied to those goals, regardless of government.
Women in many countries are even more overwhelmed at home due to the pandemic. Ms. I have already said that it is not just an intra-family problem, but a government problem. Can you explain? There is a common notion that what happens within a family, or related to traditional gender roles, is something that you cannot improve with political decisions or political will, but that is not all. just not true. If you are the head of a country and find that women are being harmed by the unfair burden of unpaid work, there is a lot to be done.
You can create licenses or incentives for men to take more of that burden, you can create equal pay models so that the argument that women earn less is not valid when family is arguing of who will perform unpaid work, it may also have care programs for the elderly and children that are geographically and financially accessible.
Sometimes I hear people say “oh, the next generation will solve this” or “in ten years we will have equality”. But it doesn’t happen in an organic or magical way. Political will is needed.
Brazil has a quota policy for female candidates. This model has been called into question for having resulted in electoral fraud, such as orange candidacies, in addition to the fact that female participation is less than desired. Ms. she was Minister in Sweden, where gender parity in Parliament exists. How to develop representativeness? It is interesting to note that Sweden does not have quotas or special measures to promote this parity. There, it happened through women’s movements, which put pressure on political parties. They articulated in a way that parties that did not embrace gender parity in their ranks were seen as old-fashioned – and the tradition has remained.
But we understand, and this is how the Beijing Platform sees it too, that affirmative action is important in moving from a male-dominated Congress to a more egalitarian one. If there is enough pressure to create a law in this direction [como no Brasil], there must also be a political will to be accountable if this mechanism is abused, otherwise it will not work.
We come to an “egg or chicken” question. If there is no political will, there is no change. But how to generate political will without women in the spaces of power? Most of the changes in terms of gender equality have been led by civil society, women’s organizations, etc., and I know that in Brazil there are several smart and well-organized women. The role and funding of this type of initiative is extremely important. This is one of the objectives of the conference we held in Mexico at the end of March and we will do it in Paris later, Generation Equality. We believe that we are in a crisis of gender inequality in the world and that is why we invite organizations to this meeting. If you look at the history of gender equality, all progress has been made by these groups.
Asa Regner, 56 years old
Deputy Secretary of UN Women since May 2019. She was Minister of Children, Older Persons and Gender Equality (2014-2018) in Sweden and Director of UN Women in Bolivia (2013-2014). She was also Director of Planning at the Ministry of Justice (2004-2006).