Sexual harassment, violence and intimidation are the main problems facing women in Latin American cities, according to Ibero-American officials who met in Santiago, Chile on Monday for the third Women and City Summit.
The summit showed that women are not only victims of domestic violence in the home, public transport and city streets have also become unsafe and inhospitable.
“The most basic foundations of our society are challenged when about 50 percent of women, in 15 countries across our region, said they had been victims of at least one sexual assault in their lives,” recalled Chilean President Michelle Bachelet, during the opening ceremony.
The three-day meeting in Santiago is intended to promote the construction of new city models using visions promoting justice and gender equity.
According to the information collected, women ask for better street lighting in cities while men demand for increased numbers of soccer fields.
The meeting took place with the participation of the Latin American Municipal Union (UIM), UN Women, ECLAC, the Chilean Association of Municipalities, the Municipality of Santiago and the National Women’s Service.
Discrimination and violence
Daniela Chacon, deputy mayor of Quito, said that violence against women had now “entered the public space, to political and economic areas, and that creates conditions of inequality and discrimination.”
“I would say that the main problem we women suffer in the world is the insecurity in transport and in public spaces that are supposed to be places of safety and coexistence and that end up being discriminatory and violent places,” she told AFP.
Quito is part of a select group of five cities in the world with a security program focused on women and children. In just over a year, the program has received more than 600 complaints and has already witnessed two convictions, one of which resulted in a seven year prison term for harassment.
“Without political will and without the allocation of resources, it (the program) does absolutely nothing,” Chacon admitted.
The vast majority of women are condemned to use public transport in cities, especially when they come from low socio-cultural environments and live in the peripheries of large Latin American cities.
Females fighting back
For Madrid’s mayoress, Manuela Carmena, it is necessary to “identify what women are going to change when we come to power.”
“We will not be empowered to do what men do,” she exclaimed, before advocating for “change in the ethics of rights by the ethics of care.”
“There are many women who feel that things have to change, but lack the security of knowing that they are agents of change,” she told AFP.
For the Chilean minister representing the country’s National Women’s Service, Claudia Pascual, only through “recognition and necessary prioritization can you aspire to making policies mainstream”, meaning that more women should occupy seats across the region’s political sphere in order to influence decision-making.