04 March 2015
Category : Entrevista
The concept of “social cohesion” is not monolithic but rather lends itself to multiple academic and political interpretations. The main international and European instruments provide an approximation that narrows down its meaning and links it to equal opportunities, welfare and full exercise of citizenship. Understood on the basis on these attributes, social cohesion must necessarily include gender equality.
Inequality between women and men cuts across societies and is manifested in issues such as the feminization of poverty, gender violence, lower political participation by women, employment and wage inequality, female illiteracy and the difficulty women have gaining access to full sexual and reproductive health. Almost no country in the world is free of this phenomenon, which reproduces itself to a greater or lesser degree and overlaps with other causes of discrimination and vulnerability, typically aggravating them.
Gender inequality is not the product of specific situations but rather is rooted in the social structure itself and in the traditional division of labour (productive/reproductive) and spaces (public/private) between women and men. The repercussions of social roles are determining factors for social cohesion. With tacit responsibility for the job of caring for others (the young, dependent persons and the elderly), women find it harder to access gainful employment and education and, consequently, economic power. In addition, relegated to the private sphere, women participate less in decision-making spaces and have less of a sense of belonging in the community, which works to the detriment of their rights as citizens.
In short: the work of caring for others has been an unpaid and invisible contribution of women to social cohesion at the cost, paradoxically, of their own welfare and their access to rights, resources and full exercise of citizenship.
Removing these structures is a challenge facing any public policy that pursues equity or social cohesion, and it is one of the challenges facing EUROsociAL. The programme, which works with Latin America on improving public policies for social cohesion, starts from the challenges Europe shares with Latin America in this area, and from the conviction that the gender perspective is essential if we wish to act on the structural mechanisms on which inequality in both regions is based.
Within the framework of these efforts, important progress has been made with initiatives that place a special emphasis on the rights of women. The work done to promote the strengthening of state systems of care, and consequently the assumption by the state of part of this responsibility traditionally shouldered by women, is worth noting. As is the collaboration of the programme in promoting specific policies aimed at women in situations of vulnerability: victims of gender violence, migrants and incarcerated women. Along with these concrete initiatives, the programme encourages a cross-cutting approach to gender in all public policies that it supports or accompanies, most significantly in the areas of education, employment and health.
In any case, the incorporation of the gender focus is not without difficulties in the two regions: resistance, lack of awareness by political actors and consideration of the focus as secondary are frequent obstacles in this area. We can only persevere and be aware of how much ground still needs to be covered. Full citizenship does not exist without full citizenship for women, and a neutral approach to social cohesion fails to take into account that the gender dimension is constructed without regard for the specific needs and potential for development of over half the population.
Communication and information specialist of the EUROsociAL programme
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