Female Political Scientists Examine Social Rights from a Gender Perspective

March 08, 2022

Why examine social rights from a gender perspective, and what progress has Latin America seen in this area? In observance of March 8, International Women's Day, the Santiago Center partnered with the Red de Politólogas (“Network of Female Political Scientists”) and the Institute of Latin American Studies (ILAS) to host a webinar reviewing this issue.

The event was chaired by Claudia Heiss (GSAS’03), Professor and Head of the Political Science Program at Universidad de Chile’s Institute of Public Affairs, and presented by panelists Merike Blofield, Director of Latin American Studies at the German Institute for Global Studies (GIGA) and Professor of Political Science at the University of Hamburg; Gabriela Marzonetto, Researcher at the Interdisciplinary Center for the Study of Public Policies (Ciepp) in Argentina; and Jenny Pribble, Professor of Political Science at the University of Richmond.

To begin with, Blofield reviewed the social and family changes in Latin America, saying that there have been significant changes over the years but with a strong stratification by class. Overall, there are more women getting higher education and entering the labor force, but when broken down by income, in the group of women that have children under the age of six, only about 40% of those in the lowest-income quintile are working while those in highest income quintile surpass 70%. “This has a strong impact on women’s economic autonomy and social rights,” she said, noting that in this category the gap between genders is much smaller than the gap between economic classes.

In turn, Marzonetto took a look at the issue of childcare, reviewing the case of three countries in South America: Argentina, Chile and Uruguay. While there is recognition and public interest in this matter, with the Covid-19 pandemic making it more visible, there was actually a reduction in childcare networks, thereby deepening the family’s role in upbringing, with the burnt of the responsibility falling on mothers.

To wrap the event up, Pribble noted that since the turn of the century, in most of Latin America there has been an increase in public spending and coverage, incorporating historically excluded sectors, with the creation of new programs, services and benefits. However, this expansion has been segmented, maintaining gaps between groups of work sector, race, ethnicity and gender.

Social protection for women in Latin America is still very incomplete, she noted. While there seems to be more progress in health than pensions, private services have a high gender segmentation. And when considering intersections with other identities (ethnic, racial, regional, and citizenship) the situation is even more complex.

All of the women participating in the event are members of the Red de Politólogas.