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Nayareth Quevedo Millán
"I would like to congratulate you, women of the PSI, who continue to combat violence against women; and I urge you to work with the government and other organisations that work on this important issue, for the adoption of an ILO resolution", said the President.
President Bachelet was speaking at the International Conference on Gender Violence at the Workplace and in Public Employment, which took place on 9-10 October in Santiago, Chile, with financial support from Public Services International (PSI), the Arturo Prat University (UNAP), the Irish trade union, IMPACT, the Friedrich Ebert Foundation, the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and the Chilean Ministry of Labour.
Opening the conference, Juneia Batista from Brazil, representative of the Americas on the PSI World Women’s Committee, said that although the region faces many challenges, it has made progress on gender issues, and she highlighted the fact that women, Michelle Bachelet and Dilma Rousseff, were respectively presidents of Chile and Brazil.
Batista said that the PSI believed gender-based violence is a trade union issue, at the workplace, in the home and in the community. It is responsible for inequalities and unequal development and it affects the welfare of present and future generations.
She called on governments “to provide adequate funding and invest in quality public services that are accessible to women, especially to victims of violence”.
“It is important for trade unions to identify and deal with the underlying inequalities and the abuse of power that create the conditions for discrimination and violence; take action and raise awareness about discrimination and violence; and make demands in collective agreements to prevent domestic violence and protect victims”, she continued.
"Women still carry the heaviest load”
The president of Chile, accompanied by the Minister of Labour, Javiera Blanco, praised the initiative to organise the conference and praised PSI for its role in making it happen. She said that she had always had a public role, whether professional or political, which is why she was insisting that her government’s priority was to eliminate violence against women in the public services.
“Violence against women at work and in the public sector is a problem for all of us and not only for the women who are victims of violence. Violence against women is an attack on society as a whole”, she said.
She said that despite the achievements of women and their election to high office, women still carry the heaviest load: ”women still carry a heavier load than men, in education, at work and in the family”.
“Violence has never been an issue of sexuality, it is an issue of power, but it is also based on underlying cultural patterns on which we have to make a frontal attack”, she added.
"In Chile, one in every three women say they have been the victims of some kind of violence at the hands of their partners or former partners”, said Bachelet. “Every year the country faces the painful reality that 40 women are murdered in 'femicides' that are today acknowledged and called such. We must not treat these murders as isolated cases. This is a social problem that we must deal with collectively”, she added.
She said that measures to deal with this type of violence in the country could include doubling the number of women’s refuges and a 25% increase in the centres that provide services, advice and support to women victims of violence.
With regard to women at work, Bachelet explained that, only 48% of the female workforce is part of the labour market in Chile compared to 72% in the case of men. The pay gap between men and women is also around 30%.
The president promised to push for greater women’s representation in political life: “The reform of the electoral system that this government is sending to Congress proposes quotas for parliamentary representation and a 40% quota for women candidates that would end the marginalisation of women from public debate and the circles of power”, she said.
Harassment at work
On Friday, the conference began with a panel of experts that included representatives from the ILO, SERNAM, the Network against Violence against Women, CEPAL and UN Women, who analysed violence and harassment against women at the workplace from a gender perspective.
The conference also heard a speech from Dr Antonia Santos Pérez of the Arturo Prat University, about the Guide to the Prevention of Workplace Harassment against Women Workers in the Public Sector, produced jointly by PSI-affiliated public sector trade unions in Chile.
At the end of the conference, delegates formulated an action plan to reduce and punish workplace harassment, which will be delivered to the 11th Inter-American Regional Conference and Associated Meetings (IAMRECON), scheduled for 20-24 April 2015 in Mexico. (Includes press information provided by the Presidency/Government of Chile)