News Latin America Maria Noel Vaeza: “We have to stop the extractivism of women’s time”

Maria Noel Vaeza: “We have to stop the extractivism of women’s time”

Maria-Noel Vaeza, Regional Director for the Americas and the Caribbean of UN Women, in Buenos Aires.Silvina Frydlewsky

Maria Noel Vaeza, regional director for the Americas and the Caribbean of UN Women, knows that the road to gender equality is rocky, but she calls on feminists not to give up and to think about all the obstacles that have already been knocked down. The biggest one that remains standing, she says, is the unequal distribution of care between men and women, the central theme of the XV Regional Women’s Conference that is being held this week in Buenos Aires. “We did an analysis of how men’s use of care-related time increased and it only increased by seven minutes over 15 years. Women do three, four and even five times more unpaid work than men”, Vaeza denounces in an interview with EL PAIS held at the hotel that hosts the conference, organized by ECLAC and UN Women.

Among the papers with which he enters the room, one stands out about the ‘chineo’, as the attacks perpetrated by groups of men against indigenous girls and adolescents are known in northern Argentina, persecuting, raping and beating them, times to death. “You have to punish him and make him visible because he is invisible. It is not a cultural issue, it is a gang rape. It’s terrible no matter how you look at it, ”she assures.

Ask. What do you think is the reason for the invisibility of these crimes perpetrated against indigenous people?

Response. To fear. I think it is hidden by girls and mothers for fear that there will be even more repercussions against them. And second, the lack of special attention from the authorities, who have to take this as a very serious problem. In five years, 21,000 women died from violence. If I were in power, I would declare it a national emergency, but I do not see that there is an interest of the State in investing and redoubling efforts to eliminate this violence.

P. At the inauguration he also spoke of the lack of political will and budget for care systems. Why was it decided that these were the central axis of the conference?

R. Because care tasks are the shortest road to inequality. We have to stop the extractivism of women’s time. If you take care you don’t have time to have economic autonomy, to fight against violence or to be part of those who make decisions. That is why we insist that the care society is a new development model. We need a new social contract for the redistribution of care. We believe that care should be the fourth leg of the welfare state after education, health and social security.

P. Do Latin American states have the money to finance it? How would they do it?

R. We think so, if we use creativity. For example, with new taxes on the technology industry, which grew disproportionately. We are proposing in the conference document how to finance it. It can be through a solidarity fund with contributions from individuals, employees, workers. It can be contributory, it can be insured, it can be public-private, but there has to be something, just like public education, health and social security are financed.

P. Does the aging of the population increase the urgency of this new model?

R. Yes. It is a problem today, but above all it will be in the future. That is why Uruguay was the first country to start, because it is a country that will soon have more population outside the productive system than economically active. But the basis of all this is the unfair sexual division of labor, because it is always women and girls who take care of it and that is the basis of inequality, discrimination and lack of opportunities for women. If you add up all the unpaid work and put a minimum wage on those hours, women give you between 11% and 20% of the countries’ GDP. How is it possible that with this enormous contribution made by women there is no financing?

Vaeza during the interview with EL PAIS.
Vaeza during the interview with EL PAIS.Silvina Frydlewsky

P. How can this great difference in the hours that men and women dedicate to care be corrected? This conference is speaking to an audience where only women are seen, how to get men to care more?

R. That is the big problem many times in meetings. We need men who have political will and that commitment. We have to talk about new masculinities, about men who have enough confidence in themselves to take care of their son, to take him to a class, to go to school meetings, to swimming or to the doctor. We have to look for those men and highlight them, put them as models. Note that we have parental leave and there are men who do not take it because they are afraid of being made fun of.

P. Teasing for wanting to take care of a child?

R. We saw it in an analysis in Uruguay, expressions like ‘you’re a pollerudo’ came out [haces todo lo que te dice tu mujer]. Those of us who are mothers can say that it is a wonderful and unique bond, the unconditional love for a child, and they are missing it. You have to insist on this educational process with patience, because sometimes it makes you angry. I see that feminists are tired and I always tell them: ‘Don’t get tired, we have to continue. If the suffragettes had gotten tired, we would never have gotten to vote.’

P. Are you worried about the anti-feminist reaction of some conservative parties, which promise to eliminate women’s ministries and policies with a gender perspective?

R. I think they are balls. If you have 50% of the population at home cooking and it does not contribute to the economy, the country will never grow and if there is something that the conservative parties want, it is economic growth. That is our letter. If they want economic growth, the way is the care society.

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